When you think about simple, minimalist travel, golf is probably the last thing that comes to mind. After all, if you’re playing one of the best Caribbean courses on your vacation, that means bringing extra shirts and shorts, shoes, accessories, and maybe even your clubs—my Takomo 101 Irons are new, permanent travel fixtures—which then require a special case. It’s an ordeal, to say the least.
It’s also always worth the effort. Coming off a year in which we enjoyed rounds at Quivira Los Cabos, Old Quarry in Curaçao, Royal Turks and Caicos, the Bay and Plantation Courses at Kapalua, and El Camaleón, golf is now, more than ever, part of our vacation itineraries, so we should expect to pack and carry more, right? Not quite.
While everyone was going wild over the new Callaway Paradym drivers, I scoured the 2023 PGA Show in Orlando for gear that might improve my game, while also making the travel process a little easier.
Alltimate Luggage 3-in-1 System
The hordes of aspiring pros and casual golfers (dressed as if they were about to tee off) crowded the makeshift driving ranges and lined up for miles to experience the latest in simulator technologies, but I was busy having a blast patrolling the new Product Zone and Inventors Spotlight. My favorite product from the travel realm is the Alltimate Luggage 3-in-1 System, which is a garment and duffel combo that will be every weekend warrior’s instant favorite.
This is certainly an emerging style in luggage, as there are some brands that offer an all-in-one concept that basically rolls the garment bag into a duffel. I have tried a few of those to mixed results, but this one excels by providing the same convenience with detachable pieces. Simply put, the garment bag wraps around the duffel and connects with simple clasps, so you can still pack suits, dresses, and/or multiple golf shirts and fit it all easily into the overhead bin.
Best of all, this style allows for more clothing to be stored in the garment bag—multiple suits or mix and match with couples’ wardrobes, as opposed to one outfit with the other brands, and good luck unrolling those styles without wrinkles.
What I wouldn’t give to travel back a year and bring the FlyWithWine VinGardeValise Piccolo five-bottle carryon bag to Curaçao, where I discovered shelves packed with W.L. Weller bourbon in the airport’s duty-free shop. Not only are these bags ideal for travelers who love to bring their favorite bottles of wine and spirits home from vacation, but they’re simply exceptional pieces of luggage.
Some people see these types of bags as gimmicks, but I was blown away by the combination of style and durability. It has all the look and appeal of a high-end, big-brand carryon at a better price, and everything from the reinforced corner shields to the TSA-friendly locks to the closed-cell foam inserts will make traveling with high-end bottles stress-free. Believe me, if you’ve ever endured the hell of opening a suitcase to find your clothes smelling like that obscure wine you brought home from Aruba, you’ll understand how beneficial this design will be.
For those oenophiles who are merely road-tripping this weekend, the VinXplorer Wine and Beverage Backpack is already my favorite backpack of this young year. On any given getaway, this is a fine bag for basic needs, with plenty of pockets and a very smoothly lined pouch for a laptop or tablet. But the special cooler compartment and hard-shell case that carries wine bottles are awesome for a beach or park picnic, and the cherry on top is the dispenser slot for the pair of 3-liter plastic pouches that are included.
BN3TH Infinite Boxer Brief
The Venn diagram of travelers and golfers who understand the importance of a comfortable pair of underwear is a perfect circle. Whether spending 12 hours traveling and running through multiple airports or playing back-to-back rounds on one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful courses, the need for high-quality drawers that don’t bunch or climb into unmentionable places is crucial.
Enter: The BN3TH Infinite Boxer brief. This Canadian brand is all about comfort, as evidenced by the Classic Boxer Brief, but the Infinite style was on display at the show as it most certainly appeals to golfers. For starters, the material feels softer than the classic, which is insane because I didn’t think that was possible, but the best aspects of this design are the Pucker Panel, which men will truly appreciate for keeping everything in its place, and the Ionic no-stink technology, which everyone will appreciate in general after hours spent admiring the natural beauty surrounding Quivira Los Cabos.
