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No other game places as much value on appearances as golf.
Most golfers will go to great lengths to achieve the look of a serious golfer even if it's nothing more than an illusion. In the immortal words of the great Will Horton, "We talk good, we dress good, we act good. But we ain't good." It is in that spirit that I offer the following list of items available for Christmas purchase so that the aspiring pseudo-golfer in your family may look forward to a new season of delusional golf:
Stocking stuffer: Hank Haney Pro Styx, $14.99 at Golfsmith. The ad says they are a "must-have training aid" and are a "portable, multi-functional training tool." Huh? They are two plastic sticks about four feet long that you can place on the ground to test alignment and ball position and God knows what else. I might also point out that you can get a pair at your local hardware store for about four bucks but that would spoil the thrill of getting an actual Hank Haney model. The ad also urges you to "find out why many Tour Pros carry them in their bag." Aha. There's the real value. A nice lime green-and-cherry red pair sticking out of your golf bag will mark you as the serious practitioner you want to look like even if your last excursion to the range earned you an audition on "Lost."
Stocking stuffer: True Power Energy Bands, $30 in most Pro Shops. You've seen golfers wearing these. Those silicone bracelets with a little hologram in the middle that are purported to give the golfer a boost in energy and balance so necessary to appearing like a player instead of a hacker. It seems it is all about the negative ions these little trinkets discharge and who among us doesn't know the value of negative ions when trying to fit a six-iron over that well-placed bunker? Ten minerals are infused into the silicone producing 1,600-1,800 negative ions, which is a boatload of negative ions. Can't have too many negative ions in your daily regimen. Like fiber.
Mid price gift: Personalized head covers by AME, $80 a set through your golf shop. Nothing screams "pretentious" more than a set of personalized head covers. In your colors. With your signature emblazoned on each. With some cutesy little logo or monogram just to set you further apart. Even Rodney Dangerfield would be embarrassed by these testimonials to self-announcement. But you think they look fashionable. Are you kidding? In the New London I grew up in, you could catch a beating just for showing up with these.
Main gift: ECCO Street golf shoes, $139 at ECCO dealers. These are the shoes that Freddy Couples auditioned at the 2010 Masters. They look a little like a combination of boat shoes and sneakers, a sort of anti-Footjoy look that says "if I have to torture myself with this game, at least I am going to do it in comfort." And make no mistake, they are comfortable with the soft leather and the stub soles, so much so that you can pretty much wear them anywhere and with anything. But let's be honest. That's not why you buy them. You buy them because you want to look like Freddy, loping along the course with a kind of bemused indifference, using that long languid swing to mow down the par fours. Yessir, you ARE Freddy, in shoes that seem to shout, "I ain't nothing but a real cool breeze."
Expensive gift: Bushnell Rangefinder, $499 in most golf stores. Everyone who wants to look like a serious golfer has to have a rangefinder. After all, the rangefinder gives you exact readings on yardage to the hole and we all know how important that is 'cause your iron play is totally dialed in. It's 151 yards? Cut 7-iron on the third groove from the bottom. Right!! Nonetheless, golf courses today look like a convention of peeping Toms with every wannabe surveying yardages as if they were Lewis and Clark. Just hit it.
For those of you who might be thinking of a holiday gift for your kindly old blogger, I urge you not to get one these for me. The obligation for full disclosure compels me to inform my family and friends, who are aware of my need to continue my golfing masquerade, I already have all five.
Jim O'Neill is a former club champion and member at New London Country Club.