Every winter, I think to myself: “Will I be able to get out to play before spring?” Despite living in central Illinois, sometimes I do – I worry about climate change while teeing it up on some random 45-degree February day. If you happen to live in a climate more conducive to year-round play, count your blessings.
No matter where you live, here’s a list of Holiday Gift ideas for golfers who yearn for “next season,” whatever that means for you.
SentryWorld 2023 U.S. Senior Open tix & stocking cap swag
The 2023 U.S. Senior Open will be held at the spectacular SentryWorld in Stevens Point, WI. From now until Dec. 31, anyone who buys $100 or more in U.S. Senior Open tickets will receive a free SentryWorld insulated stocking cap with a removable pom pom that snaps on and off. My advice is to not only attend the Open, but also book your own stay-and-play at SentryWorld’s luxurious new Inn. Play where the legends of the game play!
Bushnell Wingman: Swing your swing and play your music
If you’ve gone all-in on technology and all the ways it’s changing golf, the Bushnell Wingman ($100) is for you. Essentially the Wingman is a top-notch Bluetooth stereo speaker combined with one of the best GPS systems in golf. Integrated into the speaker is a powerful magnet so you can stick it on your golf cart (or on your pushcart), and there’s a detachable remote control to carry in your pocket to click for audible yardages to the front, middle, and back of the green. Pair the Wingman with your phone to play music from your own library or streaming service, if the gentle strains of birdsong are too old-fashioned for you. Then download the Bushnell app onto your smartphone to display detailed maps and yardages of 36,000 courses, keep score, and more all on your phone and accessible without subscription or membership.
PUMA GS-ONE Spikeless Golf Shoes
PUMA has introduced their lightest spikeless shoe ever, the GS-ONE ($130). The softfoam sockliner and TPU saddle system in the midsole combine to hug your foot like a sock – a stylish, supportive, ground-gripping sock that also looks cool as a casual sports shoe off the course. Personally, I love not having to change shoes before and after a round. Give me a pair like the GS-ONE that I can wear to the course and wherever I go afterwards, and I’m one happy hacker. The only caution is that they tend to run a bit small and narrow, so if you’re ordering online, get a half-size larger than you think you need.
STRUTZ Arch Support
If you REALLY want to pamper your favorite golfer’s dogs, stuff their stocking with a pair of STRUTZ PRO cushioned arch supports ($28). They slide on your foot and fit unobtrusively inside your shoes to provide extra arch support while playing golf or just walking around. If you’ve ever suffered from plantar fasciitis, you know how debilitatingly painful it can be. STRUTZ can alleviate that pain and even keep it from occurring.
Sun Mountain Mid-Stripe Dual Strap Stand Bag
Let’s see…Your favorite golfer now has comfy shoes and arch support. Let’s add a lightweight stand bag to encourage more walking. Perfect for either walking rounds or riding rounds, the Sun Mountain Mid-Stripe Dual Strap Stand Bag ($370) is a retro-cool beauty. Weighing in at just 5.6 lbs., the Mid-Stripe features loads of spiffy detailing (like leather external tee holders), a 9” top with 4 dividers, and 7 functional, spacious pockets. I just love the way this bag looks and feels on my shoulders. After I got mine, I even started leaving my Sun Mountain push cart (also a great gift idea!) in the trunk and carrying more often—something I hadn’t done for years.
Pulling Each Other Along
When the winds whip and the snow blows, the golfer on your list could use a good book. Here’s a shameless plug for one I contributed to. Pulling Each Other Along ($25) is a compendium of inspirational stories of human kindness and perseverance, with forwards by NFL greats Terry Bradshaw and Rocky Bleier. I co-wrote the chapter by Dave Stevens, an old buddy of mine (pictured below) who is the only legless athlete to play NCAA football and professional minor league baseball. He’s also a 7-time Emmy Award Winner for his role as producer of NFL Sunday Countdown on ESPN. The chapter relates the time he pinch-hit for Darryl Strawberry in a St. Paul Saints game. And there are 30 more amazing stories like that in this award-winning volume!
Club fitting used to be reserved for single-digit handicappers and private club members. Now with fitting center chains like Club Champion and mobile fitting carts in pro shops across the country, getting fit for clubs is within reach for golfers of any handicap and nearly any budget. Equipment companies send fitters to courses, too. I recently went through a fitting with Titleist for the new TSR driver and fairway woods, and I learned a lot about my swing in the process – mainly that it’s super inconsistent. The fitter certainly earned his $100 that day. Anyway, the point is, a gift card to a clubfitter is something many golfers won’t buy for themselves, but something nearly every golfer can use, whether it be a fitting for woods, irons, wedges, putter, ball, or the entire bag.