Birdie and Ace
There were so many apparel companies at the PGA Show that it felt like I was running around a shopping mall. The most exciting among them, though, were the newer brands bringing extra levels of creativity to a game that has been, let’s face it, a little boring in the style category for the last few decades. And that’s what inspired husband and wife team Christian and Molly to create Birdie and Ace, a brand that is not only creating stylish golf and racquet sports clothing for women but is also putting the fun in functionality.
Put golf aside for a moment—pickleball is currently all the rage at resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, and Birdie and Ace’s signature Everyday Tour Skort is as soft and comfortable as it is light in the luggage. Between that and the Janie Visor, this is a company that is breathing new life into women’s sports apparel, so don’t be surprised when it becomes one of the biggest names in the game soon.
There’s a good chance you’ve already seen Waggle Golf’s colorful, creative, and often hilarious polos and hats on your local course and in the galleries of the PGA’s tournaments. Sure, silly and humorous apparel is on the rise in golf, but what sets Waggle apart is, first and foremost, the quality. The soft performance feel is crucial to enjoying a round under the blistering Caribbean sun, and the polos are so much thinner and more breathable compared to some of the other, well-established brands’ similar efforts.
I won’t name names, but there are some companies who make their so-called stylish polos a little tight in the shoulders and chest, which is counterproductive to your swing. Waggle’s creations have no restrictions in any form, so if you’re a Bryson who just wants to let ‘er rip, you won’t hear that sound coming from your armpit.
At the same time, those other brands churning out supposedly “hilarious” designs might be good for the bros at the local scramble, but Waggle’s styles, like the exceptional, brand new Pargarita and Hawaiian Punchout, stand out without making eyes roll. Let your dad jokes do the latter instead.
Speaking of apparel you might have seen at a PGA tournament, Reflo was the biggest name you might not have heard at the 2023 Waste Management Phoenix Open, aka the People’s Open. The eco-friendly brand supplied all the apparel worn by event staff, and its booth at the PGA Show was my happiest accident. It caught my eye as I was leaving at the end of the second day, and I can’t overstate how great it was to learn about this truly innovative sustainable apparel movement.
Not only are the performance t-shirts and golf polos and outerwear extremely soft and stylish, but they’re all created from recycled waste and single use plastic as part of Reflo’s effort to be “Futureproof.” This is a very exciting brand to watch in the coming years, but the apparel they’re selling right now is among the most stylish in the game.
One of the most aggravating problems in my travel packing process is choosing shoes. I already need a versatile pair of sneakers for hiking, exploring, and simply wandering, and some occasions call for a nicer pair when the resort’s signature restaurant frowns upon flip-flops. Add golf to the itinerary and now we’re onto a third pair, and that’s a lot of shoes for one three- or four-day getaway.
True Linkswear has not only solved my problems, but this young, creative brand has made it so I only need one pair of shoes for each trip. The True All Day Knit II was my go-to, all-in-one kick for 2022, and returning to the hotel at night and sliding these shoes off felt like taking off a glove. In fact, the snug fit feels like the shoes—which are so simple in appearance, yet so remarkably versatile for situational needs—are hugging your feet.
As for what’s ahead, True recently teased the brand’s “biggest drop ever,” and a little birdie in the Dead Golfer Society told me the True All Day Knit III will be even more comfortable and is available on March 2. Three cheers for another pair or two of the best shoes for a little bit of everything.
SoundExtreme by ECOXGEAR
I’ve seen the debates in the social media travel-verse about portable Bluetooth speakers—some people love them, and some think they should stay at home—and that’s nothing compared to the much fierier debate in the golf world. Old school players think the only noise on the course should come from lawnmowers and birds, while youngsters want to bring their soundtracks to the links and have a little fun, Al Czervik style.
Well, bad news, old timers: the SoundExtreme by ECOXGEAR 26-inch wireless soundbar is about to turn a lot of rounds into a party. This spectacular portable boombox is the next evolutionary step in the brand’s innovative efforts, as it doesn’t need to plug into a 12v battery source and operates instead on a lithium-ion battery pack. Best of all, the mounting process is a breeze, so it can join the foursome on the golf course, handle a long playlist for a day on the boat, or even deliver adventurous theme songs for UTV rides through the national park.
As always, just mind your neighbors. That’s my simple solution to ending these silly debates.
