With most of us reducing or eliminating travel in 2020, it's left more discretionary cash on hand for stuff. And with no commuting to the office, more time to browse the infinitely expanding universe of golf e-commerce.
It's been a remarkable year for golf retail. Who knew that in January at a fairly lackluster PGA Merchandise Show that the industry was about to have a banner year in both rounds played and goods purchased?
I've sampled my fair share of new golf stuff in 2020 and have rounded up a collection of items of all prices that might make a great present for yourself or for a golfer in your life. I'm not here to talk about golf clubs. That stuff's all too personal to leave in the hands of a gift-giver. Accessories, apparel, books and tech are the way to go.
That said, I certainly came nowhere close to experiencing all the new golf products out there. Drop me your favorite additions in the comments below to help your fellow golfers and their gift-buyers!
Coffee with a golf kick
The only person easier to shop for than a golfer is a golfer who loves coffee. So the folks at Good Walk Coffee Company may be on to something. They're a small roasting shop out in the Pacific Northwest that make a small collection of roasts plus some accessories like insulated tumblers. I was shipped a bag of the Breakfast Ball this fall ($14.99) and I plowed through it. Very delicious. Orders over $60 get you free shipping so you can get a bag for everyone in your dew-sweeping foursome.
Something for the clean freaksProduct spotlight: GolfErasers
To the neat freaks out there in need of a stocking stuffer, I was sent a clever product earlier this year, GolfErasers, that aspires to keep your golf equipment shiny. Start by using the scratchy green side, and then flip it over to the smooth, wet white side to wipe away dirt. While it attaches to your bag and can clean your clubs easily, I found that it works particularly well spiffing up dirty shoes. They will wear out quickly when you're scrubbing aggressively. A six pack is $14.99 on Amazon.
I've used the typical golf glove brands that have been in pro shops for most of my 30 years or so in the game. But over a year ago I gave Asher gloves a shot and was blown away at the durability. My first glove lasted well over a year of heavy use (I'd been using Foot-Joy almost my entire golf life and they were starting to rip after a couple rounds). I think I'm a convert for life. I re-upped with their Tonal Three-pack, which comes with three neutral shades. I'm a fairly boring guy and these gloves are about as nontraditional as Asher gets. You can, of course, get some wild patterns, if that's your thing. They also have women's sizes and colors. (Tonal 3-pack $65)
Travel to play links golf in Scotland was put on hiatus in 2020 and it appears for at least the early part of 2021. But dreaming and reading about golf in Scotland never gets old and there is another coffee table book out there to consider. Scotland, Home of Golf is a new book with a combination of photography, illustrations and some breezy, historical and anecdotal text with some good history about 14 Scotland links, ranging from Open Championship venues like the Old Course in St. Andrews and Prestwick to quirky favorites like Cruden Bay and North Berwick. Curiously they've chosen some new courses as well, like Kingsbarns, Trump International and the latest links in Scotland, Dumbarnie. ($45 at the Scottish Golf Library)
Clothing head to toe
I love golf apparel you can wear everywhere. Fortunately there's been a lot of that style proliferating in the marketplace in recent years (just don't talk to me about hoodies).
Linksoul's bamboo 5-pocket stretch pants ($130) have effectively destroyed my desire to ever wear jeans or chinos again. They're soft, stretchy and lightweight. (A word on golf pants: most don't have as many custom length-waist fits as general apparel retailers. I have to get mine tailored). Uppers might be a better gift with more standard sizing and they have a nice mix of cashmere-cotton sweater and pullover styles that have classic colors and are highly comfortable.
If you've been a good boy in 2020 and think you can ask for something from the top shelf, ask for a Peter Millar cashmere crown sweater. They're not cheap, but as a bonafide "sweater guy" these are the best I've worn.
And for stocking stuffers, don't forget about socks. I adore Kentwool's wool socks for the cooler months and Swiftwick's golf line for the summer.
Smarter, analytical golf
Adding auto-shot tracking to my golf game in 2020 has made me want to play more golf. Arccos and Shot Scope are the two clear leaders when it comes to amateur shot tracking apps and devices. Here's why Shot Scope's V3 might be a better gift: no subscription. With Arccos, after the first year, the dashboard is $99 per year to keep going. Unless you're blood, you don't want to gift something that requires the receiver to have to re-up every year. At least I don't. If the recipient already has Arccos get them the Caddie Link upgrade for easier pin location and phone-free play. | Arccos Review
Shot Scope, meanwhile, has a phone-free shot tracking experience and comes with club tags and a watch. The App and dashboard provides great insights for amateur golfers. ($229) Full Review
Year of the push cartProduct demo: Bay Boy Nitron
2020 was the Year of the Push Cart. For the first quarter of the pandemic, you couldn't find one in a golf shop anywhere and second-hand markets were pricing them like Renaissance art. But they've been replenished and are ready for your commitment to the push cart army. Bag Boy's Nitron isn't a new product - I've had this a couple years now. But I'm pleased to report it has held up well after a ton of use. The opening mechanism works as well as it does the day it came out of the box. I can't believe I was a hoofer for all those years. ($259) | Full Bag Boy Nitron Review
An actually smart watch
Garmin's new Approach s62 ($499) restored my faith in smart watches that are good for golfers. It gives me everything I need for both scoring, GPS and shot tracking, not to mention heart rate and all the fitness widgets. The only things I miss compared to Apple Watch aren't golf-related; it's the turn-by-turn directions and Siri capability. Everything else Garmin does more intuitively, from the alarm clock to battery life. This watch even has auto-shot tracking and shot measuring, two essential features for a truly smart golf watch. | Full Garmin Approach s62 review
Hometown golf hat
Sure, you could get someone a hat from Pebble Beach or St. Andrews or some Top 100 private course you played recently.
Know what might be more meaningful? A nostalgic hat from their hometown course. After a long-overdue visit in August, I now wear my Huron Hills hat with more pride than just about any golf logo I own.
Hey, speaking of munis, I'd be re missed if I didn't mention that $100+ donations to Save Muny Conservancy, my current town municipal course, will get you a classic lid made by Ouray Sports as well.
Plan ahead for your next golf trip
If experiences is more your thing over stuff, I'm with you. It's been tough to travel too far for most of 2020. Pent up demand for travel when the world returns to normal is going to be very high. You'd be wise to beat the rush and start booking your next golf trip for the second half of 2021.
With my home base catching its first real cold snap of the winter, I can't help but dream of Hawaii. The Hawaii Island Hopper package combines two of my favorite golf islands, Maui and Kauai, in one itinerary. Or, you can get a head start on your links golf trip planning. With most 2020 bookings postponing to 2021, inventory is going to be very low. Plan now.FROM $497 (USD)Enjoy 9 nights' accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton, Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas and 7 rounds of golf at Kapalua golf courses, Princeville Makai Golf Club and Mauna Lani golf courses.FROM $677 (USD)FIFE, SCOTLAND | Enjoy 5 nights' accommodations at Ardgowan Hotel at St. Andrews and Ducks Inn in Gullane and 5 rounds of golf at Dumbarnie Links, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, Kilspindie, and North Berwick.