“The Old Man and the Green” – Father’s Day Golf Gifts for Dad’s Eternal Pursuit of Perfection

When I was a boy, my dad was always busy working. So busy that he didn’t have time for golf – had never even set foot on a course until he was well into his 70s, when he rode along in the cart with my daughter and me once. He said he really enjoyed that, and it was one of my best later memories of him.

When I was a teenager, one of my strongest memories of Dad was of him growing uncharacteristically sad once and saying how much he envied me for having so much of my life yet in front of me. “There’s so much I still want to do,” he said softly, looking out the car window, “and so little time left.”

Point is, us guys are always chasing something, be it an allegorical giant fish or a literal hole-in-one. We golfers catch our bliss, if perhaps only fleetingly, chasing a little white ball around a verdant pasture for a few hours, spending time with friends or family, pursuing fictional perfection. Really, we’d do about anything just to get back to “even.”

Here are a few gift ideas for the Old Man in your life as he heads out onto the roiling greens and casts his eyes down the fairway in eternal hope.

Good Walk Coffee

Good Walk Coffee is a new coffee company that is specially blended and named for golfers. Does Dad need a tasty, rich pick-me-up to get him out for that first tee time? Try Good Walk’s Dew Sweeper French Roast ($18). If you’re like me, and happy to take a tee time slightly later in the morning, Breakfast Ball Columbia Medium Roast ($15) is ideal. Good walk has other blends, as well as 3-month subscriptions and a nice little shop of swag (hats, tees, ball markers, clubhead covers), all of which is great for decking Dad out in style and taste.

Volvik Marvel and Bridgestone Tour B Golf Balls

One of my favorite activities with my son, besides golf, is seeing superhero movies together. For dads who are fans of the Marvel Universe, Volvik has followed up last year’s wildly popular offering of Marvel Avengers balls with a 5-hero pack, featuring Thor, Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk ($22/set). These matte-finish balls are engineered with Volvik’s new oversized high-energy core and are incredibly soft around the green. The colors also really pop against the sky and turf. And he’ll never get confused about which ball is his.

For more traditional dads, Bridgestone’s Tour B line for 2020 ($45/doz.) has been redesigned with the company’s proprietary REACTIV cover to maximize both feel and distance. The Tour B X is played by the likes of Matt Kuchar and Lexi Thompson. The Tour B RX and Tour B RXS are designed for players with swing speeds under 105 mph, which tends to be most amateur dads. You simply won’t find better all-around performance in a golf ball.

Tattoo Golf

Now that Dad is awake and has new golf balls, let’s get him dressed. It’s still chilly in some places, and the absolute best full-zip golf jacket I have ever worn is the new Tattoo Golf Men’s Clubhouse Full-Zip Jacket in black and gray ($70), complete with Tattoo’s distinctive dimpled golf-ball-skull and cross-irons logo. I’ve worn mine for several rounds now, and I have never had a golf jacket that maintained the exact level of comfortable warmth and breathed so well. The price is right, too! Seriously, I cannot overstate how good this jacket is. If Dad would rather have a new pair of shorts, Tattoo has a new line out for 2020 that will ensure Dad looks good no matter how his game is.

Royal Albartross, ASICS, and ECCO Golf Shoes

Next, shoes – because shoes make the man!

ASICS DUAL-COURSE Duo BOA

The growing juggernaut Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO has recently announced a partnership with athletic shoe manufacturer ASICS and the joint development of their flagship golf shoes, the GEL-COURSE Duo BOA ($180) and GEL-COURSE Glide ($130). Both models look and feel like ASICS gym shoes. The BOA features its namesake lacing system, which consists of wire laces that tighten and loosen with a dial on the side of the shoe, and also have softspikes. The Glides are spikeless with traditional laces. Both models are also waterproof. I took my pair of Duos out of the box to walk 18 holes with my son. Conditions were extremely soggy, but my feet stayed dry. Equally impressive, my feet experienced no fatigue or hotspots despite it being only my second round walking of the season. The arch support and padding are what you’d expect from the best athletic shoes. The BOA lacing system seemed to work a little loose during the first 4 holes, but a quick turn of the dial re-tightened them. And after those first holes, they stayed snug throughout the remainder of the round.

