As a PGA Professional Instructor, I am asked by the friends and families of my students the same question when it comes to this time of year: What do I buy for the golfer on my list? This year, I am going to give you a complete list of gift ideas for golfers of every ability and price range.
1. Golf Range Finder - An essential piece of equipment every golfer of any ability should have in their bag at all times. I know all golfers will improve the quality of their practice and play, as well as the pace of their play. On the range, golfers can improve by charting their yardages with every club. On course, knowing the distances to targets is vital to playing well. Select between an ocular, GPS or laser range finder depending on price and features. Ocular is cheapest ($25), but toughest to keep steady. Go with a Laser (best if you play multiple courses $150-$400) in order to chart yardages to anything within 500 yards or a GPS range finder (great if you have trouble keeping a steady hand $250-$400) which is perfect for quick play and your golfer will thank you!
2. A New Driver - If your golfer's bag has a driver constructed of wood, a steel shaft or is covered with a tube sock, it's time for a new driver. The purpose of this great gift should result in longer drives, and to hit drives longer, golfers need more speed. The easiest way to increase speed is to make the club lighter. Callaway Golf has introduced the Diablo Octane Driver ($299), made with forged composite, a new product lighter than an all titanium head drivers. This lowers the weight of the club head and increases a player's swing speed, resulting in more distance.
3. Non-Conforming Wedges - This is your last chance to purchase whatever inventory is left of the non-conforming wedges from your local PGA shop. Manufacturers will have to stop producing these clubs December 31, 2010. Amateurs should have no worries about continuing to play them in their club events; the ban on these wedges doesn't take effect until 2014. The wedges are great for spinning the ball out of rough and holding slick greens, so grab them while you can.
4. Swing Trainer - I like the Orange Whip Trainer. It is perfect for rhythm and tempo, needs no batteries or detailed instructions plus it comes in different sizes customizable for all golfers. ($109)
5. FLIP Video Recorder - When I began teaching with video, cameras were bulky and frame rates for recording were low. Now, hand held devices are smaller, have better battery life, and more frames per second for less money than any camera back then! The FLIP video is a great tool to keep in your golf bag to record your practice, play back later and even record your next hole-in-one! Get the FLIP Ultra, it comes with 60 frames per second recording to give clear images of the swing and don't forget a stand/clip with it for use without assistance. ($149 camera, $29 stand).
6. Gore-Tex Rain Suit - A serious golf gift, essential for the well-traveled and complete player. Go for basic color schemes like solid, dark tones. Lined jackets and pants with full gore tex outer shell, elastic waist and removable sleeves are standard features. ($400)
7. Personalized Golf Balls - For every golfer, personalized golf balls are a great gift. Go with a player's initials only for a tour-like professional touch, "Happy Holidays from..." for a nice message, or go with a nickname to have fun with your golfer! No matter what you choose, never put the word "shank" on a golf ball. ($50)
8. Golf Lessons - I know this is a shameless plug coming from a PGA instructor, but it is a great gift! Golfers need instruction to improve and enjoy their games fully. Find the best PGA Professional teacher in your area who has a proven success record with his or her players and inquire what areas of instruction they are known for: full swing, short game, putting, juniors, ladies, playing lessons or all the above. Also, find out what technology is used for lessons and how it will help your golfer. During holiday times, many top teachers offer package rates and might even give you a few gift ideas not on this list.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!
Joe Plecker is the PGA Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club in Timonium, Md.