BY SEAN FAIRHOLM
ORLANDO, FLORIDA | After pandemic-related restrictions put a damper on PGA Show festivities in 2021 and 2022, the 70th edition of golf’s largest gathering witnessed an injection of positive energy.
Nearly 30,000 PGA professionals, golf leaders, industry executives and retailers from more than 86 countries came together last week at Orange County Convention Center. Although overall attendance numbers were still lower than pre-pandemic shows, this year’s meeting generated considerably more buzz than the past two years. That includes 2021, which was fully virtual amidst widespread travel restrictions.
“The energy on the PGA Show floor was fantastic,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said. “I grew up on a trading floor (on the New York Stock Exchange), and this reminds me of the energy and enthusiasm of a busy trading day. It is reflective of the (golf) industry, basically booming. We played defense for a couple of years during the pandemic, but we’re on the verge of being all the way back now. If the PGA Show is a barometer, 2023 is going to be a great year for golf.”
The PGA Show, which began in the trunks of cars at a winter golf tournament in 1954, has developed into golf’s longest-running and largest global business gathering. There were nearly 7,000 PGA, LPGA and international PGA professionals present. Additionally, more than 800 media members reported from the event.
“The PGA Show is annually the largest gathering of PGA professionals and industry leaders, and it has certainly lived up to that billing this year,” PGA president John Lindert said. “It was the epicenter of golf business, with more than 800 companies conducting business, and remains the largest stage in golf for networking, education and career development. We met with innumerable allied golf associations and organizations to develop strategies to grow participation in the game and business strategies for the months and years to come.”
“All I can say is the PGA Show is back in a big way after the pandemic. The energy and enthusiasm on the PGA Show floor is something I haven’t seen in many years.”
The week began with a sun-splashed Demo & Fitting Day at the Orange County National Golf Center in nearby Winter Garden, where bays quickly filled just minutes after opening. Traffic was similarly full during the three convention days where nonstop traffic was seen throughout booths of all sizes.
With golf participation numbers continuing to rise, there were some encouraging show statistics to reflect the game’s demand. More than 250 new exhibitors had a presence at the PGA Show, and 80 female-owned businesses were on hand.
Notably, there were more than 500 showgoers of Hispanic descent in attendance. There was a consensus that the PGA Show has slowly become more diverse.
“The first two years, you would hardly hear any Spanish on the floor, but now you can hear a lot of people from Mexico and Spain, with golf growing so much among Latinos in the U.S., and all over Mexico and Latin America,” said Ramón Bescansa, co-owner of The Perfect Putter.
The end result of the show was optimism. Given strong equipment sales, increased participation in non-traditional golf activities and a number of encouraging metrics suggesting golf’s continued momentum, energy on the show floor was meaningful.
“All I can say is the PGA Show is back in a big way after the pandemic,” said Ed Gibson, head professional at Makefield Highlands Golf Club in Yardley, Pennsylvania. “The energy and enthusiasm on the PGA Show floor is something I haven’t seen in many years.”
Top: Attendees test putters at the Callaway booth during the PGA Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
PHOTO: Darren Carroll, PGA of America