Once again, the world’s golf community converged in Florida for their annual pilgrimage at the 2023 PGA Show on January 24-27, 2023, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. After a few difficult years of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the golf industry came out in full force to reinvigorate the game and the business of golf.
The “covid years” deeply impacted the PGA Show in two distinctive ways. In 2021, worldwide social distancing policies forced the show to adopt a virtual format, and attendance at last year’s version of the event was a fraction of the record numbers of participants in previous years. At the same time, the pandemic caused a massive spike in activity at the golf course. Golf provided the perfect solution to those looking for social and physical activity in a new world of social distancing. The industry-wide rejuvenation was clearly evident on the show floor, with thousands of attendees greeting each other on the carpeted aisles of the Orlando Convention Center.
First off, the regular army of Titleist/Footjoy executives, garbed in their signature white blazers, was a welcome reminder of the kind of energy the industry thrived on in years past. The manufacturer of the popular Pro V1 golf ball made its presence known with an immense presentation displaying all the latest innovations in the world of Titleist. From new balls, clubs, gloves, shoes, and, of course, the latest Titleist drivers and irons.
Callaway’s appearance at the show was no less impressive as they occupied a formidable footprint which, besides the usual clubs and balls, included all the latest innovations around Callaway’s recent acquisition of Topgolf. The Topgolf brand is rapidly expanding outside its familiar “driving range meets sports bar” concept to on-course practice facilities with outdoor bars and ball tracking games. Topgolf-driven facilities are already beginning to pop up across the country and all over the world.
This year, visitors were welcomed by more golf celebrities than in recent year’s past, with more than twenty tour professionals making appearances. These included U.S. Open Champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam, Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Ernie Els, Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk, and a beaming Brooke Henderson, fresh off her victory at the 2023 LPGA’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, which was held just down the road at Lake Nona Country Club.
With improved optics and more creative technology, the growing golf distance-measuring rangefinder market saw more new entries into the field than ever. R2 G’s new Mate 1 rangefinder incorporates triangulation to measure distance for your playing partner. Point your scope at the golfer, then shoot the flagstick, and Mate 1 will tell you the distance between that golfer and the hole! Great for helping out a friend, but even better on those rainy days cart-path-only rounds.
A significant amount of attention at this year’s PGA Show was focused on golf simulators, with over a dozen companies displaying their technology for indoor golf. Korea’s Golfzon again established itself as the clear leader in the pay-to-play indoor golf industry, with thousands of simulators installed at over 6,000 facilities in 62 countries worldwide. A notable entry to the field was L.G.’s ProBeam system which incorporates all the technology provided by a world leader in televisions.
And finally, with the global pandemic behind us, golf travel is booming again. The highlight among this year’s golf travel exhibitors was Italy. Yes, Italy! This September, the 44th Ryder Cup Matches, the biennial competition between teams from the U.S. and Europe, will be contested at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club near Rome. With the eyes of the golf world fixed on the eternal city, Italian travel officials, led by Antonio Stocchi, President of the Lazio Golf District, are making a big push to promote golf tourism in Italy. Mr. Stocchi commented, “Lazio and Rome certainly have great golf courses but also many wonderful things to experience after golf. Culture, history, and of course, wine.” For those who need to be better to be included on the Team USA, plans are underway to hold a world-class multi-day amateur golf competition following the Ryder Cup, and everyone’s invited. We knew all roads led to Rome, but that may now include cart paths!
Golf is big again and getting bigger!