I've always been a collector.
I blame my dad. When my sisters and I were young, he got us into collecting old stamps and pennies. I moved on to baseball and football cards. At one point, I spent several hundred dollars buying more than 300 cards of Dan Marino, my childhood hero. They're now gathering dust somewhere in my mom's basement.
Golf feeds my neurosis -- that insatiable desire to hunt and gather. There are so many different types of trinkets golfers covet. When I first started playing top courses, it was logo shirts. Thankfully, that phase died quickly due to cost.
Logo balls were the next logical step. I have more than 800, most of them from courses I've played around the world. I save my scorecards, too. It's getting challenging figuring out what to do when I bring all of it home. That's the problem every collector faces: How do I enjoy what I've got without it becoming clutter?
There are pros and cons to everything golfers collect. Believe me, I've tried them all. Here's a handy guide to 10 of the most popular items:
Comment: In my opinion, logo balls are the best collectible. They're affordable (roughly $3-$5) and easy to display. I use two custom-made displays -- a 500-ball wall rack made by a friend and another in the shape of the state of Michigan's mitten. Extra golf balls that aren't that important get tossed elsewhere.
Pros: They're decorative with the different color schemes and symbols from each course.
Cons: Once the collection gets above 25 to 50, it gets harder to display them properly.
Comment: Ball markers are essentially a flat version of a logo ball. They can be more or less expensive than a golf ball depending upon how elaborate they are. The new ones are getting heavier and more ornate.
Pros: They're mostly affordable (between $3-$15) and easy to store.
Cons: They're hard to display. If anybody has any ideas, I'd love to hear it.
Comment: I've kept all my scorecards and yardage guides mainly because they're loaded with notes I use for my course reviews. I've met other collectors who throw away the card with their scores on them, but grab a second one they keep blank as a memento.
Pros: The scorecards - and golf pencils, if you're into those - are free and easy to store.
Cons: They're all hard to display. My collection of 700-plus scorecards is buried in six different shoe boxes. With the advent of GPS and laser finders, free yardage guides at high-end courses are becoming less and less common. They cost $5-$15 now.
Comment: I once was overwhelmed with hundreds of golf books until a move across country forced a much needed cleanse. I kept my favorites and donated/sold the rest. I pared my collection from 400 to 150 or so.
Pros: Golf books and magazines come in all shapes and sizes and cover a wide range of topics in the game. A rare or old one can be a great conversation piece.
Cons: Most of them don't have much value, and they're hard to display unless you've got an office or library. I had a golf writer friend who amassed a massive collection. When he moved and downsized, he couldn't give them away. Even the local library turned them down. That's sad.
Comment: This category ranges from pin flags to hats and towels with a club logo on them. I actually like the idea of collecting flags and hanging them from the ceiling in my garage. I've got two so far -- the PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass and a 2015 U.S. Open flag from Chambers Bay. I'm not into hats or towels, but I know golfers who are.
Pros: All three are great reminders of the course you likely just played.
Cons: Any of these items can be expensive (costing $15 or more) and hard to showcase unless the wife/girlfriend allows you a wall somewhere to hang your hats or towels or you own a bar/restaurant to showcase the flags.
Vintage golf equipment
Comment: My dad -- the aforementioned collect-a-holic -- loves visiting garage sales and antique shops searching for old golf balls or vintage clubs with hickory shafts. I think it's the thrill of the chase that keeps him motivated more than the actual find. Most of what he comes across is overpriced or in below-average condition.
Pros: Old equipment in good condition is in high demand from collectors and golfers who still use them to play.
Cons: Buying anything "vintage" can be expensive, from $20 and up to hundreds and thousands of dollars. The market has become very competitive due to the on-line price guides and more awareness. Finding bargains is nearly impossible.
Comment: Bag tags became a hot amenity when high-end daily-fee courses were built in the 1990s. They were given to golfers to commemorate their day at such prestigious nationally ranked courses.
Pros: Some of the more high-end metal ones I've gotten over the years are quite cool and interesting, especially if they're out of circulation.
Cons: They're hard to display. Also, a number of courses quit giving out free bag tags after the recession. If you want one, you have to buy it.
Comment: The majors might draw the best players in the world, but they're not the places to get autographs. They're too focused on making history. Many pros won't sign anything from adults, either, fearing it will end up on eBay. It's best to go to a PGA Tour tournament with a relaxed vibe, such as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am or the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Maui, or a charity event. I have gotten golf balls autographed by famous people such as Billy Casper, Dan Marino, Ric Flair and Paul Casey.
Pros: Getting one personally signed means you've been face to face with a golf hero. Buying one is cheating, in my book.
Cons: Getting autographs takes lots of time and energy fighting off crowds.
Comment: My dad sends me odd tournament trinkets from his garage-sales adventures -- old trophies, programs and promotional posters. We considered buying a unique decanter from the early days of the Bing Crosby pro-am, but couldn't get the seller at the Cannery Row Antique Mall on the Monterey Peninsula to drop the price much.
Pros: The stuff from high-profile tournaments might have some value to the right buyer.
Cons: It's hard to find any really good stuff somebody's willing to sell at a decent price.
Random golf-themed items
Comment: This category includes just about anything from golf-themed clocks to paintings, smoking pipes, pins and more. My dad has sent me dozens of golf-themed items I consider generic household junk: golf bobble heads, picture frames, bookends, business card holders, signs, postcards, etc.
Pros: If you want a golf-themed office or home, this is the way to go.
Cons: There's too much stuff out there. You probably need to pick one genre -- a golf friend told me bobble heads are hot -- and stick to collecting that odd item.