Golf gadgets and gurus at the PGA Merchandise Show

February 21, 2014

The PGA Merchandise Show is perhaps best known for the new models of golf clubs and balls highlighted at this remarkable convention.

There are plenty of other golf items on display, however, including gadgets for golfers and golf courses, as well as the occasional golf guru.

Henry Komenaka, a Bushnell Golf representative, spoke highly of his company's GPS locater/watch combinations, as well as its laser rangefinders on display at the show booth.

"I love it when guys can walk up to their ball, take a quick look at their watch, then grab a club and hit it. It really speeds up the game," he said.

Komenaka said Bushnell's watches are accurate to two to three yards, which should be more than sufficient for most golfers. For those seeking more accurate yardage information, the Bushnell rangefinders will do the job.

I tested one rangefinder that adjusted for slope conditions, giving readings of both the actual yardage and the effective yardage when a hill is involved. This might not be so meaningful on the relatively flat Cape Region courses, but I could quickly see the benefits of the slope feature on hilly layouts such as those found in northern Delaware.

The Quantival display was perhaps the most unusual booth I encountered during the PGA Show. Richard Bennett, the executive director of the West Coast B-to-B company, gave an animated explanation of the Dynamic Pricing service to public golf course operators.

The Quantival slogan is fairly blunt: "We know what your golfers are worth."

Golf courses are just like hotels, restaurants, and airlines, in that they all sell a time-limited service. Every empty tee time, seat, or room is a lost income opportunity, so any mechanism that can reduce those empty spots will be welcomed - especially if it works.

Using algorithms developed by Nile W. Hatch, an economist, Quantival takes daily records of rounds played, and then updates the golf course’s pricing scheme by tee time. The software program taps into the price and timing sensitivity of the golfers, and takes into consideration the time of day, the day of the week, the forecast weather, and golfer profiles.

The end result is a range of prices spread throughout the day. It seems like a far better pricing mechanism than just seeing what the other guys charge for a round at their course.

PGA and PGA Senior Tour player Bobby Clampett had his own booth. The occasional CBS golf announcer has now expanded on his book, "The Impact Zone," reviewed in this column in August 2007. Clampett is offering a four-DVD set expanding on his insights about how to develop a good swing. He is also opening up a new golf academy this year in Fort Myers, Fla.

I told Clampett I reviewed his book when it came out originally, and asked how it had sold since. He smiled and said, “Really well, thanks. It has sold more copies each year than the year before.”

As my day at the show came to a close, I experimented with a bit of golf gadgetry.

With the help of Jake Anderson, the social media manager for RIFE Golf, I had fun feeling the surprising difference in the company's new Switchback line of putters.

The otherwise normal-looking heel and toe club comes with special weighted attachments that screw into the back of both ends. Without the weights, the putter weighs 340 grams. The attachments, using aluminum, steel, or tungsten as needed, come in four 5-gram increments from 5 to 20 grams each. For some golfers' putting woes, a mix of weights might also help with a nagging tendency to lead with either the toe or the heel.

Cape golf team sign-up time

Vikings head golf coach Claudio Smarrelli sent a note that March 4 is scheduled to be the first day of practice at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club for the 2014 season – weather permitting, of course.

The sign-up sheet is located on the counter in the main entrance to Cape Henlopen High School. The first meeting will be in auditorium room B102 at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25.

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