ECCO BIOM COOL PRO

Although all golf shoes are becoming more comfortable, ECCO still holds the Number One spot in “Most Comfortable Right Out of the Box.” ECCO doesn’t make the lightest golf shoes, nor the cheapest, but sliding on a pair of ECCOs is one of the great pleasures of the game. The new BIOM COOL PRO shoe ($230) is no exception: it has a wrap-around Gore-Tex design that actively ventilates your feet as you walk. The yak-leather outer is amazingly soft, and the sole features little tunnels running all the way through which make them lighter and “springier” than any previous ECCO model I’ve ever tried (and that’s a lot of them). I wore my BIOM COOL PROS during a hot but beautiful round in the Bahamas in January (before the world shut down) and several times since (walking all the way), and I cannot believe how cool and dry my feet stayed.

Royal Albartross

When the name Royal Albartross appeared in my inbox, I had to admit that I’d never heard of it before. Wow, was I missing out! Royal Albartross is a premium golf and lifestyle brand from London that offers handmade golf shoes, belts, and bags. And when they say “handmade,” they mean it. Their products are constructed of the finest Italian leathers and stitched together by craftsmen in Italy and Portugal. The results are exquisite. When I got my peasant paws on a pair of Cutler Greys ($230), I literally ran around my house and showed my wife and two kids how gorgeous they are—they even came with their own cloth shoe bag! With leather outsole, insole, and trim, The Cutler represents a brilliant blend of fashion sneaker and spikeless golf shoe fit for the fairways and grill rooms of even the poshest private club. I have taken to wearing them on walks around my neighborhood during this time of social distancing, because they honestly make me feel better about myself. I will wait to wear them on the course until the vernal pools dry up and, I hope, fellow golfers can get close enough to admire the workmanship. In the meantime, I’ve got my eyes on the Saxon Claret model ($259), new for 2020—absolutely beautiful. I guess I’m a shoe person now.

Dune Jewelry Divot Repair Tool

Time to get a little sentimental. Do you and Dad have a favorite course? Or maybe a special beach? Dune Jewelry has an ever-expanding “bank”of sands from around the world, including golf course bunker sand, that they use to fill all manner of gorgeous women’s jewelry. The Hamptons Rope collection, a co-collaboration between Ann Liguori and Dune’s founder Holly Daniels Christensen, make great Father’s Day gifts. Dune even has some treasures just for golfers. The new Divot Repair Tool ($30) is both sleek and functional. Fill it with sand from St. Andrews Beach to commemorate a trip to The Birthplace of Golf. Or with sand from Hawai’i to remember a wedding or honeymoon. Or even send in your own from the beach at a family cabin. There are ball markers ($30) and wine stoppers ($40) too, which are all also very cool. Speaking of weddings in Hawai’i, I have a ball marker with sand from the beach where I got married over 25 years ago. Reminds me to keep things in perspective on both good and bad days.

Sun Mountain 4.5 LS 14-Way Stand Bag

Lots of states are limiting playing groups to twosomes. And some are not allowing carts. What better time for Dad to start getting more exercise and walking 9 or 18 holes? The Sun Mountain line-up of golf bags is tough to beat. You can find something for pretty much any golfer’s needs. My new 4.5 LS 14-Way Stand Bag ($230) weights just 4.5 lbs. and has 14 full-length club silos, as the name implies. There are 9 spacious pockets and, best of all, the fiberglass legs are amazingly sturdy. The bottom is cart-friendly as well, including pushcart-friendly. There are elastic cords to keep the legs in place when not using them. I love carrying 9 for exercise and walking 18 with a pushcart. This bag allows me to do both without undue burden on my back or shoulders.

Arnold Palmer Framed USPS Stamp

What better way to tell day that he’s “The King” in your eyes than with the Arnold Palmer Framed Stamp ($40)? The USPS introduced Arnold Palmer stamps this year, and this framed artwork features an enlarged version of the stamp along with an insert of one of the actual stamps. It also includes day-of-issue information. I’ve got mine hanging in my office to remind me to “Swing my swing.”

