By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sam Snead often practiced full shots while barefoot, to better feel his connection with the ground and maintain balance.
Golf shoe manufacturers aren’t going to endorse that anytime soon, but they’re fighting each other to create the closest things to barefoot. Like the hot drivers and clothing fabrics on the floor at the PGA Merchandise Show, lighter is better.
Adidas Golf showed off its new Crossflex, weighing in at a scant 10.6 ounces. Most golf shoes come in closer to a pound or more.
“It’s a supernova-rising category,” said adidas Golf product manager Grant Knudson of the light-shoe segment.
Several startup companies are trying to, um, get a foothold in that segment with shoes that look closer to Crocs with spikes or surf shoes. Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. (standing for better energy recovery balance stability, of course) showed off their product at Wednesday’s Demo Day and invited customers to try on a pair and smash drivers.
But all is not lost for golfers still looking for anchors. FootJoy’s XPS1 has a sole that flares out at points around the bottom of the shoe, adding stability. Gary Woodland, the kind of player who would need maximum stability with his fierce swing speed, wears the XPS1 on the PGA TOUR.
SIGHTINGS: Jack Nicklaus spoke at a Golf 2.0 program for the PGA of America. … Davis Love III signed autographs at Bridgestone’s booth … Brad Faxon drew a crowd while giving putting tips for a synthetic green company … CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of Titleist on commercials, emceed a Thursday morning gathering for the company’s PGA professionals. … Dave Stockton and his sons were on hand to offer putting tips and sign Stockton’s new book, “Unconscious Putting.”
PUTTING PROWESS: Ping reps stayed busy on a putting green running a contest using the company’s iPhone putting app. Attendees were fit for a Ping putter with the company’s new “Fit for Stroke” system, which measures golfers onto one of three swing paths – strong arc, slight arc or straight. Golfers then hit five putts with a correctly fit putter, and those putts’ data were measure with the iPhone clipped to the putter.
The 32 players with the most consistency from their set are invited back Friday for a competition, and the four left standing after that will compete Saturday morning in a $5,000 skins game.
The Ping putting app has had more than 100,000 downloads since its release last summer, and when the company pushed its iPhone cradle (the device attaching the iPhone to the putter) as a stocking stuffer, that proved to be a hit too. More than 3,000 downloads were recorded on Christmas morning.
AROUND THE FLOOR: TaylorMade’s area (along with sister companies adidas and Ashworth) filled the east end of the convention hall, and Thursday night featured a concert with George Thorogood. His song, “Who Do You Love?” is used in the company’s commercials for the new R11s driver. … Cobra Puma Golf’s two-story booth featured a slide into a pit of plastic orange balls. The weight limit to ride it? Under 195 pounds. … An indoor testing range is expected to have some 250,000 balls hit over the three days of the Show. … For more pictures from the show, click here .
SMART STUFF: Golf Buddy has a new GPS device called “The Voice” which is beeper-sized and tells you the distance to the hole with a push of a button. … A new company called iWanamaker is offering free scoring software for smartphones that allows golfers in outings to keep tabs on each others’ scores, creating a live leaderboard. … There’s no shortage of companies offering golf simulators, either for recreation or instruction, but Guru Training Systems offers a twist – a 3D trainer that is a “markerless motion capture system” according to the company. It works with a depth-sensing camera mounted atop a TV, meaning it could be used in one’s living room without moving the furniture.