CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If your father is a golfer, consider yourself lucky. You have a veritable universe of gifts to choose from this Father's Day. And pity guys like me, whose fathers don't golf, because frankly we haven't got a clue what to get them.
Navigating through the limitless expanse of the golf-gift cosmos, I found some choice products that I'd get for my old man, if he were a golfer.
What better gift could you give Pop than better health? Maybe a stand bag would get him out of that cart and out onto the links by foot. The Aficionado III (MSRP $179; clubglove.com) is the first bag to allow for customization - it can be as heavy or as light as your dad wants it to be. There are three detachable pockets and a shoulder-strap system that can be converted from the standard dual strap to a single strap.
It may be Father's Day, but that won't keep you from dying from embarrassment if your old man arrives at the course wearing plaid slacks and a shirt with collars wider than Kirstie Alley's butt. For both modern and traditional takes on the classic short-sleeve polo shirt, check out Dunning Golf ($70-$90, dunninggolf.com). If you just can't resist mocking your pop, Dunning also has a line of mock turtlenecks ($50-$80) (bah-da-bum!).
Sun Mountain has developed a fabric called RainFlex that makes the company's new line of outerwear breathable, stretchy and nearly silent (MSRP $130-$170; sunmountain.com). No more crinkly backswings!
TaylorMade is jumping back into the golf-ball market with its TP Red and TP Black models (MSRP $55/dozen). The Red has a larger core and thinner mantle compared to the Black. According to the company, the Red has a low spin-rate off the driver, a slightly lower launch angle off every club in the bag and a slightly softer sound and feel. The Black's thicker mantle permits the ball to slide up the clubface a fraction at impact for a higher launch angle and a lower rate of spin, affording increased carry and distance.
If your father is computer-savvy and serious about improving his game, you could buy him a membership at Virtual Golf Instructor ($100/one year, $150/two years; virtualgolfinstructor.com). The site offers automatic, personalized stat-tracking software, personalized practice schedules and exclusive video drills, all with the aim of helping golfers reach their scoring goals. This is a heck of a lot cheaper than lessons with a local pro, and fits into any golfer's schedule.
OK, so maybe the old man needs more than a virtual instructor. The P3ProSwing "Simulyzer" (starting at $699; p3proswing.com) is an indoor/outdoor instructional simulator that connects to a laptop computer. It provides instant feedback with any club, with or without a golf ball. Measurements include club speed, tempo, ball flight, swing plane, clubface position and distance. Shots may be practiced from any location on "Highlands National," a 7,393-yard, 18-hole, par-72 simulated course. Computer graphics show the ball's flight path and actual landing location. Players can even practice putting. The system allows up to a foursome to play a round on the virtual track.
If Dad's not into instruction and just wants to hit the links, at least you can to help him rein in his banana-slice with the No Bananas Driver by Bob Burns (MSRP $300; bobburnscustomclubs.com). Every design feature of this titanium driver fights the dreaded slice, most noticeably the 5-degree closed face and the half-inch clubhead offset. Short of seeing a swing coach, this driver represents the best thing you can do for old Dad's banana ball.
If your local course has installed Laser Link's Smarty or SmartSticks on its greens, then one of the best high-end gifts you can get for Dad is the Laser Link Quickshot range finder (MSRP $279; (laserlinkgolf.com). This hand-held device is dead simple to use and deadly accurate at measuring yardage up to 275. By all accounts use of the Quickshot speeds up play, which should make the cantankerous old poop happy (or at least not as grumpy).
For all those rainy days and long, dark nights when you can't play golf, what's better than sitting around debating utterly pointless and thoroughly fascinating golf stats? Elliott Kalb's book ($17, McGraw-Hill) ranks the 50 best players in golf history, complete with little-known facts, copious stats, persuasive rhetoric and a dry wit. So Dad thinks Arnold Palmer was the best ever? Wait'll he finds out The King comes in at No. 12, behind Gary Player and Mickey Wright. Settle in for a nice, long rant.
And enjoy the time with your father, even if he doesn't golf. As we all know (even Tiger), the years go by all too quickly.
June 12, 2006