Gifts for golfers '09

Golfers routinely spend a few hundred dollars for a few extra yards from the tee. If they were smart, however, they might do the same to same strokes three or four feet.
December 21, 2009 11:12:14 AM PST
If you have ever uttered those words: "My husband loves golf and is having a birthday..."
"My wife is playing in a tournament..."
"I know nothing about golf.."
"I want to buy a present....."

Here is a gift guide of proven items, from clubs to training aids. I have tried or purchased every item in this section, and guarantee that they will please the picky golfer in your life.

EDEL PUTTERS:

  • http://edelgolf.com/
  • www.balbigolf.net/golf/proto/balbigolf

    This was the last thing on my mind, one day, when visiting David Balbi in San Carlos. He's a fine teacher and an old friend who needed some photos of his nifty new training facility, which includes a very large putting surface.

    As guys always seem to do, we began rolling balls. "Here's a flat putt of fifteen feet. Let's see how good you are," he challenged.

    I surprised both of us by making eleven out of twelve. "That's a record," said Balbi.

    "But it's not a flat putt," I pointed out. "It breaks left two inches."

    That's where he got me. "No, it really is flat. You're hooking your putts." Sure enough, when I rolled balls to the hole instead of stroking them, they kept a straight line.

    Balbi hooked my stroke to a computer which revealed my putter to be open, consistently, through impact. "You don't aim properly. It's a compensation move." As proof, he asked me to aim at a target, and bounced a laser beam off my club face. Not once did it reflect back in the proper direction.

    "It's not just what your eye sees," said Balbi. "It's how your brain interprets the information. This putter is not the right shape or fit for you."

    David has begun selling Edel Putters out of Oregon, and for the next hour, he showed me the benefit of them. We experimented with combinations of heads, hosels, lies, lofts, shafts, and grips. Once we found the right one, that laser reflected back to the target every time.

    "This putter feels weird," I said to David.

    "We're not building a putter that feels good. We're making one you can aim. Give it time."

    Suffice to say, David made his sale. He sent my specifications to David Edel in Oregon, who built the putter, which looks more like an object d'art, or a precision instrument. This putter is one of a kind, and for an extra measure of ego gratification, Edel engraves the player's name on each of them.

    More important, after a period of adjustment, my putting has improved. It took about three weeks to lose the compensation move, and replace it with an appropriate stroke.

    Now, I look, put the putter behind the ball, and expect to make everything. Some days, it almost works out that way.

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    SUN MOUNTAIN SWIFT CARRY BAG:

  • www.sunmountain.com/

    For golfers who walk, Sun Mountain's smaller bag is a delight. The Swift weighs just 2.5 pounds, thanks to lighter materials and a judicious use of space. Where most golf bags have three, four, or six compartments with dividers between them, Sun Mountain went retro. The Swift has just one divider and two inner compartments, negating the effect of a smaller opening.

    This bag easily carries fourteen clubs, with room for more stuff than any dedicated walker would really need to carry. The Swift has a collapsible stand, dual straps, and six pockets for clothes, balls, valuables, an umbrella, and even a water bottle.

    We're all for minimalism, especially when a bag feels light, but still carries big.

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    SKILZ Gyro Swing:

  • http://www.sklz.ca/golf/prd_gyroswing.aspx

    Here is a training aid made for swinging, not hitting. If your golfer struggles with his swing plane and release at impact, this is one of the finest and most innovative training devices, ever. The Gyro Swing features an electric motor powering a gyroscope in its head.

    Centrifugal force keeps the club in line, twisting a golfer's hands into the proper positions though every position of the swing. The Gyro Swing feels as if it comes alive, with a will of its own.

    I tried this item for about week before PGA teaching professional Susan Young 'borrowed' it for her students. As of this writing, the Gyro Swing remains on permanent loan.

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    ZELOCITY PURE CONTACT DOPPLER PERFORMANCE MONITOR:

  • www.zelocity.com

    This may be the perfect gift for golf club performance nerds. Zelocity's PureContact uses Doppler radar to accurately measure a golf ball's speed and carry distance from 30 to 420 yards. Until recently, a player could only get data like that from a club fitter. Now, it fits in his bag, or the palm of his hand.

    The PureContact is incredibly simple, and has only two, multi-function buttons. No need to adjust for individual clubs. Just set the device down, swing, and it records as many as 100 shots in either yards or meters, and provides averages, as well. If a player wants to work on shots that carry exactly fifty yards, just look at the readout.

    I have just one quibble with this product, and it's a minor one. Golfers must place the PureContact ahead of their ball, which requires that they walk forward in order to see the numbers after every shot. If the company could design this unit to read shots from behind a player, this device would be perfect.

