TG's Golf Equipment Editor is on sitte at the world's biggest golf equipment show in Orlando Florida. He is there to bring you all the new golf equipment exclusives from the show and below is his golf blog of his experiences...
Sunday, February 1st...
Well, after a week in glorious Orlando, I am on a plane back to the less-glorious Gatwick.
There's been plenty of new equipment showcased at the PGA Merchandise Show, some of which we'll be giving you a sneak peak of on the website in the next couple of weeks - as well as following up with more in-depth reviews in the forthcoming issues of TG.
The highlight of the week at the show, without doubt, was the launch of the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x - look out for a special feature in the next issue of TG which is on sale at the back end of February.
As for highlight of the week outside of the show, well, there's been a few. Lloyds TSB putting a block on my current account (because of "irregular withdrawal activity") would comfortably be the most worrying, especially when I found out this was the case at 2am on Saturday morning...with just $20 on me at the time. Getting drenched in the Florida storms was an experience too...
But I think I may have broken some sort of record with the next piece of information. In six days, I've been asked to prove my age with a passport or driving license an incredible 12 times. I'm 26...and have started to get wrinkles under my eyes.
God Bless the Americans.
Friday January 29th...
It's raining in Orlando...in fact, it's chucking it down.
But how could I possibly know this from the comfort of the PGA Merchandise Show press centre? I'll tell you how - because I wasn't in the bloody press centre. I was out running. And when the heavens opened, I was the best part of three miles away from the hotel.
By the time I stumbled through my door, panting like a drunk spaniel in the sun, I could well have been confused for Daffyd from Little Britain - the skin-tight baselayer I selected as my running top left little to the imagination. Not pretty, I'd wager. And certainly not flattering.
But before the Equipment Editor got wetter than a fish's wet bits (ed. borrowed from Edmund Blackadder) there was an exciting day at the PGA Merchandise Show, where a vast majority of the golfing industry showcased their gear for 2009.
The most impressive display all day was from the Titleist crew, who launched the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x ball. And the assembled crowd of trade and media bods even got a history lesson too. All of the Titleist staffers were dressed in white coats...not because they're mad, but because when Titleist first started providing balls for tournament play they would tell their players to "look out for the guy wearing a white blazer" because he was the man who would provide balls for the event and would be instantly recognizable in such attire. History lesson over, but this particular history graduate enjoyed the sidetrack anyhow!
We've already brought you a great deal of new product for 2009 in the magazine and online, but what we sometimes miss is the wierd and the wacky, the crazy and the mad. And over the next few weeks we'll be showing you just what floated our boat at the show. The highlight so far for me was a product from a company called Cleatskins...in short, a rubber case you put over the base of your shoe to protect the sole and the cleats. Sounds daft, but I liked it! Be sure to check the site later this week to see just what I'm talking about.
I'll be back at the show tomorrow, going the extra mile to bring you the coolest new gear for 2009 - look out for an interview with Titleist's Godfather of balls George Sine in the next issue too. Because unless the great man got washed away in the floods, I'll be chatting to him on Friday and getting the inside track on the new Titleist balls.
Right, that's about it for now and as I scribe the rain is beating down on my window, and showing very little sign of relenting. It's almost like being back in Peterborough. But without the chavs and Barry Fry. God bless ya Bazza!
Wednesday January 28th...
Wednesday, January 28 has turned out to be a pretty momentous day in my golfing life.
In the morning, I found myself sharing a small hotel gym with a 30-something-year-old man who made Rick Waller look trim - this geezer was a serious unit, but there he was packing in the kilometres on the treadmill. Good on him. We got talking (not in a chat-up sort of scenario) and he told me he was trying to shed a few pounds to make sure he sees his kids grow up. But he had one major concern.
"I just hope losing this damn gut won't ruin my golf swing!"
Further questions followed along the lines of "do you not think it might actually help?" and "how on earth do you think it won't?!"
Turns out my man Jeff plays off a tidy nine handicap.
"I was a big guy when I started playing and I kinda have to swing around my excess baggage." Incidentally, that is one of the best ways I've ever heard of describing carrying additional weight. Gok Wan take note.
"Yeah, one of my buddies down in Tampa lost 85lbs and it changed his game completely. I don't want that but I don't want a coronary either."
Needs must Jeff, needs must.
He asked me what I was doing in Orlando so naturally,being a golfer, he couldn't understand that there were magazines other than Golf Digest or Golf Magazine. But he was also going to the PGA Show demo day, ready to try out all of the 2009 products.
I didn't see Jeff at the show, but I did find myself filming next to a Jeff-lookalike. Similar physique, but with one notable difference. This boy was throwing down a giant-size helping of fries, covered in mayo.
I watched him hit a few balls with the latest Cobra range...and then I watched him hit a few more...and then a few more. He started with the SZ irons and progressed up through the new Baffler TWS to the S9-1 Fairway and Driver. And you know what, he didn't hit one bad one. I had to ask.
"Excuse me sir, I work for a British golf magazine and that was some pretty impressive ball-striking! What do you play off?"
"Oh man, you Brits! You crack me up!" Not sure why...I wasn't joking.
"I play off five man...but I don't get out as much as I used to. God damn economy man."