TecTecTec Team8 S Golf GPS Speaker
For golfers who prefer their Bluetooth speakers to be a little more portable and much lighter on the luggage, the TecTecTec Team8 S Golf GPS Speaker is downright awesome. For starters, even at its small size—the speaker fits in the palm of your hands—the volume and sound clarity is exceptional. Golfers like me who love to fly and play solo will especially appreciate that it has a magnetic clip that can go right on your belt or bag, so the soundtrack is always playing and keeping your mind clear of those pesky doubts about whether or not you can hit the green from the trap.
And that’s where the even more impressive element comes into play. The brand proclaims this to be the world’s first audible GPS and personal speaker, meaning that not only can it play Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” while you’re teeing off at Old Quarry, but it can also tell you how far to the center of the green. This is the smallest item I brought home from the PGA Show and it is by far my favorite.
TecTecTec will also soon introduce a Bored in Paradise Tote Bag that will likely be a favorite of golfers who hate clutter, as it fits in 95 percent of golf cart baskets and features a cooler bag, bottle holder, golf accessory organizer, and even a safe for wallets and whatnot.
Bushnell Tour V6 Shift Rangefinder
One of the reasons that I think I was so bad at golf for so long is that I never took the technology seriously. My friends would spend considerable time lining up shots with their GPS watches and rangefinders, while I would just grab the club I was hitting best that day and hope to make it somewhere in the same zip code as the green. It wasn’t until a friend insisted I use his Bushnell Golf Tour v3 Jolt that I realized I could probably take a good 10-15 strokes off my game if I used a gadget or two.
Now that I’ve made it a concerted effort to play better and not embarrass myself at Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic in May, it’s time to upgrade to something new that’ll give me a fighting chance. Available in April, the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift laser rangefinder delivers all the bells and whistles a casual golfer needs to step up his game, with an improved pinseeker, 6x magnification, and slope technology so good that it’s a favorite of pros.
And when you crank that great second shot from the fairway, you can look like it’s business as usual as you toss the Tour V6 Shift back to the cart and the magnetic mount will make it stick like a boss.
The Monster Mat
Not everything is about what you’re bringing with you on vacation. The Monster Mat is the thing you’ll want at home to practice so your game improves between each trip and for your weekend games on the local course in between. Of all the people I met and talked to at the PGA Show, Safeplay Golf President Brent Paschal was the most fascinating, as his history in the turf business left me feeling no doubt that he’s a king among men in his industry.
So, when he told me that The Monster Mat will provide the best practice experience because of his wealth of knowledge for turf design and construction, I believed it. But the proof was also in the product, as this mat is thicker and more realistic than any I’ve ever used. In fact, while the thin piece of green fuzz I use at home offers no relief on my hands and wrist on those bad swings where it sounds like a bowling ball hitting the floor, one swing on the Monster felt like I was right on a fairway. That’ll go a long way in bringing my practice swing to the real thing.
A lot of factors can affect our games negatively. For me, it’s a cornucopia of valid excuses: lack of range time, shoulder and neck issues from a recent car accident, and the general woes of aging. My goal for 2023 has been to beef up the fitness routines and get my swing speed up so my straight drives can travel a little further and stop leaving me with long approach shots on Par 4’s. Still, time is of the essence, so I’ll take whatever I can get to supplement my weekly visits to the gym.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I signed up to test the Miha Bodytec experience, and when I entered the room and suited up, I thought I’d be hooking myself up to electrodes that would shock me if I made a bad swing. “I’m in for a long day of being electrocuted in that case,” I thought. Instead, I learned that this is a Whole Body EMS (electric muscle stimulation) training session that lasts 20 minutes while potentially delivering gains from longer regular workouts.
The result had me feeling like I’d been in the gym for the entire afternoon when barely any time had passed. I was elated and felt rejuvenated on the spot, even if I still had several more hours of PGA Show appointments that day (I walked 11 miles in the West Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center). Great results come from a lot of hard work, but mixing in this kind of EMS training—I’ve joined the program at Bodystreet in Winter Park, FL—goes a long way in building endurance for my normal workouts. My swing speed was already trending up, but now I’m hoping this accelerates the momentum.