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Day 1 of 12 gifts of christmas

The abundance of golf gear, gadgets and gizmos can be overwhelming for anyone heading out to shop for a golfer during the holiday season. Exasperated, many shoppers simply opt for a gift card from Golf Town or other big retailer. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The card won't go wasted. But for those who insist on coming up with a tangible good that can be wrapped and put under the tree, here's a list of stuff to consider. It's highly subjective and doesn't pretend to be comprehensive. These are just the things I can heartily recommend because I had positive, first-hand experience with them.


Day 1 - Kikkor shoes

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I could play the patriotic card and recommend Kikkor shoes because the Canadian company is the baby of James Lepp, a 29-year-old British Columbian who made his mark as an outstanding amateur and pro player before turning to business. But that would short sell the products he creates. His footwear is hip, borrowing style from skate and street cultures. And it's so darn comfortable. Other bigger shoe makers such as Ecco, Nike and adidas have rushed to fill the same cross-over shoe niche as Lepp, but Kikkors in my experience were just as comfortable, if not more so. (My Tenny Clayburns didn't need even nine holes to break in. If they didn't have spikes, I'd wear them to the grocery store.) Modest price points ($65-$115) suggest to me that Kikkors might not hold up forever. But that's of little concern. With new, ever-cooler models each year, I'd be content to replace them each season. (

Day 2 - Tin Cup

If you think it's totally boring to mark your golf ball with a dot or a stripe, then check out Tin Cup. The U.S. company makes stencils ($9.95-$30 U.S.) that let you pimp out your golf balls with a variety of conventional insignias (lucky clovers, happy faces) and unconventional markings (skull and cross bones, cigars, #1 Dad). Just put the ball in the stencil shell and colour in the cut-out shape using a fine Sharpie. Voila. The logos of U.S. colleges and universities seem to be pretty popular for U.S. shoppers. But those of us north of border have plenty to pick from, too. I used the Canadian flag stencil to decorate my Bridgestones this season. It's also possible to order your own name or initials ($70) if you really want to get personal. (

Day 3 - Galvin Green

My golf wardrobe is dominated by Oakley pants (for the fit and the funky plaids) and Travis Mathew shirts (for the laid-back vibe and Pima cotton comfort). But I was turned on this year to Galvin Green, a Swedish clothing maker that is just starting to make inroads in North America. (Canada is its beachhead, with expansion aimed at the top 100 clubs in the United States set for 2014.) Galvin's colour scheme is bold (no wishy-washy pastels here), its logo is in your face and its pieces can be easily matched with one another. The cut is trim, streamlined, European. Swede Peter Hanson is among the tour pros who have been wearing Galvin, and his increased exposure on the PGA Tour this year (he tied for third place at the Masters, for example) has given the company a load of publicity and a human face. But what really separates Galvin from other apparel companies is its uncompromising rain gear, which all contains Gore-Tex. It is pricey (upward of $900 for a full suit) but unparalleled in its ability to keep the rain out – not to mention, it has a great fit and looks awesome, even in just basic black. I have a short-sleeved rain jacket and waterproof bucket hat. Even though I look ridiculous in the latter, I wouldn't trade it for an umbrella. Matching rain pants will be among my 2013 purchases. (

Day 4 - MacKenzie Walker

I don't own a MacKenzie golf bag but it's been on my wish list for a long, long time. A friend has one. Every time I play with him, I envy the beauty of the bag, and feelings of nostalgia and tradition wash over me. Here's what my eloquent friend has to say about the bag: "As a game played over a vast swath of land, golf is made for walking. Increasingly, however, more and more players ride in carts. At the same time, a vibrant community of golfers continues to walk and enjoy the company of their fellow players alongside them, and the feeling of the ground beneath their feet. There's no better way to do this than by putting one's clubs in a MacKenzie walking bag, slinging it over the shoulder, and moving on. The MacKenzie Walker is a beauty of a bag; it sells for $845 (U.S.). The original Walker is eight inches in diameter, has two large pockets for balls, tees, a rain suit, and whatever else a golfer deems necessary. Every MacKenzie Walker is made of leather. A walking bag back in the day used to be called a Sunday bag. The company that makes the MacKenzie Walker also makes a Sunday Walker ($775). Its diameter is seven inches and has one pocket. The bag is named after Angus MacKenzie, who features in Michael Murphy's famous novel Golf in the Kingdom . Murphy's book is all about the spirit of the game, and anybody who uses the MacKenzie Walker will enhance his or her chances of absorbing that spirit." (

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Day 5 - Tournament tickets

As I noted in my Short Game blog recently, one of golf's majors in 2013 is tantalizingly close to the Canadian border, at least for those in central Canada. The PGA Championship will be held at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., less than three hours from Toronto and area. If seeing a major live is still on the bucket list of a golf fan you know, there's no time like now. General grounds tickets for the final round are sold out, but passes for the other competitive rounds and the practice days remain. ($35-75 U.S.) On Canadian soil, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont., was an overwhelming success in its debut this year. Crowds rivalled what the tour gets at its majors. More than 65,000 descended on Grey Silo last June to see the best women in the world play. That's why it might be a good idea to get tickets early, to avoid any possible disappointment. The tournament is offering a holiday gift package – $59 gets you two any-day tickets and a scarf, presented in a gift box. As well, the RBC Canadian Open - Canada's national open championship for men - is being played at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario next July while the CN Canadian Women's Open will showcase the top female golfers in the world in Edmonton next August.  (; ; ;

