The following are some suggestions for top quality Christmas present ideas for the golfer in your life, even if that means you. For we all need to look after ourselves over the winter months. All are UK-based, only because I wanted to sing the praises of some small, independent brands. Other options are available!
1. The Stocking Itself
Everyone knows that dress codes can be a bone of contention in some of the stuffier corners of the golf market. So take away any lingering doubts and turn up resplendent in a world class stocking, after first removing whatever your golfing Santa has wedged into it. Cookie Jar Golf’s collaboration with the legendary Matchplay sock brand provides the ideal vessel for the goodies that follow, in various styles and lengths. And before you check out, have a look at their range of clothing & accessories, including the new logo kit, and subscribe to the newsletter and podcast. Wonderful!
2. Plus Twos
Your confidence is growing as you slip on the long socks, but it seems a shame to hide them away under those ancient Farah slacks, so build on this new sartorial energy and snap up a pair of the Royal & Awesome plus twos. You will probably never quite play like the late, great Payne Stewart, but you can at least pay tribute to him with some world-class trousers. And “best dressed golfer” is a step up from your customary “wooden spoon” accolade.
3. Sounder Big Mach long sleeve sweat
You’ve covered the bottom half; now is the time to replace that holey (or holy?) lambswool from the turn of the century. Sounder’s kit ticks several boxes at the same time - it is made from hard-wearing fabrics, beautifully styled, and the company’s environmental and sustainable ethos is a thing to be celebrated and supported. My own Big Mach top is rarely and reluctantly removed; soon it will become part of my skin. And check out their other kit - the windcheater and gloves are also favourites, and the golf balls are superb…think “number one ball for golf, rather than in golf…”
4. Hylton Golf Bag
So you now have the clothing sorted, it is time to grab yourself the sort of bag that starts conversations and friendships. Will Hylton’s gorgeous handmade single strap bags are the result of a mission to celebrate the simplicity of great golf. A few clubs, walking golf, fast play. Or in Will’s words, plucked from a delightful bucket hat, “Play Fast, Stay Loose & Drink Kümmel”. There’s a mantra for the golfing life. The Original Walker holds my beloved hickories and I can’t think of a more suitable place for them to live. It is also a delight to carry and comes with a lifetime guarantee. One thing I can guarantee, six months into my relationship with my own bag, is that you will smile each time you touch it!
5. VRSD Number 4 Kümmel
Circling back to the quintessentially British subject of Kümmel, those who had already signed up to the Cookie Jar blog would have seen an emergency post on the scarcity of this strange liquor a couple of years back, when Wolfschmidt stopped supplying these shores with their market leading version (read here). For those who understand the appeal of this digestif in a certain type of traditional lounge, it may not be a surprise that Rye Golf Club, a bastion of glorious golfing traditions, developed their own secret recipe to combat this catastrophic development. But for everyone else, a new British brand has emerged to great acclaim. Check out VRSD’s new blend here: https://getvrsd.com/collections/frontpage/products/no-4-british-kummel-50cl
6. Fyfe Headcovers
Made in Scotland from traditional materials such as Harris tweed, Fyfe’s headcovers combine style with practicality. But such cosy coats for your beloved persimmons are just the tip of Fyfe’s stable of handmade gems. The beanies, tees and Merino wool socks are also sublime, and they are engaged in various environment projects and initiatives. Go and explore the website, and then plan to explore some of the majestic clubs with whom they work. A feel-good purchase! https://www.fyfegolf.com/
7. Golf Quarterly
By now you have earned a rest, and where better to invest a few quiet moments than the latest edition - the 50th edition! - of Golf Quarterly. Since May 2010 this collection of stories, anecdotes and reader’s letters has been dropping onto door mats every 3 months, and in this household at least, everything stands still for a few days afterwards. Quality, light-hearted journalism. The real GQ is more a community than a publication - a collaborative, “user-generated” wonder to pinch a phrase from the editor.
Subscribe here immediately: https://www.golfquarterly.co.uk/catalogue
8. Joe McDonnell’s artwork
Perhaps for most of us, the days of poring over Strokesavers are behind us, replaced by what once felt like space age technology. But those old hole plans always made me think about the craft behind the hole design - that mysterious realm of golf architecture - and I miss the encouraging simple visuals, though the task of actually getting the ball from tee to green was always a more complicated affair. But in the wonderful, 3D WaterMaps of Joe McDonnell, the natural contours of our golfing masterpieces are somehow combined with the aerial view to create works of art to inspire and educate us. So get rid of whatever else hangs above your desk and let Joe transport you to the timeless wonders of the ocean holes at Cypress Point or the enduring danger of the Old Course bunkers. Works of art, celebrating works of art.
9. Urban Custom Clubs
Custom fitting is all the rage these days, but in some echo chambers, there is a nostalgic appreciation for the sort of classic blades and gorgeous wooden headed clubs of earlier ages. And this is where Urban Golf’s fitting service comes into its own. For not only can their walking encyclopaedia of golf technology, James Day, provide a truly personalised approach to modern kit, but he is perhaps better placed than anyone to retrofit classic era equipment to the modern game. If you’ve always dreamed of being able to wield the blades that Faldo and Ballesteros held aloft, this is your ticket into that realm. They also fit Miura irons, which have more in common with the production of Samurai swords than of the golfing competitors…for the golfing purist, there’s no better investment:
10. Two Ruddy Ducks and a Partridge on a Par Three, by Clive Agran
On a recent golfing trip I had the pleasure of playing in the same group as Clive on three occasions, and I am only just recovering from that experience. In person, he has at seventy-five the energy and passion of someone a third of his age, and fifty-four holes in his company had me in stitches more times than I can remember. Throughout the trip he was relentless in his mission to flog as many copies of his latest book as possible, but I now realise, after further episodes of painful laughter since we parted, that he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, to make the world a better place. This collection of letters from the fictional Mortimer Merriweather - including missives to golfing luminaries, world leaders and The Supreme Leader of North Korea, to name a few - makes for hilarious reading and will enhance your sense of the fundamental absurdity of this game. And the final sentence of Prince Andrew’s missive is worth the cover price alone, but I shall leave you to find that one yourself, for fear of legal proceedings. Buy it here, now!
