As shelter-in-place restrictions ease across the country, many golf courses are back in business, and both newbies to the game and old hands are lining up to hit the links.
Corey Roberson, director of golf at the Cordillera Ranch outside of San Antonio, Texas, says golf facilities are taking many steps to keep golfers safe during the covid-19 outbreak, including removing touch-points and sanitizing golf carts.
“One of the things golfers need to be mindful of is social distancing before, after and during the round,” he says. “Not shaking hands after a round of golf is a bit unnatural, but if you are constantly reminding yourself of social distancing it helps limit those interactions. For people who are playing for the first time in a while, make sure you stretch or hit a few balls before your round — your body will thank you after you walk off the 18th green.”
Golf coach Dave Pelz, known for his books on the art of the short game, particularly putting, adds that during this time it’s best to play in twosomes. “Four can get too busy and you may accidentally get too close together without realizing it,” he says.
Pelz, who’s also the founder of Dave Pelz Scoring Schools, recommends using your own cart, keeping a 10-foot distance from everyone all day, and not touching any common doorknobs, handles, chairs, etc. “Tap your own chest to send greetings and regards, hold it to send love,” he adds. “Enjoy your time outdoors and laugh, but don’t get careless and get close or touch.”
If you’re new to the game, consider used clubs, Pelz says. He recommends buying from a golfer who is the same height as you, if possible. “Golf clubs are easy to clean and disinfect, and are great bargains,” he says. “Cleveland, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, Ping and Tour Edge are all good candidates.”
Ready to get back out there? We quizzed Roberson, Pelz and other golf experts on their favorite golf gear and equipment — from new clubs to bold shirts to indoor putting aids. Swing away!
Dave Pelz Putting Track ($99.99; worldwidegolfshops.com)
For golfers with space at home and cash to spare, Pelz partnered with SYNLawn to develop the Dave Pelz GreenMaker Putting Green System ($1,799, 14 feet by 8 feet; lowes.com), perfect for golfers of all ages and skill levels and available in four sizes. But if that’s not quite in the budget, try a putting track.
“A product like this will help to groove your putting stroke, which will help your accuracy and touch,” Pelz says. He also likes putting clips. “These attach to your putter face with a Mylar adhesive,” he says. “It provides perfect contact on the sweet spot and produces a normal roll. Contact towards the heel or toe sends the golf ball rolling askew.”
NoSweat Golf Hat Liner ($22.99; amazon.com)
Pro golfer Hailey Ostrom, who is based in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends the NoSweat hat liner for those who are active outdoors. “As warmer months are approaching, we are more likely to sweat on the golf course,” she says. “A NoSweat hat liner will help eliminate the risk of touching your face by preventing sweat from dripping down your forehead.”
Puma SoundChuck Mini Bluetooth Speaker ($79.99; worldwidegolfshops.com)
Ostrom says that while there’s a seemingly constant influx of new “must-have” golf equipment each year, she has really noticed more and more Bluetooth speakers on the course. “The game is evolving and attracting a younger audience,” she says. “Having the latest speaker that not only plays your favorite jams, but also conveniently clips onto your golf cart, is the hottest new trend right now.”
Nikon Coolshot 20 GII Rangefinder ($185.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
New golfers, Ostrom notes, already have their hands full trying to learn a challenging game, so adding in gear and equipment that will help improve their skills will only make the experience more enjoyable.
“I recommend an easy-to-use rangefinder, such as the Nikon Coolshot,” she says. “Learning how far you hit your clubs is one of the more challenging parts for beginners. A rangefinder leaves less room for error and helps to keep the pace on the course — a godsend for everyone!”
Eyeline Golf Putting Alignment Mirror ($29.52, originally $39.95; amazon.com)
SelfieGolf Cellphone Holder Golf Analyzer ($29.95; amazon.com)
More experienced golfers, Ostrom adds, are usually into any gadget that will help improve their game. “My favorite new toy is my putting mirror; a mirrored training aid that helps with eye alignment, contact, stroke distance and consistency,” she says. “I would also recommend a SelfieGolf cellphone holder. This phone clip attaches to any alignment stick and makes for easy filming, so you can film your swing and make adjustments on the range.”
Rukket Indoor/Outdoor Pop-Up Golf Chipping Net ($59.99; amazon.com)
Ostrom says her Rukket Sports golf nets and putting green became essentials during self-isolation. “They have a variety of golf products, including multiple full-swing hitting nets, chipping nets and a putting green,” she says. “Their products are easy to assemble and make up for days away from the course.”
Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Golf Socks (starting at $14.99; amazon.com)
PGA golf professional and Golf Top 100 instructor Joe Hallett walks a lot — sometimes logging 20,000 to 27,000 steps during an event.
“I am on my feet all day long on the lesson tee and watching my LPGA players on the course,” he says. He credits these Swiftwick socks with providing comfort on the course, and says they’re also popular with his players — and with the caddies, who walk just as far, but with 50 pounds on their backs.