Flying Dog Night Putting Pale Ale

This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of “Caddyshack,” a movie that taught us how integral wise cracks, obscene amounts of cash, and a cart full of C4 are to golf. Also integral to the game is a nice, cold adult beverage. Flying Dog, America’s most disobedient brewery, has introduced Night Putting Pale Ale in honor of this monumental anniversary. Night Putting is a medium-hopped ale with a 5.5% alcohol content. It’s crisp and light and easy to drink by itself or with a hot dog at the turn. Dad will thank you after every delicious sip.

Mr. Wizard by Jeff Wallach

For rainy days—or as a companion to Night Putting Pale Ale on a quite evening at home—how about a great golf read for Dad? Golf fiction can be hit or miss, but the debut novel by veteran golf and travel writer Jeff Wallach is a definite hit. It interweaves a story of two brothers trying to unravel their genetic history, deal with their wild mother, and figure out who they are along the way. Lots of twists and turns along a rich golf backdrop (Open Books, $18, paperback).

I hope by the time it’s Father’s Day, we’re finding ourselves and our nation to be safer and progressively more widely opened. After all, there’s a lot of golf to play in this world, and precious little time. My golf rounds with my own kids are one of the few things keeping me sane over the past months. I wish nothing less than that sort of joy for every one of my fellow fathers out there as we chase the sun, trying to stay as close to even as we can.

Be well, play good golf, and keep in touch.

Mother’s Day golf gifts fit for the Queen of the Pandemic

We’ve been stuck inside for a while. And for the good of everyone, we should largely remain inside for some time to come. But golf is one of the few social activities that lends itself to social distancing. Stand apart at the tees, hit your tee shots, walk after them, see you at the green. Maintain distance putting. Simple.

Now that courses are opening up in a majority of states, Mom deserves some time away from you—some time with her friends on a nice walk under the late-spring sunshine. And she deserves a little thank you from you for holding the realm together during this pandemic.

Here’s a list of our favorite golf gifts for Mom this Mother’s Day.

Good Walk Coffee

There’s a foursome of ladies at my home course that usually get the first tee time of the day on weekends. They always walk. We call them The Borg, after the inexorable, unstoppable alien foe on “Star Trek: Next Generation.” Heaven help you if you’re in front of them, because if you dawdle to look for a lost ball, they will catch you, and you will be assimilated.

These fast-walking, straight-hitting, never-stopping women always have their coffee travel mugs with them. Good Walk Coffee is a new coffee company that seems to be specially made for golfers like The Borg. You want that tasty, rich pick-me-up to get you out for that first tee time? Try Good Walk’s Dew Sweeper French Roast ($18). If you’re like me, and happy to take a tee time safely behind The Borg, Breakfast Ball Columbia Medium Roast ($15) is ideal. Good walk has other blends, as well as 3-month subscriptions and a nice little shop of swag (hats, tees, ball markers, clubhead covers), all of which is great for decking mom out in style and taste.

Volvik and Bridgestone Golf Balls

Is Mom a fan of the Marvel Universe? Maybe she just likes seeing some of the actors all heated up? In any case, Volvik has followed up last year’s wildly popular offering of Marvel Avengers balls with a 5-hero pack, featuring Thor, Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk ($22/set). These matte-finish balls are engineered with Volvik’s new oversized high-energy core and are incredibly soft around the green. The colors also really pop against the sky and turf.

For more traditional Moms, Bridgestone’s Tour B line for 2020 ($45/doz.) has been redesigned with the company’s proprietary REACTIV cover to maximize both feel and distance. The Tour B X is played by the likes of Matt Kuchar and Lexi Thompson. The Tour B RX and Tour B RXS are designed for players with swing speeds under 105 mph, which tends to be most moms AND dads. You simply won’t find better all-around performance in a golf ball.

TecTecTec ULT-X Rangefinder

Rangefinders have really grown on me over the years. I used to love the thrill of the guess, but now I enjoy verifying the yardage with laser precision. One of the more advanced rangefinders on the market is the ULT-X by TecTecTec ($250). It’s lightweight, uber-precise, and has an elevation mode that is easy to turn on and off. Doing so is accomplished by pulling the lens housing out or pushing it in. When the elevation mode is engaged, a bright yellow band is revealed, so players like my son, who play in tournaments in which measuring elevation is not allowed, will be less likely to forget to turn it off. I’ve also recently found that another handy use of the ULT-X is keeping an eye on other golfers around the course to maintain social distancing. You can ID friends from 100+ yards away and wave – that’ll have to do for now.