Golf Trip for Summer 2023
Although the pandemic isn’t over, travel has begun to resume. And I had the great good fortune to visit some amazing Midwestern golf destinations in 2022. When people think about taking a golf vacation, they often neglect the Midwest. This is a shame for them because some of the best golf trips in the nation are practically in Midwesterners’ backyard. Here are some of my favorites:
In northern Illinois, two golf destinations really stand out: Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa in Galena, with its three excellent courses, and The Quad Cities of Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. In the “QC” as it’s called, you’ll find a collection of outstanding daily fee courses on both sides of the state line, including TPC Deere Run in Silvis, venue of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic, and Fyre Lake, one of the state’s sparkiest hidden gems.
In Indiana, you can play not only two of the best public courses in state, but two of the best in the entire country (according to recent rankings). Combine a trip to Bloomington, where you’ll find Indiana University’s new Pfau Course with a jaunt down to French Lick to play the Dye and Ross Courses at French Lick Resort and Casino. If you’re feeling really spunky, finish off (or start off) with a swing up to Indianapolis to play one or two of the many excellent courses there.
In Wisconsin, there is of course the aforementioned SentryWorld, where $275 green fees allow you to put your wallet away for the rest of the day – all amenities, food, and drink are included in that fee before and during your round. You don’t even have to tip. Just north of Chicago in Lake Geneva, you’ll find Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, which used to be the Playboy Resort back in the day. Now it’s family-friendly, with two outstanding golf courses which, thanks to some redesign, are more player-friendly, too.
In Michigan, perhaps the most golf-rich state in the nation, you can stay in the southern part of “The Mitten” and play all six courses at the family-owned Gull Lake View Resort in Augusta. Or you can venture a bit farther north to the middle-Mitten for the golf paradise that is Boyne Highlands Resort in Boyne or the golf oasis of Forest Dunes Resort in Roscommon. If you REALLY want to explore, head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where you can stay at the Island Resort and Casino and play courses on-site and nearby that will rock your world. (Literally – some of the land up there is very rocky!)
Even some stand-alone courses are getting into the stay-and-play business by building or renovating houses on adjacent property for foursomes or eightsomes to rent for extended visits. Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion, Illinois (far southern tip of the state) is not only in the process of upgrading every aspect of the course, but also every single amenity, including some on-site lodging.
Fuzzy’s Vodka, Cleveland HB Soft Milled Putters, and a putting drill for free!
In 1979 Fuzzy Zoeller, one of golf’s biggest personalities, burst onto the scene with his surprise win at the Masters. Today, his eponymous Fuzzy’s Vodka is made from 100% American corn, five times distilled and ten times filtered, and a portion of each batch is rested in new American oak barrels. The result is crisp, smooth, and incredibly clean. In response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, Fuzzy’s is promoting the American Stallion – same ingredients as a Moscow Mule, but different name and only all-American Fuzzy’s Vodka.
Cleveland Golf’s new HB Soft Milled line of putters provides a premium combination of features and technologies at a reasonable price ($199). HB SOFT Milled starts with each putter shape being cast in molten steel before the face and back are precision milled for performance purposes. Depending on stroke type and alignment preference, there is a new model to fit every stroke. For Slight Arc stroke types, the Golf Pride PRO ONLY Red Star is a tour-preferred pistol shape grip that is designed to help turn the putter over through the putting stroke. For Straight stroke types, the Golf Pride PRO ONLY Green Star has a rounded, oval-back shape for comfortable hand positioning and to help keep the hands quiet through the stroke.
A few strokes in my living room with the HB 11 (a dual-prong, “sabretooth” style) convinced me to put it directly into my bag. How can I be sure? Well, here’s my homemade snow-daze putting drill to work on alignment, speed, and putter path: Place a bottle of Fuzzy’s four feet away, and putt at it. The goal is to hit the round bottle squarely so that the ball bounces straight back. Push or pull even a hair, and it bounces off at an angle. And work on getting the bounce to come back about six inches – that’s ideal holing speed. After you’re done working, have a drink!
So that’s how we end this year’s Holiday Gift Guide – with a toast to you and yours! May you all be gifted health, love, and peace for the coming year…and may every golfer out there get a hole-in-one!