I wasn't expecting much from last week's downsized PGA Merchandise Show, with the state of the U.S. economy, but I left Orlando dazzled by an innovation that's sure to have major implications for clubmakers, convinced that we finally have a winner in a battle between two dueling technologies and blown away by a sweet little putter made by a mom-and-pop start-up.
Neither Nike nor TaylorMade had booths at the show, but their new adjustable drivers still received the most attention. At the demo day that preceded the show, Masters champ and Nike staffer Trevor Immelman put on a clinic with the
Nike SQ Dymo STR8-FIT driver ($299.99, top), which can be adjusted four degrees each for loft and lie, effectively making the club eight drivers in one. TaylorMade presented its adjustable R9 driver ($399.99, left) to a select group of writers attending the show. In addition to multiple lofts and lies, the R9 also features movable weights.
These drivers are one giant step toward one size fits all. Golfers will be more confident making a purchase knowing that they can customize their driver to fit their own swing, and retailers won't have to stock as many models. Next up: adjustable fairway metals, irons and putters.
GPS-based range finders were all the rage in 2008, outselling laser-based range finders nearly two to one. Now everyone—including name brands such as Bushnell, which had been laser only, and Garmin—is piling into the GPS business. However, SkyCaddie ($200 to $400), which introduced the category, remains the Cadillac of GPS range finders. Only SkyCaddie meticulously maps courses on the ground, while its competitors rely on satellite imagery, which isn't as precise.
I thought I'd either seen or used every putter imaginable, but when I laid eyes on the Axis1 ($299), the first thing to come to mind was, Duh, why didn't I think of that? The club's odd-looking head is shaped like a capital J, which puts the weight in the crook of the J ahead of the face, creating balance and eliminating torque like no other putter. Of course, it remains to be seen whether a small start-up with no marketing budget can sell such an expensive putter, but even if the Axis1 is not a commercial success, the putter proves that there's still room in golf for the little guy with a good idea.