GOLF EQUIPMENT

Equipment is key to a successful 12-course,
10-day expedition

By Shane Sharp,
Contributing Writer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 11, 2002) -- Twelve golf courses in 10 days, including travel time. That was the plan, and it was golden. First up, Vegas baby, and a tear through all that is new and upscale in the Sin City golf scene. On deck was Scottsdale, the promised land of high-end desert golf. In the hole, Mesa, an affordable enclave in the golfing kingdom that is the Valley of the Sun.

Factoring in two days for cross-country travel and half day for the jaunt from Nevada to Arizona, I was looking at an average of 27 holes of golf per day. Planes, trains, and automobiles all came into play on this golf gorge, so I needed to keep it tight. My arsenal included one streamlined SkyPorter travel golf bag from Porterline, a fresh pair of stylish saddle golf shoes from ECCO, a couple of golf gloves from Terris, Proderma sunscreen products and two good golf reads: Oakhurst: The Birth and Rebirth of America's First Golf Course and Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul: the 2nd Round.

Those titles, and my obligatory Lee Child/Jack Reacher mystery novel rounded out my reading material. Toss in my usual assortment of Cleveland TA-5 irons, TaylorMade RAC wedges and Rossa putter, Callaway Steelhead metal woods and a laptop equipped with Microsoft Links 2003, and I was good to go.

The new SkyPorter from Porterline

Anyone who travels regularly knows the key to a happy, long-range trip is wheels. Wheels on your baggage and wheels on your travel golf bag.

Porterline's most recent edition of the SkyPorter is a light, sturdy bag that's as easy to tow as a small carry-on. While the first crop of SkyPorters were limited to a few boring monotone offerings, the new line sports some snazzy two-tone models that could be mistaken for stylish. The new bag also features a zip off top and shoulder strap - in case you need to lug it like a traditional bag.

My intermodal transportation menu was as follows: Train from Charlotte to Raleigh; plane from Raleigh to Las Vegas; taxi from airport to hotel; charter bus from hotel to golf course each day; taxi from hotel to airport; plane from Las Vegas to Phoenix; rental car around Phoenix; back in the plane to Raleigh and the train back home again.

The SkyPorter bag held up well until the final flight of the trip, when it appeared on the baggage conveyor belt with the top hanging completely off. Somehow, not a single club was missing.

Other (more minor) issues with the bag included a close fit for the ECCO shoes in the front shoe pouch; embarrassing struggles attempting to remove the detachable top; and outside service employees who invariably put the bag on the cart the wrong way, because the SkyPorter handle is on the opposite side from traditional golf bags (it needs to be, so you can pull it.)

Overall Grade (1-10): 7. The SkyPorter is light, convenient and sturdy for a soft sided bag, but if you are on a trip that involves as many planes, trains, and automobiles as mine, you may want to opt for something brawnier. Just make sure it has wheels.

ECCO Shoes

Bad shoes can't get away with being bad when you are playing desert golf. By the third day of my golf gorge, my ECCO kicks were covered in a layer of something that resembled the gritty dust that emanates from a rock quarry. This had everything to do with my accuracy off the tee and nothing to do with the air quality in Las Vegas. A little hot water on a towel back in the room and the ECCO shoes were ready for another 36 holes.

At first fitting, the ECCO shoes felt a bit flat with little support. But after a couple days of wear they evolved into the most comfortable golf shoe I had ever worn. And what's more, they look good. What's more important than that?

Overall Grade (1-10): 8.5. Stylish, comfortable and durable. At $150 to $180 for a pair, just a tad bit on the expensive side

The Terris Golf Glove

Bruce Fleisher wears the Terris Golf Glove. This is a big deal to me. I used to cover the Senior Tour's Home Depot Invitational in Charlotte before it skipped town, and anyone who follows the senior circuit (all three of you) knows Fleisher owned that tournament. He was also one of the most gracious winners and defending champions I have ever met. Not a bad interview, either. Anyway, the primary difference between the Terris glove and the other mitts on the market is that the Terris provides skeletal support and soft tissue protection for your hands.

The glove is hand made and could reduce the occurrence of injuries in the hands of avid golfers. Hilton Head in July is probably the toughest testing ground of any golf glove, but the Terris glove held its own in the extreme conditions of the Southwestern desert.

Overall Grade (1-10): 9.5. With a price range of $29.95 to $49.95, the Terris glove is a bit pricey. Start saving, because like switching from dial-up to high speed Internet service, once you try it you won't go back.

Proderma Sun Screen products

If you are from back east and you are planning a trip to the Southwest, get lip balm with sun protection, and get it now. And while you are at it, bring some extra.

Proderma is totally dialed into golfer's needs when it comes to sunscreen on the links. I carried two sticks of Proderma lip balm, a couple of bottles of sunscreen and a stick of Face Stick, all 30 SPF. The lip balm and Face Stick literally kept me from a miserable existence. The winds in the Las Vegas valley can whip around the course in the late afternoon, and the Face Stick not only guards again UV rays, it protects against wind burn.

Overall Grade (1-10): 9. A must-have on a golf trip to a sunny, dry climate. Only knock - the sunscreen lotion could smell a bit better.

Books

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When I first received Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul: The 2nd Round I anticipated barfing. I am a cautiously pessimistic person by trade, and feel-good stories intended to help me laugh off the shot I shanked into Pearl and Gunther's backyard have no place in my literary cannon. Then I opened up the book and scanned the table of contents. The names Rick Reilly, Dave Kindred, and Dan Jenkins jumped off the page. The entire book is filled with entertaining, smart yarns from some damn good sportswriters. Also, no need to bust out the barf bag. A box of tissues, maybe, but not a barf bag. There are a couple of gripping pieces about Payne Stewart (co-authored by Tracey Stewart) and Walter Payton. For comic relief, turn to Dave Barry's contribution.

Overall Grade (1-10): 10.

I have trouble getting through an article pertaining to one golf course, so plowing through an entire book about one track seemed quite daunting. But this was a book about America's first golf course, Oakhurst Links, in Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Oakhurst: The Birth and Rebirth of America's First Golf Course is a stylish book written by Paul DiPerna and Vikki Keller that chronicles the history of this magical course and the incredible bit of detective work undertaken by Bob Cupp and present owner Lewis Keller.

In his forward, the late Sam Sneed makes the observation that, "Most young kids don't care about the past. They want to get to the future." Admittedly, I resemble this remark. The history of the Oakhurst is compelling, but the hook of the tale is reading about Cupp and Keller unearthing dormant holes, one by one, without the aid of illustrations or written records!

Overall Grade (1-10): 8. A must-read for golf historians, but casual golfers are best sticking with something lighter.

The Lineup

SkyPorter golf bag from Porterline: www.porterline.com
ECCO Shoes: www.ecco.com
Terris Golf Gloves: www.terrisgolf.com
Proderma Sun Products: www.prodermaproducts.com
Chicken Soup: www.amazon.com or local bookstore
Oakhurst: www.oakhurstlinks.com

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