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    BUSHNELL PINSEEKER LASER RANGEFINDERS:
    Bushnell Yardage Pro
    Pinseeker Medalist
    Pinseeker 1500 with Slope
    www.bushnellgolf.com/index2.htm

    Rarely will I write about an item twice. So, when a product gets second mention, take heed.

    A few months ago, we recommended Bushnell's 'Yardage Pro' laser rangefinder as a perfect gift for the golfer in your life. My wife purchased one for my birthday, and it allowed me to precisely chart every club in my bag. Aim at a flag, determine the distance, swing with confidence. Remove the guesswork on strange courses by aiming the laser at individual rocks, trees, and bunkers.

    I have one minor criticism of the 'Yardage Pro', however---at long distances, it occasionally confuses windless flags with trees behind. For certainty, sight on the background, first, get that number, pan to the flag, and wait for the obviously lesser number. These occasional difficulties occasionally consume all of five seconds per hole.

    Bushnell has now resolved that issue with that it calls 'Pinseeker' technology. The new system finds flags more effectively, even if the areas behind them have more reflectivity.

    The least expensive of these rangefinders, called 'The Medalist', features 4x20 magnification, and tracks objects at 12-hundred yards (as if any of us will hit a ball that far). At nine ounces, it is only slightly heavier than the 'Yardage Pro'. Its vinyl carrying case proved less-than durable, and the door to the battery compartment tends to fall off. In terms of finding distance, however, this small unit with its clear, LCD display, is all you should ever want or need.

    I much prefer the company's top-of-the line, 'Pinseeker 1500 with Slope'. This unit is slightly larger and three ounces heavier, but has the look, functionality, and feel of Bushnell's fine binoculars, with focusing and eyepiece adjustments. It features 7x26 magnification, and a big, wide, close-up view offering more than enough details when oogling the local wildlife in trees or country club swimming pools.

    The 1500 adds a slope feature, which compensates for yardages up or down hills. Aim at the target as you normally would, read the actual distance, then look down for the adjusted number. The slope setting works well as a general indicator, but don't take it as gospel. And remember, the USGA has declared rangefinders with slope to be illegal in tournaments. The slope feature will be useful for anyone serious enough to scout a course before playing it. In tournament play, turn the slope feature off, assuming your opponents trust you.

    The 'Pinseeker 1500' comes in a large, sturdy, strap-on carrying case with extra compartments. Frankly, it's a bit too big to hang from a bag, but not to put inside of one.

    All of the new models now take nine-volt batteries, while the older used lithium. This is another significant improvement because you can find a nine-volt anywhere, and usually, for less money. It's a slight trade-off in weight, and probably worth the difference.

    If you already own a rangefinder, you may be wondering if the new models are worth the upgrade. That's a tough one. My 'Yardage Pro' remains very good. These, however, are great.

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    Training Aid: THE RADAR POWERED BY ZELOCITY DOPPLER PERFORMANCE MONITOR:

    www.vjsradar.com
    www.zelocity.com

    This may be the perfect gift for golf club performance nerds. This device uses to accurately measure a golf ball's speed and carry and roll from 15 to 420 yards. Until recently, a player could only get data like that from a club fitter. Now, it fits in his bag, or the palm of his hand.

    The Radar by Zelocity has twelve selectable 'bands' corresponding to all the clubs in your bag. Just set the device down, swing, and look at the readout.

    I have one one quibble with this product, and it's a minor one. Golfers must place The Radar ahead of their ball, with the screen facing down range, meaning they must walk forward in order to see the numbers after every shot. The company did this on purpose to slow players down, and keep the readings realistic. Research shows that otherwise, players reload fast and blast away, which leads to unrealistic data.

    Warning: if you or your golfing friend is a numbers guy, this product can become addicting.

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    Training Aid: The Perfect Connextion
    www.perfectconnextion.com

    How many beginning golfers have you seen who swing the club with their hands and arms, instead of by using their bodies? They don't turn their shoulders, their arms fly up, and their strokes lack power or consistency.

    Or, as their golf teaches might say, "You're not connected."

    So, here is a device that teaches the one-piece moment. Practice with The Perfect Connextion will keep the club in front of you while maintaining that all-important triangle.

    It's a goofy looking device, and at a list price of $99, an expensive one, but The Perfect Connextion actually works. It consists of an adjustable steel bar with fittings for the upper arms on either side. Put it on, squeeze, turn, and swing. Arms remain in front, golfers get the feel. Use it at home, in the backyard, or even the living room. Maybe take it to the range and hit a few balls, too. From behind, no one will notice you wearing it, but they may compliment your new-found and more efficient move.


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