We’ve all been there. Your Member/Guest Tournament, or even a local charity event, is coming up and you want to play and get another swag bag. You ask a friend to join, you’re both excited for a weekend of golf – then you see the entry fee.

Did I prematurely break something? Is this some sort of Bernie Sanders Green Tax kick-off event where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is guest bartending? Entry fees to a club event at which you already pay hefty monthly alms can feel accidentally-hitting-the-wrong-ball punitive. Ah, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Swag Bag. Beautiful, brand new, logoed, custom swag. It is the proverbial drug for the weekend golfer. Suddenly that entry fee feels justified.

The swag bag is a highly anticipated piece of any tournament. But like your round, it can exceed expectations or turn into a flaming bonfire of alignment sticks.

Charity events are notoriously bad at the swag bag. Who isn’t looking forward to getting a 2.5% coupon off their next carpet cleaning? How about a sleeve of Maxfli rocks that were slated to be range balls until an enterprising Assistant pro recommended giving them away? And where else can you get a custom koozie with a logo so poorly designed it looks like the printer broke?

Even fancy clubs can screw up the swag bag. Logoed whiskey stones? Yep, I’ve seen ’em. And nope, I don’t want ’em. A pair of winter golf gloves? I’ll use those about once a decade – to clean my gutters.

But when clubs get it right, it’s glorious. It’s as close to feeling like a Kardashian sister as you’ll ever get.

I recently played in the Blue Agave Classico (how’s that for a Member/Guest tournament name!) at Querencia in Los Cabos, Mexico. And let me tell you. I felt like a Tour player. And yes, there was free tequila.

It started quickly. I walked into the Pro Shop and people just started handing me things. It was a comedy of riches. A box of Pro V1s? Yes, please. A personalized Ping Hoofer bag? Porque no? A leather putter cover with a logo? A new glove? A new hat? Si, si, si!

Then I got to the range. There were massage tables and physical therapists arrayed to help you loosen up. There was sushi – SUSHI! – at stations around the course. Drinks? On the casa – anything your liver could conjure.

I played like crap, but who cares? I was King for a weekend. It was the best experience I’ve ever had at such an event.

But this is not an infomercial for my favorite club in Cabo. It’s a setup for my Valentine Gold Heart™ tournament swag bag ideas. In no particular order:

A New Driver

Ok, we are coming out of the gates hard. I can’t speak for women, but for a guy, a new driver is just behind getting a new sports car. You can’t wait to take it for a spin. You’re sure it’s going to turn up the dial on your … umm … length. I better stop there with the analogies. Let’s just say it’s very exciting.

Is this a rare gift? Sure, the rarest. If you get invited to a Member/Guest where they give you a new driver, you need to be treating your host like the Sultan of Brunei. Get his drinks, pick his ball out of the hole, clean his spikes with your tongue. Do whatever it takes. This is a tourney you want to be invited back to again.

A Dozen Logo Tour Balls

I say Tour balls because Pro V1 may be the gold standard, but Taylormade and Bridgestone are right there on quality and performance. As we speak, the 2018 models of Pro V1, Taylormade TP5, and Bridgestone Tour model golf balls are on liquidation. The companies want to get them all off the shelves to make room for the 2019 models. Tell your Pro to order some bulk 2018 balls for your next tournament. No one will be disappointed and your committee will look like they splurged.

GPS Device

I know what you’re thinking – that sounds expensive. The truth is that great clip-on GPS devices are available around $100. Not only will the “Gadget Effect” boost the perceived value of this gift (the men will be dancing around like those apes at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey), it may even speed play during your tournament. Check out Bushnell, Callaway, and GolfBuddy for options.

Another equally cool, but cheaper version, would be a yearly membership to your favorite golf GPS app. These generally cost about $20 per year. I’ve tried many of them and can tell you Fungolf, GolfLogix, SwingU, GolfShot+ are all great.  It’s a handy gift the golfer can continue to use. I’d recommend contacting the developer for group pricing. Maybe you can get bulk licenses cheaper than $20 a pop.

If someone hands you a fancy new laser rangefinder at a Member/Guest you should probably just ask your friend to adopt you. Life won’t get better. Even your wife might understand (or encourage it).

Wearables

This is a bit broad because there are so many great options. A nice logoed golf shirt is a “can’t miss” gift anytime. No guy ever said, “Crap, another golf shirt?” Golf shirts have a lot of life beyond the course, too. We live in a culture where golf shirts can be found at wedding ceremonies. It’s sad but true. FYI, don’t be that guy. Especially if it’s your wedding.

Golf shoes are also a great gift because most of us are wearing shoes that should have biohazard stickers on them like those tankers on the Interstate.

Logo pullovers, vests, or rain shirts are also winners. Again, guys, these are not formal wear.

A hat is always fun but it’s an appetizer, not a main course, at the swag buffet.

Specialty Items

This category encompasses all those little gizmos that surround the world of golf but have a life off the course. We’ll do this category as a lightning round.

  • Yeti, or similar, 20+ oz. insulated tumbler. You can fit twice the Vodka Tonic in there! It’s already paying dividends. It will be your constant companion for the weekend and will live on in perpetuity on your porch every summer.
  • Belt. Stay with me here. A fun logo belt should be part of every golfer’s wardrobe. It’s easy to just grab every time you hit the links and may even start a conversation or two. Bonus: You might even be able to wear it to a casual wedding.
  • Headcover. This is the type of swag most golfers don’t buy for themselves. That gives it some cache. It’s a fun and easy, one-size-fits-all, gift.
  • Golf Towel. This is again something golfers don’t buy for themselves but is a useful and nice reminder of the tournament.
  • Magnetic hat-clip ball marker. I love these. Seriously, I do.

OK, now let’s go to the “Don’t give these” category.

  • Drinkware. Your wife doesn’t want these in her house. Even if they are Waterford crystal, she thinks they look cheap. She’s not going to allow you to serve guests with these. She’ll probably “accidentally” break them.
  • Cheap golf balls. It makes players feel like a Thrift Shop drop-off.
  • Coupons for services not related to golf. Seriously? Did you sign up for a Valu-Pak convention or a golf tournament?
  • Anything that requires you to go somewhere else to get the swag. This is not a gift, it’s an errand.
  • Wine or booze. I know, it sounds like blasphemy to turn these down. But if you don’t drink Pinot Noir or Scotch or whatever they give you, this is just dead weight. You’ll end up accidentally regifting it to the tournament chairman at a dinner party in six months. Not cool.
  • Tees and plastic ball markers. Most clubs provide these for free. It’s the equivalent of me giving my wife flowers from her garden.
Next: Genesis Open: Power ranking the top 10 at Riviera

There are countless other great ideas. The one piece of advice is: Don’t over think the swag bag. Everyone is there to golf and have a good time. Stay in the golfing lane. The internet is awash with sites that can personalize stuff. A little digging and even a modest budget can produce some good swag.





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