Royal Albartross Golf Shoes

So I received a pair of Royal Albartross golf shoes earlier this year, and I literally ran around the house showing everyone. I mean, they are hand-made in Italy of the finest leather – seriously the nicest shoes I own of any kind. Now, I don’t want to play into stereotypes, but if I get this excited about Royal Albartross golf shoes, Mom is going to go crazy.

Royal Albartross of London has three new styles for this Mother’s Day. The Amalfi ($299) is a laced sneaker with perforated upper leather.  The soft, breathable leather lining and the lightweight Apex sole is designed for multi-directional traction. Available in white, black and navy, the Amalfi is handmade in Portugal.

The Chelsea ($199) is a slip-on loafer with tassel fringe available in tri-color patterns with white and black base colors. The ergonomic insole is designed to provide support and breathability, and is extremely resistant to lateral slipping. 

The Sahara ($299) features a snake print, leather upper with gold/rose eyelets.  Its ultra-cushioned insole unit and lightweight VIBRAM® Pro Golf out-sole provide excellent stability.

Swiftwick Golf Socks

Mom’s going to need some socks under those posh shoes. The best golf socks on the market are by Swiftwick, and my favorites (which also come in women’s sizes) are the new Maxus Zero-Tab golf socks ($12), but the ASPIRE and FLITE XT (pictured) are pretty sweet, too. Swiftwick’s offerings are all compression socks that wick moisture, improve circulation, and promise no blisters.

AHEAD’s Kate Lord Line for 2020

Well, shoot. Now that Mom’s going to need a couple of new golf outfits to wear with her posh kicks and comfy socks. AHEAD’s Kate Lord Line introduced a number of new styles for 2020 at the PGA Show in Orlando. “Our Kate Lord styling is perfect for the customer who wants great, easy-to-wear pieces for both on and off the course,” said Scott Stone, National Sales Manager, Golf. Colors include Iris, Limelight, and Poppy, and styles include sleeveless and sleeved polos, skorts, quarter-zips, and shorts. It’s pretty easy to mix-n-match an entire month’s worth of outfits on their website.

Dune Jewelry by Ann Liguori

I’ve written about Dune Jewelry before, and it’s still the most innovative line of keepsake jewelry I know of. Dune has a massive and ever-increasing Sandbank from which they draw sand and stone and crushed shell from beaches, lakes, and other landforms all over the world and incorporate into their fine jewelry. This year, there’s also a Dune Golf Collection, which includes ball markers and divot repair tools also filled with sand. You can search their giant repository for locations or send in your own sample (you know, that little vile you snuck out of Augusta National that one year?) and have it used in Dune’s stunning creations. In the past, I’ve gotten a ball marker for me and a necklace for my wife (The Hamptons Rope Collection) with sand from the beach where we were married. This year, I’m getting her the new Luxe Marquis earrings ($180) filled with sand from Japan, where we used to live. Seriously, there is nothing more meaningful than giving her not only beautiful jewelry, but jewelry filled with a little piece of a place that the two of you have shared.

Mr. Wizard by Jeff Wallach

Golf fiction can be hit or miss, but the debut novel by veteran golf and travel writer looks intriguing. It interweaves a story of two brothers trying to unravel their genetic history, deal with their wild mother, and figure out who they are along the way. Lots of twists and turns along a rich golf backdrop (Open Books, $18, paperback).

They you have it. Gifts to pamper the Queen of the Pandemic from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to sleep. This is the least you can do for her.

Lynx Golf for links golf – a purr-r-r-fect pairing

Fred Couples won his only major, the 1992 Masters, playing Lynx Golf clubs. Ernie Els won the 1994 U.S. Open playing Lynx. Short story: Lynx Golf has an impressive pedigree.

Longer story: Lynx Golf was bought out by Golfsmith, which turned it into an in-house component parts company. The Golfsmith went under and Lynx became a “house brand” for Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Even longer story: In 2013, the Lynx Golf brand was purchased by Stephanie Zinser and her husband, Steve Elford. They’re based in the U.K., where Lynx has seen its sales grow by 130% or more for a couple years. Next up: Regaining U.S. market-share.