11. Northern Ballmarkers
Another young British brand making an impact is Northern Ballmarkers, based in Newcastle. Among the custom products are lovely brass ball-markers and pitchmark repairers, cabretta leather gloves and quality bamboo golf tees. My favourite items were made by Dan for a recent trip to Scotland (see below), but they’re so nice to handle, they’ll not be leaving my pocket in the foreseeable future! https://www.northernballmarkers.co.uk/. Fabulous!
12. The Links Diary
This magazine, printed on the highest quality Woodsilk paper, describes itself as featuring “stories that celebrate golf and the people that shape the game”, and it does that in spades, but with sensational imagery to boot. On the cold winter afternoons to come, what better way to whet the appetite for your own 2024 golfing adventures than in the company of The Links Diary’s many esteemed contributors. The recently released edition seven includes Dan Davies on building his dream home course in the orchard out the back, and Jim Hartsell on the moment when Tom Watson almost claimed a sixth Open. Pick up the latest copy of this three-times-a-year treat here, and while you’re at it, snaffle whatever back issues are still available, for they are themselves classic, and won’t be there for long!
13. EGN Golf
Based in the Cotswolds, EGN Golf is a small, family business bringing innovative golf equipment to the UK consumer. Alongside the excellent value Sugar golf balls are many other interesting tools and trinkets. My favourite is the Short Game Gains Cup Reducer Kit, because I am finding golf too easy of late, and a smaller hole will restore some challenge (Santa, that’s a hint…).
14. Golf in the Wild - Going Home, by Robin Down
I doubt another book exists that blends so beautifully the art of travel, a respect for remote places and a love for the simple game as it is still played on certain courses. Robin’s magical Golf in the Wild is sold out in print, but you can order it on Kindle, pick up the equally marvellous second volume - Going Home - and quietly encourage this wonderful writer to keep going: https://golfinthewild.org.uk/
15. William Richard Hylton artwork
Inspired by the artistry of Robin’s prose, my routing switches back to a name you will recognise from the 4th stop on our Christmas journey. But I am comfortable with a second mention for Will Hylton for several reasons. Firstly, because his artwork is so different from the gorgeous golf kit he also makes (though the same craftsmanship pervades seemingly everything he does, including sweeping long irons from links turf); secondly, because I like the way he approaches golf and life; and thirdly - well, because this is my column. He paints golf clubhouses, other sporting amphitheatres, and all sorts of private commissions.
More marvellous stuff here: https://www.williamrichardhylton.co.uk/
16. Double Plateau Golf Club
This independent online shop, run by golfing enthusiasts, is the only place in the UK to get No Laying Up merchandise with the blessing of “The Merch Czar”. They also sell The Golfers Journal and you can buy back issues at the cover price. On top of this they stock the kind of small batch, artisanal golf products that make for a more interesting golf gift such as Sunday Golf bags, North Coast gloves, Sugarloaf Social hoodies, Golf Club Colony keyrings and a constantly changing range of small supplier treats that might make your golfing loved one smile rather than wince! Fill up your (Cookie Jar x Matchplay) stockings here: https://www.doubleplateaugc.com/
17. Grant Books
Ok, confession time. I had a personal dream come true since Christmas last year, with the publication of my first book, “Grass Routes”. It remains both a surprise and a profound privilege to discover new orders for it, and the kind words people have offered since reading it often leave me speechless. But this list is not a mechanism through which to peddle what few copies I have left, so as we reach the end of this round, I’d love to instead draw your attention to Grant Books’ extraordinary catalogue. The range of titles produced by the late, great Bob Grant and his friend and now publisher, DM Wilson III, represent a good proportion of the library of golf, and there is something for everyone here. A particular shout out to “The Pentalogy of Golf Architecture Classics”, released in 2021 to celebrate fifty years at the forefront of golf publishing. If every player in the world read only these five books, the golfing world would be a better place. Support another great British institution: https://www.grantbooks.co.uk/
18. Golf Foundation
So you’ve plenty of ideas above for your golfing pals or loved ones. Or indeed, for your own stocking. But it feels to me to be in the spirit of Christmas to finish with something that will help a budding golfer beyond your own network. Number 18 is the “Secret Santa” element, if you wish. Since the early 1950s, the Golf Foundation has been raising funds to support grassroots golf in myriad ways, and when you look at the “Why we do it” page of the website, it says “We believe that golf is a game that belongs to everyone, and should be made accessible to all young people to enjoy, irrespective of their gender, background or ability”. If you’re reading this, you love the game (well, love/hate at least; we golfers know about ups and downs). How about passing on a little chunk of that hard-earned on a charity that will open golfing gates to the next generation: https://www.golf-foundation.org/
That should keep you busy. Have a very Merry Christmas!