Tis the season for giving ugly ties you don’t need in a home office, extra thick wool socks and homemade crafts! But not this year. While I still cherish the decorative cardboard pencil holder my adorable daughter made in preschool, the golfer in your life deserves something extra cool and useful this year, so I’m here to help.

Perfect Practice Putting Mat (@$150)

I’ve been using this beauty throughout quarantine and have definitely gained more confidence over short putts on the golf course. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, the ball return actually works, it stows away easily and the surface rolls very true, even when placed on carpet. More importantly, however, conference and Zoom calls have become more interesting as I’m able to roll some putts while keeping one eye and/or ear on the business end of things. There are three length options (8ft – $140; 9ft 6in – $170; 15ft 6in – $200), several accessories and even an option for left-handers.

Range Finder ($200 – $800)

There are a few things average “weekend” players don’t think they’re “good enough to have” when it comes to golf. Being custom fit for clubs is one (major misconception here…which we’ll address a bit later) and range finders seems to be another based on my experience.

A range finder will help you play faster than your buddy who tries to take a wild guess at yardages, or worse, walks off yardages from a sprinkler head or a distant 150 stake (approach your ball, laser the distance, pull a club and go). It will also help you play better. With some practice and calibration, you’ll know exactly how far you hit your clubs instead of guessing you hit your 7-iron between 130 and 190 (you know…depending on the wind). You can shoot targets on a range and know precisely what club consistently delivers the ball to the measured target.

Whether you decide to invest in a top of the line range finder, like the group of Leupold GX ($500-$800) or get started with something more affordable, such as the Blackjack from Pinned ($199), you’ll see the benefits immediately and never look back.  The only downside is you’ll become so reliant that the one time your battery runs out mid-round you’ll stand frozen in fear and confusion. Fortunately, most pro shops carry backup batteries to bail you out.

Belts ($50 – $150)

Hitting a nerve with this one. I’m a self-diagnosed belt snob. No two ways about it. I love belts. Leather animal print belts, ribbon belts, needlepoint/knit belts. You name it. It’s a simple, subtle way of adding some style to your wardrobe without looking like you try too hard and without breaking the bank. Smathers & Branson do some fantastic needlepoint belts, including those with logos of your favorite Boston sports team, pets, emojis, flags and even drinks, for around $175. But also check out Vineyard Vines and their nylon ribbon belts that look similar but are half the cost. Nexbelt makes affordable belts (around $50) with a ratchet and no holes so you can micro-adjust to find a more comfortable fit. Or look for braided belts which also allow more flexibility as you can place the prong anywhere in the strap.

Finally, there’s only one simple rule when it comes to belts. No more white belts unless you’re wearing it with white pants/shorts.

Golf balls ($50)

Honestly, if you play golf, you lose golf balls. You can never have enough. And a golfer will always be grateful they received them, as long as they’re good balls. Buy Titleist. Don’t mess around.

Golf shoes + shoe trees ($200)

The easiest way to help the golfer in your life with their game (and their fashion game) is a good pair of golf shoes. Many players wear their shoes until failure…which is a failure. Good golf shoes keep your feet dry, comfortable and give you the traction and stability you need to never worry about your golf shoes. Always make sure they’re waterproof. It’s worth a little extra to know your feet will be dry on a wet morning or on a dry day when the sprinklers pop on. Aside from socks that slide into your shoes, there’s nothing that can ruin a good day of golf faster than wet feet.

A quick post-round wipe of your shoes and inserting a good set of shoe trees can significantly extend the life of your shoes. Your golfer may be surprised with the shoe trees, but they’ll appreciate the extra thought.

Golf Lessons (average $100 – $300/hr)

Golf is a game that can never be perfected, so every player, regardless of skill level, can benefit from a lesson. Even a single digit handicap golfer will appreciate advice from a respected teacher that may notice one or two things that can shave off strokes. Many golfers are reluctant to schedule a lesson on their own, so help them take this important step by signing them up for a package of lessons with a local golf professional. You’ll find one at almost every golf course and even private clubs will often allow guests to come in for lessons. Here are a few to check out:

Pinehills Golf Club (Plymouth)

Granite Links (Quincy)

Joe and Leigh’s Golf Performance Center

Harmon Club (Rockland)

McGolf (Dedham)

CityGolf (Boston)

Club Fitting

Of all the ideas on this list, this is the one that can help your favorite golfer the most, and likely the fastest. Without properly fit clubs, lessons won’t be as helpful, range finders will be shooting more trees than flagsticks and you’ll definitely be losing a lot more golf balls.

Just as you need skiis to fit your size and ability, properly fit golf clubs give you the best chance of success. Millimeters on the clubface can be the difference between making birdies and making blunders.

Like most of us, I played for years with my older brother’s clubs. No big deal, other than the fact he’s four inches taller than me. I was making adjustments in my swing to try and hit the center of the clubface when all along, I really had very little chance of doing it. Not only was I stuck as a 20-something handicap player, but I was growing frustrated and developing bad habits in my swing. When I was finally fit in my mid-20’s, I saw an immediate improvement. I reduced my handicap roughly 8-10 shots in about 18 months (!) and was swinging the club comfortably, confidently and successfully.

You don’t need to be a “good player” to get fit. In fact, it’s the opposite. Higher handicap players have more to gain from it than better players. For less than the cost of a new driver, you can help your favorite golfer improve their game and their overall experience.

One of the best in the area at club fitting is Darren McKinnon at Joe and Leigh’s Performance Cetner in Easton. I’ve referred several players to him this year and all have come back excited about their experience and at the thought of getting clubs made specifically for their game.

Got any other suggestions for golf gifts this year, or favorite instructors or fitters you want to highlight? Hit me up on Instagram at @dandargon or via email at dandargin@yahoo.com.

Happy holiday shopping!