Lynx has always been an innovator. Look up commercials for the Lynx Boom Boom Driver, one of the early metal drivers—you almost still want to buy one! Their big new driver last year – the VT Prowler SwitchFace – allowed players to actually swap out the face of the driver to achieve desired loft and ball flight, rather than adjusting the hosel (as in all the other adjustable drivers on the market).

Now Lynx is taking some of the treasures of its “glory days” and re-engineering them for the modern game and today’s player preferences.

For example, take a closer look at the Lynx Prowler VT Stinger Driving Iron. Through the decades until the mid-1990s, almost every Tour pro’s bag contained a driving iron, especially when conditions got firm and fast, as they did on the baked-out fairways of Open (aka British Open) venues. Hit a low-flying, low-spinning bullet with a 12- or 16-degree driving iron and not even a Scottish gale-force headwind could keep it from running out over 250 yards.

But times have changed and major equipment companies have convinced today’s players that they need to pull out a toaster-headed driver on every hole, damn the torpedoes (and hazards).

Enter Lynx Golf, whose Prowler VT Stinger combines a muscle-back profile with a hollow, variable-thickness clubhead. The VT Stinger comes in 12.5 and 16 degrees, with steel ($129) or graphite ($149) shaft and two finish options, chrome or “fossil.”

When I opened my 16-degree Prowler VT Stinger, I recalled back a couple years ago, when my driver was behaving quite badly, and I played a half-dozen rounds with an 18-degree driving iron instead. I loved the control, but the feel was harsh, and the distance I got from it varied wildly, depending on minute differences in contact.

Long story: The Prowler VT Stinger looked like an improvement: lower loft, a profile that is clean yet appeared forgiving, exquisite balance and weighting.

Longer story: So I gave it a try on my course indoor simulator first, where swing after swing produced low shots that carried about 170 yards but then ran another 30-60 yards (depending on simulator settings). Then, after 3 days of rain and before my local course closed for the current pandemic, I snuck onto the 17th hole, a par 3 that stretches to 230 yards from the tips. I took 3 old range balls and a broken tee for the best “test” I could give it under the conditions. The first shot I teed a bit high (I thought), and pulled just left of the green, but with beautiful medium-high trajectory. The second shot was teed lower – classic low bullet, no higher than 8 feet off the ground, directly at the flag. The hole runs a little downhill, though, and then back up slightly to the green, and I didn’t see the ball roll onto the putting surface from the sloppy turf in front. The third shot was nearly identical to the third, with a tiny fade. A group was coming to the tee – a group composed of my son and his friends. I asked my son to tell me later where he found those three balls, and then I went back to my car.

Later on, he told me two of them were within inches of one another, a foot off the front of the green. The third was just short of pin-high, 3 yards left of the green, plugged in the mud. In better conditions, those second two might have been over the green…or absolutely purr-r-r-r-fect.

Short story: I dream of the end of COVID-19, and the re-opening of my home course. I dream of firm, fast summer fairways. I dream of getting back to Scotland and Ireland for proper links golf.

In all these dreams, the Lynx Prowler VT Stinger is in my bag. Soaring shots can be hit with it, especially by natural high-ball hitters. But its true glory is the low bullet—the “stinger,” as its name implies—with a tracer-like ball flight and 100 yards of run.

I’ll never be as cool as Boom Boom Couples, but hitting shots like him is a nice consolation.

Tax refund + quarantine = online golf shopping

Hey, I bet you didn’t see this coming, huh?

I hope you and yours are staying healthy in these strange times. And I hope you’re all holding up emotionally.

The thing that’s keeping me going, along with my family, is my local golf course. As part of a county forest preserve, Lake of the Woods Golf Course (Mahomet, IL) is staying open as an essential service through all of this. And as a season pass-holder, I can call the pro shop to check in from the parking lot and roll my pushcart to the first tee. I can wave at other golfers from 20+ yards away and get some exercise. I can even call the pro shop form the course and ask them to put a couple beers outside the shop door for me at the turn. My son and I played 18 last week, and it was the only time that felt “normal” in three weeks.

But Illinois spring weather is finicky – rain and cold are keeping us inside most days. With no golf on TV, putting in the living room loses its luster pretty quickly.

