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Travel Golf Guy gives nods to winter trips, silly season and more

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

NAPLES, Fla. - We interrupt the regular edition of the Travel Golf Guy to bring you a special Thanksgiving installment. Sure, we are all thankful for the basic necessities, like satellite radio, DVR and kegerators. But what about the little things in life, or more specifically the travel and golf life? Upon the eve of thanks, the TGG gives special nod to:

Five dollar Nassaus with a clear winner and loser. Scissors-paper-rock, a putting contest by moonlight, or whatever it takes; in matches among golf buddies, ties are a four-letter word. That the President's Cup - an event already struggling to define its place in professional golf's stratum - was declared a draw after three playoff holes is a joke and a disgrace. Captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player win (no harm no foul), while the event, the players and the viewing public lose.

Winter golf trips with the guys or girls. Not much golf gets played north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the winter months, but plenty of golf gets planned. From Michigan to British Columbia, phone lines are buzzing and keyboards are burning as groups research, plan and orchestrate winter golf gorges to sunny destinations.

Winter golf destinations - the old standbys. Orlando, Fla., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Palm Springs/Palm Desert/La Quinta keep on keeping on. These sunbelt stalwarts serve up plenty of sunshine and winter temperatures in the 70s. Any of these three popular destinations could rest on its laurels, but all choose to up the ante with new courses, resorts and attractions each year.

Winter golf destinations - the new kids on the block. Emerging golf destinations like Gulf Shores, Ala., the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Audubon Golf Trail in Louisiana all stand to make the golf world a better place come winter. The golf is affordable, the hospitality is unrivaled, and the seafood is so fresh you can hear the Gulf of Mexico if you put your ear to it.

Unique 19th holes with a sense of place and history. Watering holes like the 90-year-old Pine Crest Inn in the Village of Pinehurst and the Tap Room at Pebble Beach don't just cap a round of golf - they help define it. If you've never been to one of these timeless gathering spots, you mosey into your favorite local establishment after a chilly trip round the links and soak up the ambiance and camaraderie.

Golf gear that makes sense. Terris Golf Gloves (terrisgolf.com) have plump, polymer pads to protect your hands, wrists, shoulders and elbows. These comfy gloves help reduce the painful, repetitive shock of golf club striking cold ball and frozen ground. It's no accident these goat leather mitts are all the rage on the Champions Tour. They are a little pricey, at $29.95 to $49.95, but worth the extra coin. And if you are lucky enough to head somewhere sunny this winter, be thankful there's a line of sun and skin care products geared specifically for golfers - Proderma (prodermaproducts.com). The company's arsenal includes sunscreen, facestick, windscreen and lip balm.

Golf gear that actually looks cool. Further proof that looking good and wearing golf gear aren't mutually exclusive: ECCO's 2004 line of golf shoes are sported by no less that 60 LPGA Tour players and are a huge hit among European players. Translation: expect to see Charles Howe III or one of the Aussie young guns in these kicks soon. In the meantime, ECCO (buyecco.com) offers its full line of men's and women's shoes to the traveling golf public. Choose from traditional wing tips or flashy flame models.

The "Silly Season." The tournaments are a joke, the pots are inflated and Fred Couples seems to win every week. But golf's "Silly Season" is a perfect excuse to sink a few putts on the living room floor while watching Couples, Greg Norman, or some other 40-something post a low number on a posh resort course in some sun-splashed golf destination that's a strong 3-wood beyond your budget. The only trip to be made is to the refrigerator and back.

The Travel Golf Guy returns next week with a head-to-head battle between Ireland and Scotland.

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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