PGA Show attendance down by more than 60%, but attendees optimistic

Screenshot: PGA Show/YouTube

By Scott Kauffman

The golf industry enjoyed rocket-ship-like growth in 2021, with rounds, number of players and revenue all showing strong growth compared to pre-pandemic days. But, thanks to the Omicron variant, the industry's largest trade show has still not seen a rebound in terms of numbers. 

Only 15,000 attendees descended on Orlando last week for the annual PGA Golf Show. That is down almost 66% from 2020 when 40,000 people were in attendance. The number of exhibitors also took a hit — down from 1,000 to 600. 

There were some conspicuous absentees at the 69th annual event. Most of the major golf equipment companies like Callaway and TaylorMade were absent at the popular Demo & Fitting Day that kicked off the show Jan. 24 at Orange County National Golf Center.

During the three days of trade-show activity at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando’s massive venue missed having many of golf’s perennial high-profile vendors from Ping to Titleist and Nike. Nevertheless, this global golf affair still featured major golf suppliers such as Bridgestone, Club Car and E-Z-GO, and several leading media organizations from the Golf Channel to CBS Sports HQ and SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio network.

Meanwhile, the National Golf Course Owners Association was back in person conducting its annual Golf Business Conference and trade show, highlighted by a lunchtime appearance from Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam. Sorenstam was the recipient of the NGCOA’s 2022 Award of Merit, the organization’s most prestigious award which recognizes long-term and significant contributions to the game of golf.

As for the business side, many vendors and attendees were glad they showed up for this year’s PGA Show, and by most accounts, qualified leads were plentiful. According to Golfzon’s James McDonald, national director of sales for North America, the golf simulator’s large marquee and multiple bays were packed from start to finish.

“I honestly haven’t left this booth much because we had so much traffic,” said McDonald, who was making his 15th visit to the PGA Show after a previous career as the longtime assistant pro at Connecticut’s private Stanwich Club. “Coming into this we didn’t know what we were going to get…I was expecting a down year. I was expecting less traffic. But here, in the Golfzon/David Leadbetter Golf Academy booth, candidly I haven’t left but for one trip over to CBS Sports.”

Perhaps London-based Richard Prosser of apparel company Lyle & Scott summed up the 69th PGA Show best when he said his company’s decision to come to the event was “the best decision we could have made.”

“The engagement with golf professionals and buyers is truly great,” added Prosser, the company’s international sales manager. “It’s given us a chance to tell our story in a way that you just can’t do on the other end of the phone or a laptop. That’s integral to our success, and people really like being here together.”

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