Holiday gifts for golfers

The SwingTip Ap on a smartphone, next to the sensor.

November 28, 2012 11:45:42 AM PST
It happens every year. Well-meaning spouses or significant others buy gifts for the golfers in their lives. Unless they know the game or fulfill specific requests, however, they may fail miserably. Let's just say it's the thought that counts.

To alleviate that element of holiday stress here are a few suggestions. These gifts for golfers range in price from a few dollars to a few hundred. I have tried and recommend all of them.

SwingTip Training Device
www.SwingTip.com

Golfers arrive at courses, sometimes, with little time to warm up or hit balls on the range. Or, maybe the course didn't have a range at all. Given those uncertainties, a golfer may not trust his swing, and that will cost him strokes.

Enter the marriage of Bluetooth technology and golf. SwingTip is a nifty, multi-purpose swing analyzer/teaching device that connects with both Apple and Android devices. It is built around a small motion analysis sensor that clips to irons or drivers just beneath the grip, and then relays swing data to your smartphone, or even an iPad.

An elegant graphic display shows swing path, optimal swing path, cadence, club head speed, release point, face angle, and where impact occurred in relation to the sweet spot. SwingTip works when hitting real golf balls, or when taking practice swings with imaginary ones. And, it stores those swings in both the device and on a web site for future reference.

I have played with some cool gadgets in past years. None of them have infatuated my buddies like SwingTip. It's addicting. It has practically eliminated my need for that net behind the house. Swing into a mat. The information is all there.

The week I tried SwingTip, I thought I was hitting the ball well. Frankly, I found did not trust the device when it told me I had a closed clubface at impact. Sure enough, in a tournament a few days later, my shots suffered from a bad case of 'the lefts.'

This is where the instructional element kicks in. Not only will SwingTip identify your problems, it will tell you how to fix them. A tap of the screen prompts an immediate lesson from PGA teaching professional Ray Leach. Choose between detailed written instructions, or clear, concise video swing tips. It's like taking a lesson and having him correct you on the spot.

If only he could hit the ball for me.

SwingTip costs $129. Download the software it from the Apple Store or the company website. Your sensor and complete instructions will arrive in the mail.

VECTOR PUTTING:

You have probably never heard Air Force Colonel H.A. Templeton. He was one of the first ten pilots of the SR-71, and also a member of that aircraft's development team. Templeton was an analytical guy, and also, apparently, a serious golfer with a reputation for holing putts from anywhere. As we now know, Colonel Templeton had a secret. He applied the laws of physics to putting, and put it into a scientific treatise called, Vector Putting: The Art and Science of Reading Greens and Computing Breaks.

Unless you have a degree in engineering, don't bother top read it. Thankfully, a couple of local golf professionals, David Balbi and Mike Schy, broke it down, licensed the rights from Templeton's s daughter, and made it accessible to feeble minded people like us by explaining it on-line.

"In simple terms, every hole location on every green has at least two straight putts; one uphill, and another downhill.," says Balbi. "Those lie on what Templeton called a 'zero break line'. It's like a continental divide. One side breaks left, and the other right."

The holy grail of this system is identifying a 'gravity vector' above the high point of a hole. Vector Putting teaches a golfer how to find it, and then provides a book filled with the results of Templeton's calculations based on distance, green speed, and slope. Consult the book, find the exact spot on the gravity vector, aim the ball at it, control the speed, and in theory, the ball has a much better chance of going in the cup.

I have tried this. It works. Templeton did the math. You will make more putts.

"Trusting your instinct may feel good," says Balbi, "But feel will betray you. Physics won't."

You can read more about the system at Vectorputting.com. It provides access to the putting videos, and a copy of the little green book. Access for one year will cost $99.

SHOES, SHIRTS, AND RAINSUITS

If you're looking for gold attire, I have some perennial favorites.

SHOES:

ECCO SHOES make this list every year because they are extremely comfortable, and also because they last. I play 70-80 rounds a year, and still wear Ecco golf shoes purchased four and five years ago.

This season, the Danish shoemaker expanded its hybrid line. Rather than spikes, which wear out frequently and cause foot fatigue, these shoes feature one-hundred, small rubber nubs that serve as traction bars. Better yet, you can wear these shoes to and from the course, as well.

Add GORE-TEX and a soft, moisture wicking liner, and these shoes will make your golfer feel like pro for seasons to come.

http://us.shop.ecco.com/golf/golf,default,sc.html

RAIN SUITS:

If your golfer is a 'mudder' who plays in the rain, check out Sun Mountain's Torrent outerwear. http://www.sunmountain.com/product/outerwear.html

This equipment ranges from lightweight, with short sleeves, to heavier and warmer, depending on your needs. I wear the Rainflex SS pullover and pants, which are extremely light, allows full movement, and remains quite protective when the sky opens up. When the rain stops, I roll it up into my bag, and hardly notice any extra weight.

That particular suit looks sharp, too. For most of the weather here in Northern California, a suit with more bulk is not necessary.

GOLF SHIRTS:

Long sleeves, short sleeves, you might think golf shirts are all the same. Ugh no. Not unless they all have a negatively charged, electromagnetic field.

Energy Athletic Golf Shirts do, and while I cannot begin to explain the how or why of this "negative ion" advantage. I do know that my back doesn't get as stiff when wearing this short. It's 95 percent polyester, 5 percent spandex, moisture wicking, and anti-microbial, which means your golfer might be able to wear it on consecutive days without offending his partners.

Or you.

www.wearenergy.com

BOOKS:

For short-game instruction, you cannot go wrong by gifting your golfer with either of Dave Stockton's new books, UNCONSCIOUS PUTTING and UNCONSCIOUS SCORING. They say the longest distance in golf is those few inches between the ears.

Stockton's books do a good job of keeping those inches out of the way.

CLASSIC BOOKS:

If your golfer is the intellectual type, grab him a copy (even used), of Golf Dreams by John Updike. Golf has been the subject of many books and the province of many experts, but few have written as sympathetically, as knowingly, about the peculiar charms of bad golf, and the satisfactions of an essentially losing struggle.

Or, put another way, it's friendly and it's deep.

For another good read of a lighter nature, track down a used copy of A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe, by the same Bob Cullen who co-authored the instructional Golf Is A Game of Confidence, another great read.

My wife picked up A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe at a garage sale. It's a sweet, improbable, hilarious little novel that someone ought to make into a movie. Look for a used copy at Amazon. Your golfer will thank you AFTER he gets his head out of the book.


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