A few weeks back, I visited the London Golf Show 2012 at Earls Court. The show had been advertised as the best place to try out new golf clubs and see manufacturers products from across the board. What I actually found was a large room, mostly empty, with a single ‘driving range’ bay for a handful of manufacturers. It was a real let down. To start off – as you can clearly see from the poster, 2 free rounds of golf were offered. There was, of course, no mention of this on arrival!
At the front of the room there was a putting green practice area. It was approx 30ft long and 8ft wide, and had some neat little ball catchers which were the size of a flag hole, and caught the golf ball if you hit a good putt. Unfortunately, to hit a good putt was more luck than judgement, as the surface was so terrible. We were there on the Saturday, and although it had only opened the day before, it looked like it had been there for a few weeks. The carpet was rucked, uneven, and badly laid (the duct tape on the edges was all coming lose). Even one of the staff on a stall commented on how bad the surface was, and was no where near good enough to really practice or test drive a new golf putter.
Next to this stood a small Odyssey Putter stall. The stand looked very amateurish – no real branding, only a stand with a hotch – botch of putters. There were printed notices of special offer deals, including White Hot putters for £79. Needless to say, all the popular designs had gone (like the 2 ball design, which my friend was after) and what was left were the more outlandish looking putters. The staff were happy for you to take a putter and try it out, with no real salesman talk going on, which was good.
Along one side was the food and drinks stalls (£4.20 for a small bottle of Carlsberg larger… daylight robbery!) and along the other 2 virtual golf competitions – longest drive and hole in one. The queues were long, so long in fact that we never got a go on the hole in one challenge. It closed before our names were called! The idea was a little twisted – a hole in one would win a £40k Lexus hybrid – but only if you first got 1 of 5 closest the pins, then once called back at the end of the day for one final shot- if you holed that you would win the car. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the national lottery has better odds on you becoming a multi millionaire.
The largest golf stall was a shop, which was stocking ‘knock down priced’ equipment. There were some good deals on golf shirts, but nothing special. All the prices of golf clubs looked about right for an online shop, so I was hard pushed to find a real bargain, although some of the smaller (or cheaper, maybe?) manufacturers did have some really good ‘one off’ clubs (wedges and drivers mainly).
There were plenty of golfing holiday, golfing gadget & gizmo and ‘barely related to golf but we’ll try and sell some stuff anyway’ stalls. Shockingly, there was only one ‘golf accessories’ stall which mainly sold items with smiley faces or England flags on – nothing of real great design. I had been hoping for some golf iron covers, of which the two options were Welsh flags or Scottish flags each at £25.00!
We then got to the main attraction – the manufacturers’ bays. As I may have mentioned, this was terribly underwhelming. There was one bay per manufacturer, which meant queues were 2 – 4 people deep. When everyone was taking 20 minutes each, the waiting time added up quickly! It also became a babysitting service by mid afternoon, with kids hitting balls with clubs for fun, whilst parents wandered around the other bays eyeing up clubs well out of their price range.
Saying that, I did see one kid, who must have been 10 years old, hitting children’s sized drivers and hybrids on the Wilson Staff stand better than I could hit my driver… but let’s not divulge from the negative with some cheery up-beat blogging.
It was in fact the Wilson Staff stand that had caught my eye. Two young lads (I say young, they were at least 20) were running it, and with it being tucked away in the far right corner it wasn’t quite as busy as others. My irons are all Wilson Staff (who’s irons have won more majors than any other brand’s) so I was keen to have a crack at their Drivers. I’d seen some other golf manufacturers charging £20 or so for a fitting, which felt a bit steep considering they were trying to sell their goods, and a fitting consisted of hitting a few balls then being told “You need a stiff shaft & a 10.5 degree club face”. However, the guys at Wilson Staff were brilliant, and spent a good 10 minutes with me finding the right driver. After my golf club fitting was finished, they gave me a small brochure and wrote down my fitting details. Then they told me they were selling their ‘demo’ clubs – new clubs which had been used over the past 2 days in their bay. I got a 50 degree gap wedge to match my lob wedge for £25, instead of £40 in the shop at the London Golf Show and £60 online. Bargain.
Finally, there were 2 show areas. The first was a small raised stage which had demos every hour or so from pros and coaches, teaching techniques and taking questions from the audience. The second was at the opposite end of the manufacturers bays which had the Trick Shot Boys hitting, you guessed it, trick shots. Entertaining for the few who got to the front, but as the stage wasn’t raised up, most only saw the odd ball fly up from the ground.
Overall, I didn’t feel that I had wasted my day. I felt like there would have been a lot more there, after the grand advertisements I’d seen. I was shocked at the lack of stalls, with nothing from the likes of Nike, Adidas, or other major sporting brands, nor Taylor Made, Ping, or other golf only brands – other than their demo bays which of course had no clothing, shoes or accessories for sale. There was no presence from Direct Golf or American Golf, neither smaller golf brands like Ian Poulter’s IJP Design. However, as a day up to London for some pre-Christmas list building opportunities, it could have been worse. It also could have been, so, so much better.