On most visits to a pro shop, after paying your greens fees, you grab a scorecard. But what about those other potential acquisitions? The knickknacks and the gadgets. The gear and the apparel. Odds are the shelves are stocked, the floor space crowded, with a mix of useful and useless merchandise. Because all pro shop purchases are not created equal, it helps to have some guidelines. Here’s a list of items that are worth buying, and others you’d be better off passing up. 1. A yardage book - YES Years from now, you might flip through this relatively small-ticket item and relive a lovely day on a lovely course. But it also serves a worthy short-term purpose: as in, you know, helping you shoot a lower score. 2. A logo-ed cap - YES The Bandon Dunes logo is the tufted puffin. The Cypress Point logo is a wind-coiffed cypress tree. But you won’t come across either at your local PGA Superstore. And if you find them on eBay, not only is the price apt to be absurd, you might not be getting the real deal. At one-of-a-kind destinations, a hat with the logo is a no-brainer, a pragmatic, easy-to-pack souvenir that isn’t available just anywhere. Buy one. You never know when you’ll be back. 3. Golf shoes - NO Mark Twain was wrong. Golf is not a good walk, spoiled. But it’s also not much fun when you’re feet are badly blistered by a pair of stiff kicks. The smart move is to buy shoes in advance, and take time to break them in.
4. A logo-ed visor - NO Because this isn’t the 1970s, and you aren’t Tom Kite. 5. A logo-ed bucket hat - YES The instant you buy it, count on someone trotting out their Al Czervik impression: “Bet you get a free bowl of soup with that.” Ignore them. Not only is this person unoriginal, they’re also ignorant to the sun-blocking beauty of a bucket hat, made all the better by the cool logo just above the brim. 6. Distinctive books or photos - YES Some pro shops, especially those at exclusive private courses, sell distinctive photographs of their iconic holes, or hard-bound histories of their clubs. True, you might find those same items elsewhere. But it’s nice to get such keepsakes straight from the source. 7. Golf shirts and sweaters - MAYBE Check the material. Is it breathable cotton, or itchy polyester? Moisture-wicking, or swamp-like when wet? Beyond that, does it, um, fit? To accommodate beer-bellies and fragile egos, a lot of golf apparel tends to run large. Today’s small is yesterday’s XXL. As for patterns and colors, it all comes down to personal preference. We prefer solid and subdued, in large part because we favor classic styles over Rickie Fowler’s neon or John Daly’s explosion-in-a-paint-factory look.
8. Irons - NO The same rule applies to irons that applies to drivers: never buy until you get a chance to see how they fly. 9. Drivers - NO Sure, it’s nice to support the club pro, who might get a cut of pro shop sales. But unless he or she is equipped to fit you on the spot, you’re taking an expensive risk, paying top dollar for club that might not be suited to your swing.
13. Ball marker - YES Like a pack of gum at the drugstore counter, a ball-marker is a harmless impulse buy, so go ahead and grab one. It shouldn’t cost a lot. A few bucks, max. But that’s still more than a quarter, dime or nickel, all of which work just fine as markers, too. 14. Tees - NO For starters, a lot of self-respecting golf courses give these away. And at those that don’t, you can simply scrounge for broken ones on the tee. 15. Rain gear - MAYBE Wait. Help us understand. You went through the trouble of planning a golf trip, but then didn’t check the weather and pack accordingly? Now’s it’s raining cats and dogs, so you might as well shell out good money to stay dry. Consider the steep markup a tax on your absent-mindedness. Next time, maybe you’ll be exempt.