TaylorMade SIM Max Fairway ($299.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
Ping G710 Individual Iron ($164.99; worldwidegolfshops.com)
Roberson says that while all the golf companies make good equipment, he’s seen a few things stand out for his members at Cordillera Ranch.
“The new Sim fairway woods from TaylorMade are very easy to get the ball in the air,” he says. “Ping launched the game-improvement G710 iron and not only does it perform well, it looks good, too. They refined the lines to give it a cleaner appearance at address and drastically improved the acoustics.”
Ping 6400 Fairway Wood ($179, originally $269; dickssportinggoods.com)
According to Roberson, most golf club companies focus the majority of their engineering dollars on men’s equipment, and, he says, new male golfers have a lot of great game improvement options from the big four manufacturers (Ping, Titleist, Callaway and TaylorMade).
“I’m a little partial to Ping, as they have a reputation for building clubs that perform well for a wide variety of players,” he adds. “Specifically, their G410 woods and G710 irons have a very high moment of inertia, which helps tighten dispersion.”
Ping Women’s G Le 2 Anser Putter ($199; dickssportinggoods.com)
Ping Junior Prodi G 7-Piece Complete Set ($569; dickssportinggoods.com)
For women and for juniors new to golf, Roberson also recommends Ping, noting it’s one of the few companies that allocates a sizable portion of its research and development budget to those markets. “They recently launched the G Le 2 line for ladies and Prodi G line for juniors,” he says. “These lines are high-performance golf clubs that are not only lighter, but they generate more ball speed. On top of that, Ping acknowledges your new junior golfer is going to grow and will rebuild the clubs for free after your child has a growth spurt.”
Callaway Mavrik Pro Irons (starting at $899.99; callawaygolf.com)
Roberson says all golfers should get fitted for their equipment, but this is even more important for experienced golfers.
“At Cordillera Ranch, we encourage our members to schedule a fitting and we use TrackMan to help identify areas of improvement in their game,” he says. “The recurring theme I’ve seen with avid golfers is they don’t really know how far they carry each club and they fly too low. Golf is all about controlling where the ball stops and it’s easier to control that when it spends less time rolling.”
He says he’s seen a lot of success with the TaylorMade SIM fairway woods, and, when it comes to irons, his members have seen great performance from the new Callaway Mavrik line. “We are all looking for that extra 10 yards with the driver and I haven’t found it yet,” he says. “The G410 LST from Ping is in my bag and is a great option for high spin players.”
Maxfli 9’ x 12’ Automatic Putting Mat ($49.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
Golf Swing Shirt Training Aid ($69.99; amazon.com)
Indoor putting mats are on the rise, according to Roberson. “If you don’t have one yet, it’s probably a good investment so you can knock down a couple more 5-footers in your first round back,” he says. “If you have room to make a full swing, working on technique will also help you prepare. One of the training aids I like to use is the Golf Swing Shirt. It’s a great tool to help you stay connected, and best used in your backyard or garage.”
Callaway Men’s Strata Complete 12-Piece Golf Set ($249.99; amazon.com)
Lifelong golf enthusiast Erik Tammar, who dropped everything a few years back to make a run at qualifying for the PGA Tour, now runs Swinger Box, a golf subscription box company based in San Francisco.
“For new golfers, my advice is stay away from most gizmos that promise to fix your slice or increase distance,” Tammar says. “The best thing to do is get a starter set of clubs — or a secondhand set — and just make sure the length and flex is correct. Brands like Callaway and TaylorMade make great starter sets.”
Once you have the clubs, Tammar recommends setting up a lesson with a local pro. “Even just a few lessons will help any new golfer hit the ground running,” he says. “If you’re on a budget, there are some great instructors on YouTube giving free lessons as well.”
Bonobos Men’s Performance Print Golf Polo ($68; dickssportinggoods.com)
Jamie Sadock Women’s Plaid Sleeveless Golf Polo ($92; dickssportinggoods.com)
Tammar says one golf gear trend for 2020 is the return of the boldly patterned golf shirts popular in the ‘90s. “It’s a style that’s not for everyone, but definitely makes the game a bit more fun and is usually an icebreaker for strangers paired up on the first tee,” he says.
Callaway Supersoft Magna Yellow Golf Balls (starting at $22.99; callawaygolf.com)
For more experienced golfers, Tammar says there’s plenty of opportunity to try out new ball designs that feature new materials. And, he adds, with patents expiring, prices have come down. “There are more golf balls now that can best fit your game, or just help you save some cash, more than ever before,” he says.
Sklz Golf Indoor Putting Green ($35.99; amazon.com)
Pandemic keeping you from hitting the links just yet? “Stay on top of your short game with some target practice chipping around the yard and keep your putting game sharp by tapping the golf ball around the living room,” Tammar says. “You’d be surprised how much 30 minutes a day … can help increase your putting accuracy.” He also likes this Sklz putting green for an indoor challenge.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.