A lot of us unwrapped golf-related presents during the holidays. Books, clothes, DVDs, club cleaners — the kind of stuff we enjoy but would rarely buy for ourselves. It made me start to think about what I absolutely, positively never want to play golf without. Here are my essentials: 1. Properly Marked Balls. For me, this means six that are marked and ready for play before each round. I use a green Sharpie and make a single dot under the ball’s number, then a line along the seam of the ball so I can align putts on my intended target line. If I’m playing on a course with lots of high rough or water, I’ll bring three extra. 2. Free Tees. I think white look the best, but honestly, whatever is free at the starter’s hut works for me. I hate the idea of buying tees. 3. Coins with good years. In pursuit of positive karma, lots of pros use coins minted in the 60s as ball markers. Pennies are fine, but nickels, dimes and quarters work too. Like tees, I can’t bring myself to pay for a ball marker. 4. A divot repair tool. If everyone repaired his pitch mark, and another nearby, we’d all be putting on smoother greens. (I put one in my pocket, along with a coin, on the first tee.) 5. Pencils. I’m constantly losing the pencil I start my round with, so I stock several. 6. A towel. I keep one corner damp to help me keep the grooves of my irons and wedges clean. 7. A water resistant top. If the forecast calls for steady rain, I’ll wear a water-proof top to the course. If the forecast calls for the possibility of rain, I rely on a compressible, water-resistant, breathable top that I keep in my bag at all times. My RLX Stratus V-Neck Wind Shirt is perfect for the job. 8. Sunscreen. Playing golf in the sun is great. Skin cancer is terrible. Coppertone makes a great spray bottle of SPF-30 sunscreen that is sweatproof and non-greasy. 9. Granola bars. When it’s hot, energy bars melt and get sticky. Nuts make me thirsty. Granola bars are easy to store, provide lasting energy and taste good. 10. Two gloves. One to wear, another as a back up. 11. A water bottle. There is nothing worse than getting thirsty on the course, and I never depend on either a beverage cart or a cooler to be just around the corner. I fill a Nalgene bottle with ice at home and fill it with water before starting my round. 12. A laser range finder. Yes, this is a splurge, but instead of finding a sprinkler head and pacing off yardages, my laser range finder tells me exactly how far I am from the flag or a hazard in about two seconds. It only weighs a few ounces, and on the tee box on par 3s it’s funny how everyone looks to me to see what the magic number is.