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Shopping analysis: New kicks, a good book and ordering online

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - So it's not a tie, but buying Dad some useless golf gift is pretty darn close to becoming a clichéd ritual. Thing is, these portable stroke counters, rubbers tees, golf ball logo makers typically come from the least empathetic faction of gift givers - the non-golfer.

Golfers, however, are free to hit a home run on Dad's day with a smattering of useful purchases.

First off, how about some new kicks? Does Pops still hoof it around the local muni in those nasty old saddle shoes with mow-the-lawn green trim? Buying him a new pair of FootJoys, Etonics, or Nike's would be the knee jerk reaction, but why not position dad at the forefront of golf shoe fashion with a new set of ECCOs?

If he's a liberal, remind him that the shoe is wildly popular on the PGA Tour. If he's a conservative, don't. With the LPGA Tour or without, the Denmark based company was poised to make a big splash in the shoe market. ECCO is the only manufacturer that sees the production process through from "cow to shoe" as they like to say.

The men's shoes come in 34 styles and colors. Some could be described as trend setting, while others are unapologetically classic. Some styles promote a European flair while others mirror Friday-casual shoes and could probably be worn to the office without raising a stink.

A recent test drive of a pair of ECCO's Hydromax Saddle shoes on the courses of the Arizona and California deserts confirmed the company's bold claims of being the most comfortable shoes on the market. Sixteen rounds of golf over 10 days in 110 degree temps and the ECCOs held up better than the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter.

ECCO's built-in comfort system includes extra cushion, a direct-injected mid-sole, and Gore-Tex (R) "Comfort Range" membranes for moisture control. If you want to kick the comfort level up a notch for dad, check out Sole's new Custom Footbeds.

This cushy insert is designed to fit in almost any golf shoe, and is easy to use. Just heat the footbeds in the oven at 200 degrees (thus activating the Ethyl Vinyl Acetate, a.k.a the cushy stuff) and place them in the shoes. MSRP on the ECCOs is $120 (purchase at buyecco.com); on the Sole Custom Footbeds, $40. So $160 out the door and the old man has no excuse to whine about his dogs barking after 36 holes.


If Dad's a reader - you know, drugstore glasses two thirds the way down his nose, feet kicked up in recliner and a glass of Scotch sitting on the end table - a slew of must-own golf books recently hit the shelves, just in time for Father's Day (imagine that.)

The leader in the clubhouse is Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly's Who's Your Caddy? Reilly looped for 11 high profile personalities, including John Daly, Casey Martin, Jill McGill and Donald Trump. The book is crafted in Reilly's unpretentious, always entertaining prose and is full of wild anecdotes and behind the scenes banter.

Prolific sportswriter John Feinstein serendipitously weighs in this Father's Day and U.S. Open week with Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black. Open will appeal to students of golf course architecture, PGA Tour buffs, and industry observers fascinated with the logistics of staging the world's most prestigious golfing event.

Look on dad's bookshelf or nightstand. If you spot even one presidential biography, Don Van Natta Jr.'s First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters From Taft to Bush is a no-brainer. Van Natta pulls no punches, whether delving into the righteousness of Eisenhower or Clinton's propensity for mulligans.

Of local interest, Savannah, Ga. based golf writer Joel Zuckerman recently released his debut golf book, Golf in the Lowcountry: An Extraordinary Journey through Hilton Head Island & Savannah. Zuckerman's keen powers of observation and appreciation for the game's roots in the golfing hotbed that is Hilton Head shines like a freshly washed Titleist.

Real Men Don't Shop

They order via the Internet while watching Sportscenter. Shoes, books, clubs - they are all available with a couple clicks of the mouse and a valid credit card at The Golf Warehouse. What's more, a mach shopping spree conducted by TravelGolf.com (from a comfy office chair, snacks provided) at tgw.com yielded just what the company promotes: an efficient, clean, easy-to-navigate, secure, convenient, and wallet-pleasing experience.

Total shopping time was just 15 minutes for an impressive tally of $1,250.78 in brand-name merchandise. The list for dad included a combination of first-run golf clubs and close-out apparel (like he knows the difference between 2002 and 2003 Ashworth shirts). Here's how TGW stacked up against a local brick-and-mortar golf superstore.

Comparison Shopping
Category TGW.com Local Golf Store
Round-trip drive time 0 40 minutes
Fuel economy N/A $3.44
Selection 20,000 items 750 items
Pushy salespeople 0 2
Price mistake 0 1
Size not in stock 0 2
Shopping time 18 minutes 1 hour, 15 minutes (excluding drive time)
Transaction time 90 seconds 8 minutes at counter
Money-back guarantee Yes 30 days no refunds on closeouts
Money spent for items $1,250.78 $1,643.21
Return visit Yes No

So there you have it. Plenty of time left to squeeze in 18 holes and a 500th viewing of Caddyshack with the old man.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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