Best-In-Show Golf Tech For 2023
I just returned from the 2023 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. It was the 31st year I’ve attended. As usual, the product introductions didn’t disappoint at this golf trade show spectacle. Technology has overtaken golf products in nearly every capacity. Here’s where:
For years, there were I believe three major brands of simulators. Now I’m guessing I saw about 15 of them showcasing their systems at this year’s show. The sims, as they’re coined, sell for a wide range of budgets and come in many sizes, makeups, and sophistication levels. There are also companies willing to sell the individual components – screens, launch monitors, hitting mats, etc. – so you can piece it all together. “The golf simulator business is booming,” says Joe Neumeyer, founder and managing partner of Toledo, Ohio-based Ace Indoor Golf. “It was valued at $1.3 billion worldwide this past year and is expected to grow at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate in the near future. Both commercial and residential installations saw significant growth in 2022.”
Bridgestone showed off its new OTTO GEN2, a more portable version of its autonomous ball fitting system that’s going to migrate around America this year. It’s an unmanned kiosk that sits behind a driving range tee. Golfers can step up, enter their email address, and hit three shots. The machine then recommends one of the brand’s golf balls, and emails the golfer the selection, as well as swing data and a video. It’s super simple and highly engaging. Plus, it’s just fun and quick. Says Dan Murphy, Bridgestone Golf’s president and CEO: “We feel a responsibility to make sure players continue to be excited and engaged while also having the ability to choose equipment that best suits their game. OTTO GEN2 does all that and more.” The system is powered by Flightscope’s very cool Mevo+ launch monitor technology. Speaking of…
Portable Launch Monitors
The Mevo+ is just one of many portable launch monitors on the market this year. Essentially, you set these small devices up behind you at the range. As you swing away at balls, the devices use various radar technologies to record all of your pertinent swing data – swing speed, descent angle, ball speed, smash factor, carry distance, total distance, swing path, etc. Some even show your ball flight through color-coded lines, using your phone’s camera. The Mevo+ also has a really compelling augmented reality element, plus it shows impact location on the clubface and an animated club path recap of your swing. Another unit I really liked at the show was the new Rapsodo MLM2 Pro model, which also offers you the ability to play 30,000+ simulated courses.
In the apparel and shoe categories, it seems everyone is talking about using recycled or recyclable components in its products. Brands like Radmor, adidas, TravisMathew, Peter Millar and Ecco are all pushing major initiatives in this direction. Order True Linkswear shoes and they arrive in a recyclable bag. Ecco shoes come with insoles made of recycled materials. And any item you buy from adidas Golf’s “recycled content” program assures you’re helping the environment.
I saw many interesting golf bags at the show. But the Vessel limited-edition Tenth Anniversary Carbon Fiber Collection looked the coolest. If Batman played golf, he would carry these bags. They’re monochrome – yes, they come in black – and sport carbon-infused material side panels that were made in conjunction with Carbitex. It’s a flexible, almost rubbery-feeling material that seems bulletproof. Honestly, the various bags in this lineup resemble the bat suit.