I spent my afternoon and evening at the Michigan Golf Show at the Rock Financial Showcase in Novi, Michigan. It bills itself as the world’s largest golf show—and it certainly is huge. But I think it’s more like a tent sale—or a sidewalk sale than anything else. What it had was miles of tables of discounted clubs, balls and apparel. You can see a single vendor’s tables in the picture at right.
The vast majority of the clubs at the show seemed to be last year’s models—not a bad thing, but it contributes to the tent sale atmosphere. There also were a large number of clubs from what I would call “second tier” manufacturers like Dunlop and Rawlings.
I did see some good deals, though. Rock Bottom Golf had TaylorMade Rescue Duals—which are now selling at GolfSmith for $199—for $140. Quite a bargain. I also spotted a staff bag full of LaJolla Knife woods for $39 each. I’ve always wanted to give one of those funny looking clubs an extended test. But I passed.
At this point, though, I regret not picking up the $79 V-Steel 5-Wood that I saw. I’d like to get a new five wood, and the V-Steel has a good reputation.
Other vendors were selling component knock-off clubs, most of which looked pretty bad. There are some really good companies out there that you might call “smart followers” like GigaGolf and Pine Meadow who follow in the footsteps of the big names. And I’m a big fan of well-designed original components, like those made by GolfSmith and GolfWorks. But the ones at the Michgian Golf show were clearly subpar. The ones with the pseudo Nike swoosh and the R7 logo designs were particularly egregious. No real golfer would mistake them for the real thing, but they clearly were designed to fool someone.
Many of the smaller stalls there were the pro shops of local courses selling last year’s demo clubs, logo apparel and their excess baseball cap inventory. I bought a nice Callaway golf shirt at one of these for $10.
Another thing that tempted me were several booths with slightly used golf balls. I looked for some Black Max balls—I enjoyed playing those last spring—but none of them had it. If you were looking for ProV1s , though, you were set. The vast inventory of used Pro Vs makes me wonder if there are really that many incompetent golfers hacking these things into ponds—or if some of them were those Titleist knock-offs that were in the news a while back.
The markdown on the other balls I like to play—Noodles, DT SoLo and Callaway HX Hots wasn’t enough to get me to buy used.
Several booths were selling original putter designs. One was a super heavy putter; another, a super-wide, center-shafted brass model. A third booth was selling beautiful putters made of polished wood.
As a side note, I get a lot of emails at GolfBlogger asking me to promote various new golf products. And the vast majority of these are putters of various new shapes and sizes—and especially with new alignment mechanisms. Garage tinkerers must see putters as the best way to break into the golf business.
Others vendors were offering new training gadgets, “innovative new golf gloves”, and other homebrew inventions. The most interesting of these was something called a Strike-N-Swipe, which is a resusable impact label.
Gorilla Gold had a booth there, and gave me a good demonstration of their products: a tacky cloth that you wipe on your hands or grips to prevent slippage. I play with bare hands, so I was really interested in that one.
One guy was selling beef jerky (not sure how that’s a golf product); another had homemade salsa. There was a cigar vendor, and one with chewing tobacco. And there were half a dozen chiropacter booths.
Several charities also were there. There were two charity contests in which you bought three balls and tried to pitch (or hit one out of a sandtrap) into a hole to win a prize. One was holding a drawing for a Harley. Homeless Greyhounds (yes, dogs) were available at another.
Two companies offered backyard putting greens made from astroturf. There were a couple of booths selling overpriced photos of the pros. And one guy was selling 12 inch high Arnold Palmer dolls that were attached to a stick with a trigger. You pulled the trigger, and the little Arnold Palmer hit a tiny golf ball into the air. It was actualy kind of cute.
Crystal Mountain resort had their professional golf staff there giving free lessons. LPGA Professional Ina Davis worked with me for quite a long time. She identified my bugaboo—the flying left elbow—on the first swing and then gave me several drills to work on. She was wonderful to work with, explaining things very clearly. I’d recommend her if you’re in Northern Michigan and looking for a lesson.
The remainder of the show—about a third of it—was composed of booths for various courses around the state, and around the country. Most had drawings for free rounds of golf. I filled out a lot of those. And many of them were giving stuff away. I picked up several golf towels, a pack of 3 wood brush tees, lots of coupons, a deck of cards from a casino, a copy of Arnold Palmer’s “Kingdom” magazine (I saw that for $20 at Barnes and Noble), ball mark tools, and handsfull of regular wooden tees.
All in all, it was a fun day—in spite of the massive headache I had from my wisdom tooth extraction two eays earlier. I can’t wait for the season to begin!