If you’re in the same boat (and, really, we’re all in the same boat more than most of us ever truly appreciated), may I suggest some online retail therapy? Maybe your tax refund hit your bank account? And maybe it’s smaller than past years (I know mine’s been cut in half these past couple years), but you can still treat yourself, right? Trust me, some new golf gear will lift your spirits.

Bridgestone golf balls

Bridgestone tires grip the road, so you can trust Bridgestone golf balls to grip the green. The Tour B line for 2020 ($45/doz.) has been redesigned with the company’s proprietary REACTIV cover to maximize both feel and distance. The Tour B X is played by the likes of Matt Kuchar and Lexi Thompson. The Tour B XS is played by Tiger Woods (who helped design it, too). These two models are targeted at players with driver swing speeds over 105 mph. The Tour B RX and Tour B RXS are designed for players with swing speeds under 105 mph. I’m on the edge, so I’m going to go with the RX, as a nod to the heroes working in pharmacies and clinics these days.

TecTecTec ULT-X Rangefinder

Rangefinders have really grown on me over the years. I used to love the thrill of the guess, but now I enjoy verifying the yardage with laser precision. One of the more advanced rangefinders on the market is the ULT-X by TecTecTec ($250). It’s lightweight, uber-precise, and has an elevation mode that is easy to turn on and off. Doing so is accomplished by pulling the lens housing out or pushing it in. When the elevation mode is engaged, a bright yellow band is revealed, so players like my son, who play in tournaments in which measuring elevation is not allowed, will be less likely to forget to turn it off. I’ve also recently found that another handy use of the ULT-X is keeping an eye on other golfers around the course to maintain social distancing. You can ID friends from 100+ yards away and wave – that’ll have to do for now.

ASICS DUAL-COURSE Duo BOA golf shoes

The growing juggernaut Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO has recently announced a partnership with athletic shoe manufacturer ASICS and the joint development of their flagship golf shoes, the GEL-COURSE Duo BOA ($180) and GEL-COURSE Glide ($130). Both models look and feel like ASICS gym shoes. The BOA features its namesake lacing system, which consists of wire laces that tighten and loosen with a dial on the side of the shoe, and also have softspikes. The Glides are spikeless with traditional laces. Both models are also waterproof. I took my pair of Duos out of the box to walk those 18 holes with my son. Conditions were extremely soggy, but my feet stayed dry. Equally impressive, my feet experienced no fatigue or hotspots despite it being only my second round walking so far this season. The arch support and padding are what you’d expect from the best athletic shoes. The BOA lacing system seemed to work a little loose during the first 4 holes, but a quick turn of the dial re-tightened them. And after those first holes, they stayed snug throughout the remainder of the round.

ECCO BIOM COOL PRO golf shoes

Although all golf shoes are becoming more comfortable, ECCO still holds the Number One spot in “Most Comfortable Right Out of the Box.” ECCO doesn’t make the lightest golf shoes, nor the cheapest, but sliding on a pair of ECCOs is one of the great pleasures of the game. The new BIOM COOL PRO shoe ($230) is no exception: it has a wrap-around Gore-Tex design that actively ventilates your feet as you walk. The yak-leather outer is amazingly soft, and the sole features little tunnels running all the way through which make them lighter and “springier” than any previous ECCO model I’ve ever tried (and that’s a lot of them). I wore my BIOM COOL PROS during a hot but beautiful round in the Bahamas in January (before the world shut down), and I could not believe how cool and dry my feet stayed (despite the rest of me getting pretty over-heated). I’m also just going to say that the laces on these things are the most luxurious I have ever tied. (My wife laughed when I said this, but I’m serious.)

Royal Albartross golf shoes

When the name Royal Albartross appeared in my inbox, I had to admit that I’d never heard of it before. Wow, was I missing out! Royal Albartross is a premium golf and lifestyle brand from London that offers handmade golf shoes, belts, and bags. And when they say “handmade,” they mean it. Their products are constructed of the finest Italian leathers and stitched together by craftsmen in Italy and Portugal. The results are exquisite. When I got my peasant paws on a pair of Cutler Greys (199 British Pounds), I literally ran around my house and showed my wife and two kids how gorgeous they are—they even came with their own cloth shoe bag! With leather outsole, insole, and trim, The Cutler represents a brilliant blend of fashion sneaker and spikeless golf shoe fit for the fairways and grill rooms of even the poshest private club. I have taken to wearing them out on walks around my neighborhood during this time of social distancing, because they honestly make me feel better about myself. I will wait to wear them on the course until the vernal pools dry up and, I hope, fellow golfers can get close enough to admire the workmanship.

