IF YOUR GOLFGIVEAWAYS haven't strayed far from polo shirts and putters, remember there's a whole world of products out there to wow your golf junkies. From clubs and balls to bags and shoes, the newest products can be found at the annual PGA Merchandise Show. At this year's event in Orlando, Fla., in late January, we combed exhibits to bring you some of the freshest idea on the floor — gifts that players will use, and that will keep your company and your event top of mind. Note that pricing figures are estimated for quantities typically ordered for tournaments — 72 to 240 players.
No more fumbling through a pocket full of tees and tools to find a ball mark! Two companies — Golf Design and Ahead Headgear — are making a ball mark that sits on the brim of a hat. Players attach a metal clip to their brim, which magnetically holds a ball mark until they need it. Either clip/ball mark combination is less than $10 per player, including your company or event logo. For just a few dollars more, both companies offer gift sets that include a pitch mark repair tool and a spare ball marker.
Players love getting logo balls, especially the latest models. Ironically, one reason that balls are so appreciated is because they are so easily lost — a downside for a planner who wants to make a lasting impression. One solution is the new gift sets from Callaway Golf. Three to six balls come in a plush, reusable logo-embroidered valuables pouch or attractive logo tin. The larger sets also include extra items: divot tools, ball marks, etc. Most sets are priced in the teens and $20s, including logos. The six-ball tin with single-use camera and sunscreen runs higher.
Swing Sock is a simple, yet ingenious, warmup tool — a weighted cover that fits the head of any iron or wedge. It's the same concept as a “batting doughnut” for baseball players. The Swing Sock can also be used as a training aid to improve tempo and increase power. Less than $20 per player, including a custom logo.
The short-sleeve mock neck was the surprise hit of golf's 2003 fall fashion lineup, catching even Nike, who dressed Tiger Woods in one, short on stock. Chances are, even your golf fashionistas have no short-sleeved mock yet — and there will be no shortage of choices this year! Ben Hogan, Cutter & Buck, Roche, and Tehama have all added the style to their 2004 year-round collections. Fabrics, cuts, and colors vary by brand. So does pricing, from about the mid $30s for Cutter & Buck's men's and women's models (shown), to the low $60s for Ben Hogan's luxe version.
Any resemblance to a plain old golf polo ends when a shirt made from one of the new high-tech performance fabrics gets worn on a hot day, taken on a trip, or laundered. They feel cool and comfortable, dry in a flash, and stay wrinkle-free. High-tech shirts are featured in the 2004 collections of many top makers. Ashworth's new E-Z Tech polo (shown below) is a great example. Travel hint: When you pack for your trip home, don't put an E-Z Tech you've worn in your suitcase with a fresh one. You won't be able to tell which is which! From the high $30s up.
Here's a revolutionary idea: a wind shirt you wear under your clothes, rather than over them. Tehama's new Windskin applies breathable windproofing technology associated with winter sports, such as speed skating, to golf wear. This is definitely not your grandfather's long underwear; it's classy enough to go solo if the temperature rises. The Windskin is not a showcase for your logo, but you can be sure it's something your players don't already own. These will hit the market in late summer 2004, just in time for fall events. From about the mid-$30s.
Until now, we haven't recommended shoes as a tournament gift. Despite their considerable “wow” factor, ordering to fit a group — considering the size, width, and gender variations — seemed too complicated for planners to deal with. But the new Callaway Golf Footwear line simplifies sizing with XWT (“extra width technology”), a multilayer insole in the forefoot that can be adjusted to change the fit from medium to wide or narrow. You can request sizes from participants, or use the size distribution matrix Callaway has developed. To assure a good fit for everyone, the company will deliver about 20 percent more shoes than your order (extras are returnable), and send a representative at no charge to measure participants and help with adjustments. These shoes are breathable and carry a two-year waterproof guarantee. $70 and up.
A new golf club travel cover from Sun Mountain Sports, called Atlas, combines the best features of hard- and soft-sided products. Its rigid, padded top protects clubs from airline abuse like a hard case, but its flexible sides keep it lightweight and convenient to store. Folded down, the Atlas is just 2 feet high (and resembles the R2D2 robot from Star Wars). The Atlas includes a “lance,” a telescoping rod that, once locked at a length beyond the longest club, prevents any compression that might damage shafts. Custom logos are not currently available, but plans are under way to add that capability by summer 2004. From $160 up.
The “Wentworth” microsuede is the new style from Zero Restriction Outerwear. ZR is what virtually every touring pro wears in rain or wind, and it has developed a cult following among avid golfers. The brand is well-named: Every detail is designed to prevent the garment from interfering with a full swing. The Wentworth, made of buttery-soft, sueded microfiber in a subtle plaid, comes in vest and long-sleeved versions. Although at least eight weeks' lead time is required for quantity orders, Zero Restriction will make women's sizes as well as men's at no extra charge. Vest from about $70; long-sleeve from the low $100s.
Nina Renaud is a principal of Corporate Golf, which supplies golf merchandise nationwide for tournaments, incentive programs, resort meetings, and other corporate events. The company also provides golf event planning and celebrity booking services. For more information, call Renaud at (919) 680-3070, or visit www.corporate-golf.com.