It felt almost like before the pandemic. The 71st PGA Show completed last Friday was again the “Major of the Golf Business” with the number attending approaching 40,000 and 996 exhibitors offering over 3,000 products in the 1 million square feet of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.
After the Show’s strong recovery in 2023 (808 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees) from the pandemic-induced lows there was never any doubt the largest industry-wide annual gathering would finally hit its stride. From the virtual Show of 2021, which no one thought worked well, to the sparsely attended 2022 meeting the signs were clear.
The weeks’ schedule began Tuesday with a gigantic Demo Day showing clubs, training aids and accessories from 73 companies at the Orange County National Golf Center’s sprawling circular practice facility followed by three days of exhibits in the OCC. To give readers a sense of what was on the Show floor to be seen, evaluated and ordered by the PGA Professionals, golf shop managers and retailers in attendance here’s a partial product category list:
587 apparel & accessories
162 golf equipment
71 training aids
37 travel & tourism
34 fitness & health
The Equipment Testing Center (a.k.a. indoor driving range) had its 44 hitting bays in constant use as was the adjacent 3,750-square-foot practice putting green.
For the past several years over half of the Show floor was taken up by soft goods, apparel, shoes, accessories, and the crowds in that area were heavy with vendors commenting on the steady flow of traffic.
The number of new exhibitors is always a good measure of the Show’s relevancy and this year there were 380 new companies, which would seem to be a sign that both soft and hard goods can look ahead to continued growth.
A large area for pickleball which has become the fastest growing sport in the U.S. contained two courts with vendors offering a total of 54 products, everything from racquets and balls to shoes and pickleball specific fashion. NBA Hall of Fame member Rick Barry and LPGA pro Sherri Steinhauer played an exhibition match that had crowds lining the court.
Education is still a primary reason PGA Professionals attend the Show with 53 sessions offering continuing education credit in Executive Management, Teaching & Coaching and Golf Operations. In addition, those attending have an unparalleled opportunity for networking and effective job searches.
PGA Show week is not all work and no play, every evening there are numerous dinners and parties, so many no one could or would attend them all. For the first time there was an afterhours concert by country star Jake Owen performing. It was very well received and may become an every year feature.
No-shows at the 2024 PGA Show included Nike who it was rumored are deemphasizing golf after Tiger Woods publicized break to start his own brand. Wilson Golf was absent and so was TaylorMade Golf who hasn’t exhibited since 2018. PXG was not there, they have never supported the Show, and longtime exhibitor Tour Edge Golf for the second year chose to not have a booth.