Every year I get asked for gift recommendations for golfers, and every year I have to talk would-be buyers down from buying golf clubs. They are a poor choice because they are very personal, often custom fitted, and chances are good that if your recipient is into golf, they have clubs they like. So as tempting as that microscopically improved “new” 2022 model driver or hand milled putter is, stay away, and instead give something you know any golfer can use. Something practical, but top quality. Something fun. Like something on this list.
Indoor Simulator: Every golfer dreams of a home simulator for rainy days, winter days, the dead of night, whenever. We’re talking hundreds of the world’s greatest courses in your home that you can play with your clubs and hit real shots on. It’s a great way to practice, a great social gathering with buddies, and a great way to enjoy the off-season in northern climates. But the high-end ones are very pricey and often require extensive custom installation and even construction. So, you can give the one Tiger Woods has, the Full Swing Pro (starting from $40,000) and build its own room, or you can opt for something simpler like the SkyTrak Swingbay Golf Simulator Package from Rain or Shine Golf, a specialist in indoor simulators, hitting bays, launch monitors, practice mats and all thing golf at home. This is the most bang for the buck I have found, and one that you can actually give easily – without committing the recipient to a home expansion project. The package is built around the SkyTrak launch monitor, rated Best Value Golf Simulator and 2021 Editor’s Choice by Golf Digest, measuring 15 data points and compatible with several of the most popular virtual course software platforms. In addition, the package includes a portable, easy to set up netting enclosure to hit into, complete with side blackout screens for better image visibility, hitting and landing floor “turf” pads, a military grade screen designed to handle impact up to 250mph, and a 3000-lumen full HD 1080p high contrast projector with HDMI connectivity. You can use your laptop to run it all or add a pre-optimized dedicated golf gaming laptop. The only other thing needed is widely available golf simulation software like TGC 2019 or E6 Connect. Otherwise, this is a complete turnkey home simulator that can be set up in the basement or garage when needed and put away when not in use, for $10,000.
Stylish Menswear: Years of double-digit growth have made relative newcomer Travis Matthew one of the hottest clothing brands in golf, and the reason it is so popular is because it is stylish and doesn’t look like “golf clothing” but rather nice clothing you can play golf in and keep on afterwards. If anyone on your list is either fashion conscious or in need of a style upgrade, this company has a wide array of great performance polos, pants and shorts, as well as pullovers, long sleeves, hats, belts and more. I really like their wide array of stretchable belts in both fabric and woven leather, great for golf (and off the course), but the company signature look is probably its sectionally horizontally striped polos like the bestselling Finally Friday, the new Unknown, or many more. The classic Zinna is the company’s “perfect polo” and comes in ten solid colors. A lot of Travis Matthew’s wear is on sale for the holidays as well.
Fun Golf Wear: Waggle Golf is another growing apparel brand that has carved out a distinctive niche of loud, colorful and in your face patterned polos for men and women, but while they visually scream, they are not intentionally obnoxious like some other campy golf brands, just colorful. Bestsellers include step and repeat patterns of animals, from sharks to leopards to grizzlies to pink flamingos, along with the signature Cocky Rooster and GOAT (get it?), which is also a bestselling baseball cap. But they also offer an array of surprisingly attractive floral patterns in the Hawaiian Aloha-shirt mode, but as polos, and all made of high performance stretchy, breathable, wicking synthetics with spandex for warm weather and unimpaired range of athletic motion. If you have a golfer with a sense of fun and flair on your list, consider Waggle Golf.
A Smarter Golf Watch: Tech doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive, and after a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that a dedicated golf GPS watch is preferable to ta full featured smartwatch trying to do golf – and you don’t have to give up your nice regular watch when not playing. You put it on when you play, it knows where you are the moment you arrive at the course, all the maps are pre-downloaded so you don’t have to do anything or subscribe to anything, and among these turnkey golf watches, I like the Bushnell ION Edge. Bushnell has long been the Tour favorite for distance measurement, and the ION Edge is ready to go right out of the box, with a large touchscreen, detailed views of the greens with moveable pins to reflect actual daily hole location, as well as front and back distances calibrated along the golfers actual line of play for more accuracy in green depth. It displays a list of hazard and layup distances for each hole (e.g., right bunker 212 yards), runs for 15 hours or more (three rounds) on a single charge, longer than the longest day of golf, can track how far you hit your shots, and if want to save and analyze data for game improvement, it syncs with the Bushnell golf app ($150).
Golf GPS & Launch Monitor: Garmin is the world leader in GPS devices for navigation, powering boats, aircraft and cars, and increasingly, gofers. They have a full array of high-quality golf devices, but the standout to me is the Approach G80, because it combines two of the hottest tech trends in golf in one device. It’s a full color interactive course mapping and distance display, and a full-blown launch monitor capable of analyzing your ball fight at the range. The touchscreen color display is larger than a watch so you can clearly see the entire hole, including hazards, carries and layups, measure any of these distances by touch, and it comes with more than 41,000 courses worldwide preloaded. You can track stats with the Garmin app, and the lunch monitor helps to find swing faults and areas of improvement in a way impossible with the naked eye. It even has dedicated practice drills and virtual rounds you can “play” at the range. If you know a golfer who likes tech, likes data or actually practices, this is the gift for them ($500).
