Was the virtual PGA Merchandise Show a success?

By Hil Anderson

The latest technologies for all facets of golf course management, including the clubhouse debut of the ubiquitous Alexa, were unveiled at this year’s virtual version of the PGA Merchandise Show.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic turned the annual trade show on its head this year, it still provided course operators with a rich opportunity to kick the tires on the latest products designed to streamline and expand their operations.

Was it a success? That depends on what attendees and exhibitors hoped to get out of the show.

More than 11,000 golf professionals from 78 nations tuned in during the last week of January; but that was down from the usual 40,000 attendees. And while 2021 didn’t include the usual camaraderie, networking, and hospitality offered by sunny Orlando, attendees still had access to a slate of educational sessions and the latest products and services from 284 exhibitors, down from more than 1,000.

Despite the drop in participation, the virtual platform facilitated nearly 5,000 attendee-exhibitor meetings and logged nearly 300,000 interactions, views and connections by PGA Professional and industry attendees. 

The PGA and Reed Exhibitions also deployed an e-commerce system that enabled virtual attendees to place orders directly with vendors.

“PGA Show Week has always been about providing new resources for our PGA Professionals to advance the game in their communities and for the golf industry to enhance the overall golf experience,” said PGA of America President Jim Richerson.

Digital Assistance

Software developer Real Intelligence brings the convenience of Amazon’s Alexa to the golfing public. The REAL TEE-Times system enables golfers to ask the eager digital assistant to check for tee-times and book reservations for their next round. Alexa is also the messenger for REAL SUGGESTIONS, relaying helpful text messages from the customer directly to the manager, the starter, or even to the beverage cart driver.

The Tee-Sheet Active-e service launched by Tri-Technical Systems handles a variety of tee-management chores for multiple courses, including some that require a level of  finesse, such as limiting the number of players in a group or starting them on the back nine.

The PGA of America and Supreme Golf launched PGA Tee Times last fall and reported at the show that it has since signed up five multi-course operators and 32 PGA sections.

Range Rover

A flat-black paint job gives Range Servant America’s new driverless ball collector a tactical look as it purposefully crisscrosses the driving range scooping up balls like a souped-up Roomba. The device uses GPS technology to set a course and then deliver its cargo to the ball-washing station.

Avoiding the Plague

American ingenuity in the face of a pandemic was also on display. Flag Assist says its Receive Cup allows players to lift their ball from the cup without removing the pin or distorting the grass along the rim. And a new company called Clean Pin was there to pitch a mounting bracket that will attach a convenient bottle of hand sanitizer directly to the flag staff.

The next generation of products for the golf industry will be on display in person next January when the 69th PGA Merchandise Show returns to Orlando in its usual live format, assuming all goes well.


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