Last week, I went to the Golf Trade Show in Las Vegas. Trade shows provide an opportunity to see what's new in the business and catch up on the latest trends.
This year's show was not as busy as in previous years, as several of the major manufacturer's opted to miss the show and wait until the larger golf trade shows in Orlando in January.
The trend in golf club design is very much in the direction of lowering the center of gravity (sweet spot) of the club head. Callaway Golf introduced their latest iron club named "Hawkeye." The Hawkeye has a titanium club head with the sole of the club injected with a tungsten weight; this weight is lowest in the long irons to help get the ball into the air as well as increasing accuracy.
The lower center of gravity simply moves more weight below the equator of the ball, resulting in a higher launch angle.
The weight is slightly higher in the middle irons and short irons, with the desired result being a controlled trajectory and more backspin on the shorter irons.
Orlimar Golf, the pioneers of the "Tri Metal Design" of club heads, introduced a Ken Venturi designed blade iron aimed at lower handicap golfers preferring a classic style of club and not needing the help of a low center of gravity to get the ball airborne.
This trend in club-head design is interesting. About 20 years ago, a company named Browning introduced a new style of club head. It was called "low profile," with the idea that it lowered the center of gravity and made it easier to get the ball airborne. They were the hottest thing on the market at the time.
An interesting aspect of this trade show was the increase in companies exhibiting products designed to improve golf games from a physical standpoint. Several companies displayed items designed to improve strength, coordination and balance for improved performance.
A company named "Perform Better" specialized in what it described as "a guide to functional training," with the premise being improved fitness and strength for specific activities. I tried some different exercises with medicine balls and balance beams and could certainly see how they would benefit a golfer, although it's hard to exercise when you could be watching reruns of "The Simpsons."
I especially enjoyed looking at the numerous types of swing trainers that make the perfect swing a certainty. Among the many items were molded rubber grips that force a person to grip a club just like Mark O'Meara. Also available were laser beams to train a golfer for the perfect swing plane (bought some), and a ridiculously over-priced piece of plastic that guarantees the perfect hinging of the wrists (bought some, a weak moment).
Another new direction I noticed was that several companies now sell products over the internet. These companies would like golf business owners to direct customers to their web sites and would then pay the business owner a small commission on equipment sales. The idea is that the shop or business owner would not have to carry inventory. The companies feel that customers would be willing to purchase clubs without having them customized in person, an interesting concept to say the least.
Terry Gingell is a golf columnist for the Nevada Appeal.