Thursday, January 31, 2008

PGA Show 2008

The presenters of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando brag that there are “10 miles of aisles” at the world’s largest golf exposition and I’ve got the sore feet and legs to verify it.

I always promise myself that I will get “sensible” footwear that will ease the pain. This year, it was a new pair of Champion sneakers. They were just the latest version of senseless footwear. The next time I see a bunion, it had better be the first fairway of Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland.

Pardon my digression. The 2008 fad was interchangeable shafts. If you’re going to be playing in the wind and want to keep your drives low install the shaft that will lower the trajectory. If you want to hit it high, install the shaft that will hit it high. Sounds simple and probably works.
Here’s the rub. That $300 - $400 driver just became an $800 driver. The truth is these companies are having problems selling drivers for $250 in the current economic throes. Good luck selling an $800 gimmick.

This higher lower thing got me thinking about a round I played at the aforementioned Ballybunion Golf Club. I was playing with a local member named Eoin McRee. It was a typical day at Ballybunion. The wind was blowing off the ocean in double digit miles per hour with some very strong gusts. As we made our way through the dunes, I noticed that Eoin was masterfully managing the trajectory of every shot without any noticeable change in ball position and setup.
Finally, I asked him how he did it. “Well Jack,” he said the smoothest Irish brogue, “when I wants to hit it high, I t’ink high. When I wants to hit it low, I t’ink low. That’s all and off we go.”
I can guarantee you that that little pearl of wisdom didn’t cost $400 and he didn’t have to change a shaft.

During the show, the biggest buzz was the infamous Golfweek cover featuring a noose. The cover drew more attention than many of the products. The noose was in reference to The Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman and her “and lynch him” remark in response to a remark made by broadcast partner Nick Faldo. It wasn’t taken that way, by a large segment of the populace.
The result was that editor Dave Seanor was fired over the ensuing furor. The truth is, he was thrown under the bus and then backed up upon. In their apology in the next issue, it was admitted that senior management never checked the cover before it went to print. I’ve worked for newspapers and magazines and someone in senior management dropped the ball and Seanor paid.

Having said that, in retrospect Seanor used bad judgment in a legitimate effort to stimulate dialog between white golfers and golfers of color. This is needed not just in golf, but in all walks of life. Unfortunately, when you’re in the editor’s chair you’re extremely vulnerable when you make a judgmental error—as Seanor found out.

For years, no attention was paid to golf tees. In fact, there was only one full time golf tee manufacturer and it was a company in Maine and they didn’t want any publicity at all. They must have gone out of business because there were more types of tees on display than ever before. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying into tee technology. I’m also not buying into a plastic tee that is spring loaded so when you hit your drive, the top half of the tee bends, but doesn’t break. I may not buy into it, but someone is.

The best of the dumbest has to be Fairway Flags. These little orange pieces of cloth are the best. The theory behind the Fairway Flags is that if you spot what may be a lost ball, you put the cloth over, or near it. They claim that it speeds up play. How about, “hey Harry, your ball is over here.” They also recommend their use if a player in an adjoining hole launches one in your fairway or rough, you can leave the Fairway Flag so he can easily find his ball.

I’ve got a problem with this one. How is the Wildman going to know what the hell that orange piece of cloth is? You might just as well leave a few dollar bills next to the ball. The Fairway Flag website doesn’t give an exact price; buy says they are priced “under $5.” Right and this other golfer is going to hunt you down to give you back your fairway flag.

Bartender that’s enough for one day. Pour me another if you will and this time make it a Bullshot—that’s Jaegermeister and Red Bull. That should raise my energy level.

See you on the first tee,


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