For now, I hope you can find a few hours of respite on your own home course and some small comfort in a new pair of golf shoes or a box of brilliant white, dimpled pearls. Most of all, I hope you and your loved ones remain healthy. The world and golf have weathered previous epidemics. We’ll find our way back. Be kind to yourselves and to others.

Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet

East central Illinois is flat. The best sledding hill in nearby Champaign is the speed-bump in the Wal-Mart parking lot. So you can imagine what the golf courses in the Champaign-Urbana area look like. One notable exception is Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill. This municipal layout is part of the Forest Preserve District of Champaign County, so it not only has trees and – gasp! – hills, but also boasts green fees around $30.

Mahomet lies just twelve minutes away from the University of Illinois campus, and it comes as a welcome surprise to discover that here in the Sangamon River basin, there are indeed some rolling hills, mature stands of hardwood, and natural water hazards. All of these unexpected topographical features converge at Lake of the Woods, where golfers find tee shots over water, elevated greens, and tree-lined fairways. In fact, aside from a renovation program in 1998, the essential character of the classic Robert Bruce Harris design has changed little since it opened in 1950.

Harris, whose course credits include The Playboy Club at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, designed numerous municipal courses in the 50s and 60s. One of the prerequisites for layouts at the time was ease of maintenance. As such, greenside bunkers at such courses – including Lake of the Woods – were set well back from the greens to allow regular mowers through.

From the tips, Lake of the Woods only measures 6,520 yards, with a rating of 70.6 and a slope of 120. According to Dave Huber, recently retired Head Pro, if you drive around the course and look at the scorecard, you would think that the course record would be in the low 60s. But the best tournament score is just 67. “For some reason,” he says and laughs, “no one can ever quite completely tame it. And the kids these days are all hitting the par-5s in two.”

There are a few keys to “The Lake’s” defenses. One is a number of misleading sight lines off the tee. For example, as you stand at the tee box on the 426-yard 11th, it looks for all the world like you should aim at the fairway bunkers to the left. But because the fairway turns right about 160 yards from the green, the real aiming point is the large sycamore straight out, or even right of it. Anything right – which looks like death from the tee – is golden.

The second key defense is the rather innocuous appearance of some of the holes. Take for example the 425-yard 1st. Easily half of the first-time players here will lose their tee ball to the right, where, unbeknownst to them, there lies a pond that juts further toward the fairway than appearances would suggest.

The third key is the green complexes, which, like some of the holes, appear tame at first. After you go over one or two of them, though, you realize that Robert Bruce Harris, true to early-twentieth century traditions, wanted to be sure that players who don’t stay below the hole are penalized. Case in point, the picturesque 175-yard 14th hole. Huber’s advice here is simply, “Take whatever club you know you cannot hit over and play to center of the green. If you go over, you’re looking at a hard bogey.”

There is also a fine collection of risk-reward short par 4s and 5s. The No. 1 handicap hole is the 528-yard 3rd, where two ponds choke the approach down to a tenuous ribbon of turf just in front of the green. The lay-up is awkward, the long shot is dangerous. I cannot count the number of times I’ve screwed up a simple lay-up on this hole, or, having navigated the lay-up, chucked or pulled my 3rd into one of the ponds.

In short, Lake of the Woods is dollar for dollar and shot for shot the best bargain in the Champaign-Urbana area, even if conditions can be rough at times. The bunkers are a constant source of vexation for regulars, who generally agree to rake themselves a decent lie in the sometimes-hardpan, sometimes-fluffy traps. Heck, sometimes we just drop out behind the traps and hit from there. The long-term plan is to redo them all, but so far, only a few do not draw side-eye from most players. Add to the 18-hole course the adjacent par-3 course ($9) – the only one in the area – and the fishing, camping, and hiking available in the park, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide family vacation spot. Also available are a recently improved driving range and  practice greens, a fully stocked pro shop, and a snack bar. The new pro (and State Champion High School Boys Golf Coach), David Sebestik and his staff provide lessons and club-fitting as well.