Cooler Heads Prevail: Seamus Golf started out by selling golf headcovers in a wide range of Scottish and Irish clan tartan patterns, so people could flaunt their ancestry while giving their golf bags a distinctive look on the course (I’ve had a family tartan 3-wood cover for years). But because they use high quality wool and make great products, their offerings have expanded greatly, and they now have someone for everyone – Scottish or not. Head cover lines now include Hawaiian, Pendleton patterns based on Native American blankets, classic tweeds, and they make covers for woods, hybrids and putters. But they also have accessories like score card covers, bags and pouches, including one for valuables (I put my watch, cell phone, car keys and money in it, then zip it the secure pocket of my Sun Mountain golf bag) in many of these same patterns so you can create matching gift sets, and they also have accessories like toiletry kits and shoe bags for the golf traveler. If you know a golfer, there is something Seamus makes that they will like, and many of the products, including head covers, can be personalized by adding a monogrammed leather patch, a classy touch that says you really care.
Better, Lighter Bag: Every form of outdoor recreation from hiking to cycling boomed in popularity during the pandemic as people sought to be outside while exercising and still socializing, and golf was especially well suited for this. As a result, golf participation and rounds went through the roof in both 2020 and 2021, but one surprising side effect was a big return to walking over powered golf carts as people sought to get more fitness benefit. Walking is how golf has always been meant to be played, but in addition to history, the walk is good for rhythm and pre-shot visualization, and most golfers play better when they walk. It’s also better for our health, without a doubt. So why not make it as attractive as possible for those on your list with the best lightweight bags on the market. Sun Mountain has always made the best golf carry bags period, pioneering the now ubiquitous stand bag, having the best leg mechanisms, introducing innovations like waterproof bags and so on. But they have also excelled at extreme durability coupled with light weight, and their 2.5-pound models are not only half the weight of most competitors (or less), they are better built and will last longer. But unlike other ultra-lights, there are no sacrifices, and it still has the legs and all the standard pockets and features. The 2.5+ ($230) comes in eight colors, and is also offered in a fully divided version, the 2.5+ 14-way ($240). The 3.5-pound models are also significantly lighter (and better) than most on the market, and while Sun Mountain has been periodically sold out of its most popular products through the pandemic, if they are, you can also find them at many other retailers, including Amazon and every major golf specialist.
A Better Push Cart: The other thing Sun Mountain excels at besides bags is push carts for walking, and these also saw a huge sales increase during the pandemic, with Sun Mountain’s classic Speed Cart GX ($250) long the most popular premium model on the market. They just introduced a slight upgrade, the new Speed Cart V1R ($260) which is slightly lighter and folds slightly more compact for putting in the trunk to drive to the course, so if you can find one it’s a great gift, but the original GX is still great, it’s the one I have. These help even the most reluctant potential golf course walker to make the leap, as it allows you to walk without actually carrying th
Stay Dry, Stay Cozy: Because it was founded by a champion Norwegian skier, KJUS is best known as a skiwear brand, and one of the world’s best high-performance ones at that. But they also make a full line of equally high tech golf wear, and one standout is the Gemini rain suit. It does everything a rain suit should and more, and it is made for both men and women. The fabric is stretchy, very light, soft and comfy, but also breathable, windproof and waterproof. The features are well thought out, from pass through pockets to longer leg zippers so you can easily put them on when rain starts while wearing golf shoes. It has a perfect collar for foul weather and gusseted arms that funnel water away from the core. But the big twist is that it is dark on one side and white on the other, and completely reversible. When warm, you wear the white side out and it reflects heat, while the dark interior attracts heat from your body and then wicks it out. When it’s cold you flip and get the opposite results. It gives a remarkable difference of ten digress Fahrenheit. It’s not just the perfect rain jacket, it’s the perfect golf jacket and takes the place of two to three other garments – while being better at all its tasks. The Gemini comes in jacket, pants and vest, for men or women.
New Shoes: Every golfer needs golf shoes, and if they don’t need a new pair right now, they will at some point. For years the top brand has been Adidas, and their latest and greatest is the CodeChaos, a lineup of premium spike-less footwear for men and women ($130 and $150) that blurs the line between the new sneaker style models and traditional golf shoes, with distinctive colorful knit uppers in several color patterns. CodeChaos models are made from Parley Ocean Plastic, in turn made from recycled waste intercepted from beaches and coastal communities to protect the oceans. They also incorporate all the best Adidas technology including the Boost sole to increase endurance, a heavily contoured Traxion outsole for rock solid traction, and a lightweight, very comfortable but also waterproof knit synthetic upper that fits like a glove. CodeChaos also comes in Junior models.
Toast to Golf: Golf can seem stodgy at times, but it was all about fun when the PGA of America partnered with California winery True Myth to make a limited edition red (2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles) and white (2019 Chardonnay from San Lui Obispo) for the 2020 Ryder Cup, which ended up being played in fall of 2021 at Wisconsin’s Straits Course at Whistling Straits. The Americans finally enjoyed victory and the Europeans lost, but every golf fan can be a winner with this out of the box gift, perfect for the golfer who literally has everything – except official Ryder Cup logo labeled wine. Both are available in the high teens and low twenties from retailers such as Wine.com.
Stay Hydrated: It’s good to drink water (or wine) on the course, and I’ve found the best way to carry it is with a YETI Rambler Bottle with Chug Cap. The easy-to-use wide mouth lets you fill it with ice to start the day, and the super-efficient double walled construction ensures that the ice will still be there even after 36 holes. But the innovative chug cap design lets you drink without any mess on the course while keeping all that ice inside. It’s indestructible, very well made, very easy to clean, comes in lots of colors, can be personalized, and comes in several sizes (18, 26 and 36 ounces, $30-$50) to fit the water bottle pocket on every golf bag, the accessory shelf in a pushcart, or the beverage holder in a powered cart. It’s reusable (forever) and we should all be trying to avoid single use plastics, on or off the course.