Day 6 - Greens fee three-pack

It's pretty easy at this time of year to find deals from courses selling discounted tee times for next season. Check the website of any track that interests the golfer in your life and it likely has a holiday special. If you happen to live in Southwestern Ontario, or are a savvy Torontonian who realizes there's great golf just a couple of hours away at half the cost, then there's no better deal going than the one offered by three outstanding courses in and around London. Tarandowah, Forest City National and FireRock aren't formally affiliated but have joined to offer a greens fee on each course in 2013 for one total rate, $169. Price includes cart and range balls, and perhaps best of all there are no time restrictions. I grew up in London and would say they're the best three public-access courses in the area. Tarandowah in Avon is as close to a true links as you're going to find inland, Forest City in London is an enjoyable modern parkland and the Thomas McBroom-designed FireRock in Komoka is a fascinating example of how scarred land (an old gravel pit) can be repurposed into a superb golf course. You can play the courses any time during the season in any order, but out-of-towners might want to co-ordinate tee times to play all three on a two– or three-day road trip. (

Day 7 - TaylorMade Ghost Spider S putter

I'm a huge fan of TaylorMade's drivers. I rotate an old R7 SuperQuad, a sort-of-old R9 and a not-so-old R11 through my bag. But the TaylorMade club that made the most difference in my game this past season was the Ghost Spider S putter ($179). The deep mallet looks somewhat ridiculous, at least to me, who played an Acushnet Bulls Eye for almost 30 years. But its performance sure isn't ridiculous. I sense that the putter (perhaps because of its weight and shape) swings more smoothly and squarely through impact, and the ball absolutely pops off the face. I'm hitting the ball firmer and truer, giving more putts a chance to fall, and making short putts (inside six feet) more frequently and with way more confidence. (

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Day 8 - Unconscious Putting: Dave Stockton's Guide to Unlocking Your Signature Stroke

Dave Stockton has become the putting guru of choice in tour golf. Rory McIlroy is among his students. But the rest of us can get the same instruction through this tidy little book ($20.06), which comes in at less than 100 pages. I love Stockton's brevity, not to mention his simplicity. He doesn't advocate practice strokes, for example. Or thought for that matter. (Hence the title.) In an age on instruction that clogs our brains with swing thoughts to the point of paralysis, Stockton's simple lessons are refreshing. He also has another book called Unconscious Scoring. That's the next step for me. (

Day 9 - Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius

Full disclosure: The author of Moe & Me , Lorne Rubenstein, is a colleague, good friend and frequent golf partner. Forgive the pitch. But I think this paperback ($15.16) is so outstanding and so charming that it deserves a shout-out. It was easily the best sports book I read this year and I'd say it's second only in the Rubenstein canon to his tour de force A Season in Dornoch. Moe & Me is a personal account of the golf writer's 40-year friendship with Moe Norman, the Canadian swing savant who was misunderstood and probably never full appreciated because of his peculiar, often antisocial personality. The book is an excellent bio of an extraordinary talent and fascinating man, but what really shines through is Rubenstein's compassion for Norman. The book comes from the author's heart as much as his head. (

Day 10 - Ecco golf shoes

Comfort is my watchword on shoes this year (see Day 1 - Kikkor below). Ecco is pretty fantastic at making comfortable golf shoes, too. If Kikkor is entry level, Ecco is high-end luxe. Denmark-based Ecco juiced its golf shoe business a few years ago by introducing its Golf Street line ($180), tennis-like sneakers without traditional spikes (more like nubs). Hipster Freddie Couples started wearing them and their popularity went viral. Ecco has kept pushing the envelope to bring out newer breeds of casual golf shoes. I had a pair from its Biom Golf line ($270) in my shoe rotation this past season – they have soft spikes, but move naturally with the foot and have a casual look. And the softest leather imaginable. Super comfortable and extremely well made, they look good with trousers or shorts. I got a peek recently at the new offerings for 2013 and one of the more intriguing is a traditional brogue with the same nubbed sole as the Street, a shoe that can be worn in the boardroom and on the links. That's handy for the golf-playing exec.  (

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Day 11 - G/Fore glove

Speaking of leather that is like butta, here's a line of golf gloves ($35) from a new company started by fashion designer and golf nut Mossimo Giannulli. But the sumptuous cabretta leather isn't what will grab most people's attention. It's the colours. In a niche of golf apparel in which even black is a crazy colour, G/Fore offers a rainbow of shades such as "acqua, blossom, poppy, lavender and sand." (It's words.) Ricky Barnes is among the tour pros wearing G/Fores. I tried one on this past summer and was hooked on its softness. The colours seemed a little far out, but hey, golf is a sport where it's perfectly fine to wear plaid pants and neon shirts. So it's just a matter of time before funky golf gloves will be de rigeur, too. (

Day 12 - Powerchute

There are myriad devices that promise to give golfers extra length. I dismiss them all. I've never been seduced by distance; accuracy is my Holy Grail. But the Powerchute intrigues me. It's a kite-like or parachute-like device that attaches to any driver and offers resistance on the follow-through of a swing (but not the backswing). In my testing, it forced me to not only swing more vigorously and athletically, with better body rotation, but also on a correct path. (It's almost impossible to swing the club at all on the wrong path.) Once you take the chute off (after even just a few swings), the club seems feather-light and it's far easier to generate a higher club head speed, which results in longer distance. As a side benefit, it's a superb core workout. I hesitate to say the Powerchute is a must-have swing aid – its hefty price tag of $179 seems out of proportion to its simplicity, and it's not readily available in stores (it's easiest to buy online or through a teaching pro) – but I am convinced it can produce a better-grooved and more powerful swing. (

Looking for more golf related Christmas ideas, be sure to check out the Golf Canada Store at

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