Times are tough. Belts are tightening due to the economic downturn. Perhaps golf isn't as high a priority as it used to be. We understand. But we also know that avid golfers are still going to get their fix. And they probably wouldn't mind something golf related for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or under the Christmas tree. So with that in mind, this year's golf gift guide focuses on items for under $100. It's not everything that's out there, but it's a good start.
TaylorMade rescue hybrid club with mid-graphite shaft
$69.99-$99.99, Sports Authority
This is by no means the only one out there, but it is a good place to start for those who haven't discovered the hybrid club. It is designed to provide the distance of a wood with the accuracy of an iron. Those who use hybrids, even professionals, swear by them.
Odyssey White Steel 2-ball SRT putter
$99.99, Dick's Sporting Goods
It barely fits our criteria, but putters are hard to find for under $100. It is a mallet-type putter and has a half-shaft offset. It is supposed to increase accuracy, but that really depends on the person using it, doesn't it?
Slightly used golf balls
$1 per ball or $12-$24 per dozen, T&D Golf Stores
There are several places that sell used balls (ones that have been on the bottom of a lake or deep in the woods), but one of the best in the area is T&D. There is a store on Waters Avenue in Tampa, and Tuesday through Sunday at the Oldsmar Flea Market. Prices vary depending on the kind of ball, and there are hundreds to choose from. You can fill a golf bag for under $25.
Some genius invented a little gadget that connects to the end of the putter grip and suction-cups the ball out of the hole. No more bending over. Great for those with back problems. Just make your putt, turn the putter over and stab the ball out of the hole.
Epoch biodegradable tees
$5.99 for 40, shop.vendio.com/golflegg/home.html
Golfers are trying to do their part to help the environment, and these can be a part of it. They look and feel just like regular tees, but when discarded on the course they don't take as long to break down.
Gift card to an area course
Most area courses offer them. You can get one for a particular amount or one for the exact price of a greens fee. Or perhaps the gift card can be used for a lesson from the club's PGA professional. For a complete list of public courses in Tampa Bay, go to tampabay.com/sports and click on golf.
3- by 9-foot putting green
$49.99, Edwin Watts Golf Shops
What makes this different from a regular putting green is that it is kidney shaped and has three holes. It also has faux sand traps surrounding the holes, and there is elevation in the back to simulate break. A good practice tool.
Free-standing practice cage
These are great for hitting balls in the back yard and can be used by golfers of all ages. This net is 12 feet wide, 7 feet tall and 5 feet deep with a reinforced target in the back to help with accuracy. Because it has depth with nets on the side, it cuts down on shanks that may go wide of other nets.
NCAA golf umbrella
Just about every school that plays Division I sports is represented. It's the perfect golf bag accessory for the college sports fan, and an umbrella is a must for summer play in Florida.
Tartan JX9 four-club set with stand bag
A good place to start if your youngster is thinking about golf. It features four clubs instead of the usual three (3-wood, hybrid, 9-iron, putter) and comes with a stand bag and two headcovers. It is suggested for ages 3-5, but there are also models available for taller and older youngsters.
Golf Monopoly signature holes edition
It's just like Monopoly, except the properties are golf courses and you can accumulate courses and tournaments. So players can learn about business and get familiar with some of the best courses in the world.
Nike junior EZ distance balls
The balls, which are endorsed by Tiger Woods, are designed to fly higher and farther because they are softer than normal ones. They are supposed to create more ball speed from a slower swing. Each package comes with six balls.
For the golfer with (almost) everything
Club Champ Kooler Klub
Not sure if this is USGA-certified, it looks like a driver but actually holds up to 48 ounces of your favorite beverage. The insulated club has a keg-like pump and a dispenser underneath the clubhead. It fits into your bag and should make you a big hit on the course.
Lightning strike alert
It looks like a small pager and it clips to your belt. It will alert you with an audible alarm when lightning is in the area. It can be set for distances up to 40 miles or within 6 miles. Not sure if it works, but better safe than sorry.
It is a piece of plastic that looks like the face of a club. It has an elastic strap that goes around the front of the foot. Then, when a ball inevitably lands in the woods, the golfer can use the "foot wedge'' to kick it back into the fairway for a better lie.
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or (727) 893-8810.