By Ed Travis
The PGA of America is 100 this year and the recently completed 63rd PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. at the Orange County Convention Center was the beginning of a centennial celebration by the organization which represents the 28,000 men and women who run golf facilities across the country.
As an industry, golf has been going through some trying times with more people leaving the game than taking it up. The declining numbers participating have not been the only challenge. Compounding the slide in participation has been the 2008 housing crisis-triggered recession. Golf travel, equipment, apparel and indeed every segment of the industry has struggled with the closing of hundreds of golf facilities in addition to an industry-wide consolidation via bankruptcies, sell outs and mergers.
However, if indications from the PGA Show can be believed, things may be getting better. This is no way an absolute and maybe only a faint glimmer, but paraphrasing Winston Churchill, it may not be the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning of the industry’s recovery.
Many exhibitors, in an admittedly nonscientific survey, told this writer they were writing orders at a good rate especially in the accessory and apparel categories and more importantly, the mood on the floor was positive, a marked contrast to recent years when anything but optimism was the norm.
Attendance overall saw an increase of 3 percent from 2015 to more than 42,000 industry professionals traveling from 91 countries to Orlando. The number of exhibitors was approximately the same but critically there were 284 new companies, an increase of 40 percent from the number of newbies last year.
Show organizers also report more than 7,000 PGA Professionals came to see the latest in golf items and services while earning continuing education credits by attending the many seminars and presentations.
PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions Senior Vice President and General Manager Ed Several was quoted, “This was truly a special PGA Merchandise Show, where the golf community was able to mark the Centennial of the PGA of America and celebrate the impact PGA Professionals have had on the game. As is the tradition of the PGA Merchandise Show, the world of golf came together here in Orlando to drive forward the business of the game in a face-to-face environment. In addition to sourcing from a wide spectrum of the newest merchandise, attending PGA Professionals and golf buyers were able to personally experience the most advanced technologies in demo events, personal interaction with the game’s leaders and product designers, a sharing of best practices among colleagues and a full calendar of professional resources to impact their businesses and careers.”
Time will tell whether the golf industry is really experiencing in a turnaround or merely an upward pointing blip in a continuing downward trend.