The Golf Life: Man About GolfDecember 4, 2015

When Nongolfers Buy Golfers Bad Golf Gifts

Sometimes the best presents are the ones you give yourself
Illustration by Carolyn Ridsdale
Illustration by Carolyn Ridsdale

I've just about finished my holiday shopping: three Cleveland 588 RTX wedges with an awesome black-satin finish, in 52, 56 and 60 degrees (for me); half a dozen pairs of Kentwool golf socks, which are the most comfortable golf socks I've ever worn but are so expensive that I buy them only as gifts (also for me); a pair of sharp-looking Ashworth Cardiff golf shoes with a two-year waterproof guarantee, on sale at Amazon (me again); plus miscellaneous stocking stuffers—mostly odds and ends that ought to come in handy (to me) during an eight-day trip to Ireland that 11 of my regular golf buddies and I are planning for May.

So when friends say they have trouble buying presents, I find it hard to sympathize. The only people on my list I'm still stumped by are my wife, our children, my mother, my parents-in-law and so forth—all of whom are hard to shop for because they never seem to need anything (and none of them play golf). Asking them what they want would solve that problem but wouldn't be in the spirit of the season, in my opinion. Besides, shouldn't holidays stand for something bigger than the accumulation of material goods? I'll probably end up doing what I've usually done in the past, which is to wait till the last minute, then make a desperate appeal to my wife, who always has surplus presents stashed away.

For a golfer, receiving is usually a bigger problem than giving, if the people who do the giving do not themselves play golf. Here's the nightmare scenario: Your wife, while holiday shopping at the mall, wanders into Dick's or Sports Authority or some similar store, and is delighted to discover that quite a bit of the merchandise in the golf department costs way, way less than the marriage-threatening purchases you're always making in the golf shop at your course. Why, here are a dozen brand-new balls for $12, not $50! And here's a complete set of 13 golf clubs for less than that putt-er you treated yourself to last month! And here are shelves and bins and display racks filled with inexpensive items that any avid golfer would surely find useful: stroke-counters, wristband tee-holders, towels with humorous sayings embroidered on them, plastic tees in assorted sizes, adorable headcovers, an electric ball-and-club washer that attaches to the top of a golf bag, and a range finder that doesn't need batteries and costs a twentieth as much the one you've been hinting about!

The problem with presents like these, of course, is that, when you receive them, you can't simply throw them away. You have to feign delight, then pretend to use them—and that means that when you and your pals go to Ireland in May you can't leave any of them behind. (They'd better show up in your photographs, too.)

Even worse are clothes. The first nice thing my wife ever said to me about golf, after I took it up, in my mid-30s, was that it had improved my wardrobe, because it forced me, finally, to graduate from jeans and tee shirts to khakis and polos. But that's as far as her involvement in my closet has gone, thank goodness. My (late) friend Frank wasn't so lucky: His wife bought him an expensive golf "outfit," which he then had no choice but to wear, and it looked so ridiculous that my men's group adopted a local rule, which we printed on our scorecard: "No competitor shall dress in a black-and-white sun suit purchased by his wife."

Gift-giving sometimes works better in families with multiple golfers. The grand prize goes to my friend Tony, because one Christmas he and his son and one of the son's uncles each gave one of the others a golf trip—to the same resort, on the same long weekend—and got away with it, at least as far as Tony's mother was concerned. (She was blown away by the coincidence.) I could never pull off anything like that, because my son doesn't play golf and my wife knows that my brother and I agreed, long ago, never to give each other anything for any reason. But it worked once, and it might work again.

Related: Golf Digest's Holiday Gift Guide

11 Common Golf Gift Mistakes Made By Non-Golfers