Of the simulator explosion, crazy cars, a good partner and more in Orlando

Like and Follow Golf Oklahoma

By Ken MacLeod

It was a good week at the bustling PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The hordes of attendees and exhibitors were back to pre-Covid levels. Industry analyst Jim Koppenhaver, at his annual Pellucid State of the Industry talk, had far more good news than bad news to share, going against his natural inclination to be cautious, if not pessimistic.

We went in a few days early and competed in the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) annual golf tournament at Mission Hills Resort in Howie of the Hills and managed to come away at the net division winner despite not making a putt for two days. But it was fun and thanks to the GWAA for a great event.

Then it was on to the Demo Day where we sampled a few of the new offerings before the allure of a 70-degree day signaled a change in venue to Rio Pinar Golf Club, a busy Orlando course circa 1957, so it’s been around a year longer than me.

Demo day included virtual reality putting assistance, I need it.

Wednesday and Thursday were full on merchandise show, with meetings pretty much all day sprinkled with some free time to gawk at the exhibitions. The first thing that stood out walking the floor is how huge the golf simulator industry has become. We went to the booths of Golfzon, Uneekor, Golf VX, Trackman, About Golf, and seems like a few others and the technology for both playing courses and instruction in each has jumped ahead light years, though I understand still catching up to what is available in Korea where many of the companies are headquartered.

Even in a fairly-warm weather market such as Oklahoma you can see the explosion of simulators available at courses and establishments such as Tour Quality, Birdie Bay and the Superfly Golf Lounge in Tulsa, Scratch Golf in Bixby, Twisted Tee Golf coming this spring in Owasso, the Sim Golf Center coming to Broken Arrow in 2024, Indoor 18 in Edmond, The Joinery in Oklahoma City, plus the simulators available to use in golf equipment stores such as PGA Tour Superstore, GolfTec and more.

As the folks at Golfzon explained, many golfers in South Korea will only play on simulators. The country is about 2/3 the size of Illinois, only with 51.7 million people and 450 courses compared to 12.6 million for 448 courses in Illinois,  Simulators are as prevalent there as Starbucks is here. From an industry standpoint, the question is are these establishments an option for regular golfers in inclement weather, bringing new golfers to the game or a sort of hybrid between the Top Golfs and Golf Suites eatertainment facilities that are immensely popular but yet to prove they are contributing to any growth in the number of golfers who play at outdoor facilities? It will be an interesting development to track and it’s very interesting to see so many facilities opening in an area where golf can be played outdoors most of the year. The more people playing golf, the better for all in the long run seems like a solid way to look at it.

Bernie Jorgensen and Shawn Anderson of Clear Creek Golf Car in Oklahoma City.

Also of visual note at the show was the number of golf car companies hoping to make an impression by trotting out the biggest, most outrageous cars you would never find on a golf course or that would tear it to shreds. Shawn Anderson, a co-owner of Clear Creek Golf Cars (Club Cars) in Oklahoma City, said it was a popular tactic of companies that don’t have many if any fleet contracts to draw attention. Pictured are a few of the ones you are not likely to see at a course near you soon.

Titleist rep Pat Moriarty.

We visited with Pat Moriarty, the Titleist rep for the Washington, D.C. area, who was for 20 years the same in Oklahoma. He was recently named the Titleist Sales Representative of the Year, his company’s highest honor, so congrats to Pat! Also ran into Rick Bell and Kendall Dye with Ping, Harley Abrams with SuperSpeedGolf and quite a few Oklahoma pros getting some buying done. And then saw Nancy Lopez at the Folds of Honor booth, where she was recently named to the Folds of Honor Board of Directors. Lopez was a 2016 inductee into  the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame and has been supporting the Folds since its inception.

Nancy Lopez chats in the Folds of Honor booth.
Chris Swafford with the Aug.-Sept issue.

On Wednesday afternoon the International Golf Network announced its annual media award winners in 13 categories. My partner Chris Swafford and I only entered one category this year and that was publications with our Aug.-Sept issue with Mike Hughett on the cover, as the entry deadline popped up on the day we were trying to get our October issue to press. Golf Oklahoma was honored as one of the top three regional magazines in a category which drew entries from around the country. The overall winner was MET Golfer, a huge circulation publication in New York City that is designed and produced by PGA Magazine. It’s a great pub but hard competition for our two-man endeavor to topple. But we’re grateful to be recognized.

Chris, pictured here, is the man who does all the layout and design for the print and digital magazine, our weekly newsletter, designed and maintains this website, helps our customers with their ads, and just about everything else you can think of to allow me to do what I do. Which is try to fill up all those things with copy and ads and then go to Orlando and play golf. I am very fortunate to have him helping get all the golf news out to all of our readers.

We had some other interesting interviews and visits at the show and will be expanding on those soon.  Stay tuned.


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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source