Small talk ensued, but on the coach back to the hotel it hit me. Golf is the ONLY sport for everyone. Skinny, tubby, toned, or even a journalist, everyone can play the game. It doesn't matter whether you're Jeff-size, or my man at the show - you can't say that about many sports. And I'm not having darts. Or fishing. Sorry.
As for the day itself, there were plenty of exciting new products on display and over the next few weeks we'll be putting the latest first-hit videos online so watch out peeps!
But in the meantime, whatever shape or size you are, get down that range and start hitting some balls. Learn to use your body as a weapon for golf, rather than fight against what it naturally wants to do. Learn how you hit shots and practice that.
I've done my Jerry Springer piece, so I'm off for a pint. Blog-on again soon.
Wednesday January 28th...
Woohoo! It's Demo Day Wednesday at the PGA Show in beautiful, sunny, glorious Orlando Florida...oh wait, better re-phrase that. Overcast and foggy Orlando Florida. Yep, according to the latest local weather report, this haze is going to be with us for a while...but nevertheless, I'll be getting some exclusive info for you from the greatest golf show on earth later today.
As for last night, I recovered enough to find a quiet piano bar some 10 minutes from the hotel. I'm convinced that if that sort of place existed in the UK it would go out of business in less than six months. The main attraction was a sort of jazz quartet, playing all sorts of covers from BB King to Otis Reading. There was no beer on draught. But as wrong as that would have been in Blighy, it just felt right in good old America.
And how about this? The taxi driver on the way home had a co-pilot.
"Oh, this is how we train our younger drivers here," explained the cabbie.
Does that happen in England? Answers on a postcard please...
Tuesday 27th January 9pm...
Since I last posted, things have taken a turn for the worse...
Now, I despise fast-food...burgers, pizzas and chips are about as appealing to me as a night in with Peggy Mitchell. But at this current moment in time, I'm ruing the decision to have a standard chicken salad for lunch rather than a good old solid bit of grease...I won't lie, I'm feeling pretty terrible and if I've got to blame something, it's going to have to be that damn salad. It wasn't just a normal salad you see...it featured a healthy smattering of jalepenos. Naively, I jumped in with two feet....picture Vinnie Jones in his pomp.
My lunch partner was Mark Stewart, of Stewart Golf...as many of you know, they produce the Bentley Continental of electric troleys in the shape of the F1, and Mark was keen to tell me about his next project - an update on the vastly popular X3...in the shape of the X5.
We'll have pictures later in the week for you, as well as all of the spec information ahead of what the manufactures hopes will be an April launch.
Today is Demo Day at he PGA Show, so in just a few hours I will be bringing you the latest and greatest innovations from he world's finest equipment manufacturers - so be sure to check out the site over the next day or so to see what's coming your way in 2009.
Tuesday January 27th 3pm...
Standing in line at the yanks' equivalent of passport control at Orlando airport, I wondered what word best described the whole elongated process...ah yes, shambolic.
If you're a journalist, carrying several video cameras and a TG microphone, the chances of you getting into the States is, apparently, slim...two hours of queuing later, Uncle Sam's men still weren't that I wasn't some sort of threat to national security...
"Whatcha gona do with this mike buddy?"
"Er, well I'll be doing some filming at the PGA Show this week"
"Filmin' for who?"
"I work for Today's Golfer mag..."
Yes, the questions kept coming...but eventually, I was "approved" via retina-scan, thumb-prints and made my way out into the Land of Opoortunity.
So with the airport woes put to bed I headed, along with a TG sales wizard, to the nearest Hooters, a favourite haunt of John Daly...and now, Jon Greathead. People go to Hooters for two reasons...beer and girls. But two days before the biggest golf show on the planet, it wasn't full of the usual College kids. It was full of golf people...talking golf...and not taking a blind bit of notice of the waitresses serving them. Conversation subjects around us ebbed and flowed from "the new Pro V1" to the "fail-safe putting guru" (whatever that is!)...and that's when it hit home - this is one massive deal for the golf industry and I for one, on what is my first visit to Orlando, cannot wait for the fun to begin.
As for Orlando itself, the people are friendly and the food full of fat and grease - a perfect combination for 99% of hacks across the world. Taxi drivers I've met are all excited about the Show, knowing that the invasion of the media and industry masses will give them a few more bucks in their back pocket. The economic downturn is all to clear to see.
I'll be updating this blog as regularly as I can throughout the week, and we will have some videos and new product info for you very soon. But for now, it's time for me to say "so long buddy" ahead of a meeting with one of the giants of the electric trolley industry...keep coming back here for more info!
Tuesday January 27th 9am...
After an ardous flight from the UK in a plane full of excited children going to Disneyland and parents more willing to sink their favourite tipple than deal with their kids I feel ready for some adult conversation!
Thanksfully I'll be having plenty of those kinds of chats over the next few days as I'm here to meet with TG's golf equipment company contacts to talk about their exciting new golf equipment for 2009. And there is plenty of it here!
For those that don't know the PGA Merchandise Show it's the place where the world's golf trade come together to show off, order and talk about the coming year's kit and boy, is there a lot here!
Over the coming days my plan is to bring you news and video first hits of the best new golf kit here so keep checking back...I'm off for a sleep in preprartion for a big day tomorrow as the show starts...