SAN DIEGO — In Peter Meyer's world, he seemingly always looks for signs.
As the director of National Golf Graphics in Madison, Meyer represented one of three Wisconsin golf course signage companies at this week's Golf Industry Show that specialize in telling golfers where to go. That they were among two dozen companies with booths at the San Diego Convention Center speaks well for a segment of the golf industry that has seen its niche impacted significantly with advances in technology.
At some point, most signs would suggest that the market demand is being met. Perhaps, it is even over-saturated with companies trying to point the way to the next tee or indicate distance from tee to green.
"One of the trends that's going on right now is minimization," Meyer said. "You hear it a lot with golf course architects and the way courses are being designed. That's leading into less product on golf courses or having it less visible, which is not great for me. But that's OK; every course needs flags.
"So maybe the flag designs are changing a little bit. Maybe simplifying and going to one color with just a small logo on it or a hole number. Signage is more in-ground, rather than above ground on posts; (course owners and superintendents are) utilizing more natural wood products or metal products."
Meyer's company — and others like it — offer far more than flags in catalogs that can be more than 100 pages thick. Their wares are to golfers what street signs are to drivers; critical components of the overall experience that most don't even realize are there.
From flags to penalty-area stakes, from tee signs to yardage markers and from ball washers to trash receptacles, the assortment of golf products supplied by Wisconsin's three leading signage and marker companies is seemingly endless, but always useful. And each Wisconsin company comes at them from a different direction.
Landmark Golf Course Products of Muskego, for example, prides itself on the quality of its products, most of which are handmade by seasoned carpenters and range from wooden bag stands at the driving range to patio furniture at the 19th Hole. Prestwick Golf Group of Sussex, meanwhile, offers products featuring Forever-nu™ technology, a heavy-duty recycled plastic that gives something as often overlooked as a hydration station a sense of class to it.
"We have a wide variety of furnishing offerings," said Steve Syrjala, sales manager for Prestwick, "ranging from water coolers to club washers, ball washers, bag racks, bag stands — really everything you could utilize on a golf course."
Where once a simple Igloo cooler every three or four holes was enough to whet the whistle of golfers on a warm summer's day, many golf courses have stepped up their game in keeping their customers hydrated. As Syrjala talked shop the other day, over his right shoulder was a state-of-the-art hydration station that featured six storage areas for cups, another for straws and an opening to throw straws, cups and wrappers away, all next to the main unit that housed the water dispenser and ice makers.
"Water ... a very important part of the golf course operation," Syrjala said. "We offer products that have bottled-water (chests) as well as Igloo water stations. The one you're referring to is our ice-water machine. We create a shroud that you can brand and encapsulate, you can house whether it's a Hoshizaki machine or a Manitowoc dispenser or a Scotsman.
"We partner with Hoshizaki to utilize their water cooling and ice dispenser system to provide water our on the golf courses. We provide the shroud to then utilize the waste bin as well as the cups, lids, straws to use in one serving station."
Last fall, Prestwick acquired Malibu Outdoor Living, allowing it to add Adirondack chairs and what Syrjala described as "casual seating" to its golf course portfolio.
"One unique product that our golf professionals like is our unique apple crates," he said. "It's a ball-dispensing unit that takes the place of pyramids or den caddies and is made out of our great recycled plastic or hardwood furnishing. It houses 150 to 300 golf balls and would be used at each of the teeing grounds to help keep that area clean and functional."
Likewise, some of Meyer's products are meant to be educational. He displayed a series of signage options to maximize the grass on a driving range by encouraging golfers to place the golf ball at the back edge of the previous divot.
"Year-in and year-out, there might be things that are more important, like these signs," Meyer said. "Superintendents and owners are trying to get people to understand more. Watching the guys on the PGA Tour doesn't help because you see those guys and the enormous amount of turf that's taken out. It take a long time to replace that."