By Jon Rizzi
RECEIVERS CLUB: Among them, NFL pass catchers Kellen Winslow, James Lofton and Andre Reed have amassed 33,943 receiving yards. That's about the length of five golf courses—the trio's monthly quota around the San Diego area. Their game—always a buck a hole, with $2 birdies—rotates among different courses. Reed, a transplant from Orlando, Florida, where he got pointers from playing partners Mark O'Meara and Lee Janzen, is a member at Morgan Run; Lofton and Winslow (who says his handicap is "whatever club I'm holding") are still shopping around for a club.
RAMBLIN' GAMBLIN' JOHNNIE: Nobody at Hawk's Ridge Golf Club north of Atlanta is surprised that Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who won the 1996 Cy Young award as a starter, now rings up save after save as the team's closer. According to one member, Smoltz, a scratch golfer, "loves the pressure of high-stakes golf. He likes action—he'll bet on whether it's going to rain at 3:00 or 3:05—and he usually wins."
BRONCO BOGEYMEN: After running Brian Griese out of town, Denver Broncos fans believe they finally have the heir to John Elway in Jake "The Snake" Plummer. At least on the golf course, Plummer is following in Elway's footsteps. The Snake has already teed it up at Castle Pines, where Elway is a member—and both Plummer and Elway recently purchased homes at the new Club at Black Rock in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. But Plummer won't be playing in this year's Sun Microsystems John Elway Celebrity Classic at Omni Interlocken Resort north of Denver. Elway moved the event from June to September 11-14, which means Plummer will be getting flushed from the pocket instead of draining putts that weekend.
JACK OF ALL TIRADES: Golf-course architects move around platitudes like so many cubic feet of dirt, and Jack Nicklaus is no different. "This piece of property was here and the golf course was here. All we had to do was find it," he said at the opening of Cimarron Hills, a private course in Georgetown, Texas. But when Kyle Dalton of Austin Golf asked whether Nicklaus thought the course would crack Golf Digest's top 100, the Golden Bear bared his teeth: "Who in the hell cares, frankly? It's all politics anyway. I used to write for that magazine. I had thirteen courses in the top 100 when I left that magazine, and the next year every single course was dropped. . . . That's why I don't put any stock into it. . . . The guys who are rating can't break 100 anyway. All they want is a free meal and a round of golf." Easy, Jack: That rant entitles you to this month's Colin Montgomerie Teed-Off Trophy.
PRESIDENTIAL PADDY: Contrary to what many would think, Bill Clinton didn't turn up any Mulligans when he traced his Irish roots to County Fermanagh. But the former golfer-in-chief's love affair with Eire did inspire him to purchase a two-bedroom duplex at the K Club in County Kildare. In July, Clinton agreed to pay almost $1.4 million for unit No. 702 in "The Village" after a round at Royal County Down. The property, which comes with two club memberships (each valued around $100,000), affords Clinton the opportunity to play the 2006 Ryder Cup site with such neighbors as Wal-Mart CEO Tom Conglin, New York hotelier John Fitzpatrick and a who's who of Irish elite.
By Josha Hill
In the past there was the golf bag—cart or carry—and the travel cover you anxiously nestled around it when you and your clubs took to the skies. One plus the other, never both as one—until recently. Several manufacturers now make travel bags (five are reviewed below) that comply with both Transportation Security Administration and commercial-airline travel specifications. They feature user-friendly bottom wheels for rolling but also double as working bags that can be plopped on the back of a cart. (And one becomes a carry bag complete with kickstand.) For golf's frequent fliers, it may be high time for an upgrade.
Ogio Rig $299.95; 800-922-1944; ogio.com
Specs Fourteen-way dividers; combination lock; five pockets (two of them enormous)
Comments Ogio's Rig, the SUV of golf bags, is significantly more expensive than its competitors. Inside, a molded system neatly secures fourteen clubs under a padded folding lid. Problems can occur, though, when you enter 400-cubic-centimeter clubheads and futuristic putter designs into the equation. But if you're a traditionalist with a standard set of right-handed clubs, the Rig may just be your bag.
Bottom Line Visually the most appealing of the five, but I had to take off points for size, price and club restrictions.
Trav-A-Lite Outfitter $179.95; 866-364-4653; travalite.com
Specs Three-way full-length dividers; key-operated lock; three pockets
Comments Albert Einstein once said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." The Outfitter strikes me as just a bit too simple for a travel bag. Admittedly, most requisite features (wheels, lock, a hard shell, a few big pockets and enough room for fourteen clubs) are present, but minus the pizzazz of Bag Boy or Porterline. A thick, protective "bag jacket" is a nice touch.
Bottom Line It may just be the utilitarian in me, but I like a pocket for my shoes and a compartment for tees.
Porterline ClubPorter Pro $199; 888-620-3400; porterline.com
Specs Four-way dividers; combination lock; nine pockets
Comments Large but not heavy, the ClubPorter Pro doesn't fall far behind our leaders. Features include a putter tube on the bag's outside, an umbrella holder, a rain cover, and pockets for shoes, balls and tees. One of the side pockets zips off to become a carry-on bag, handy for fragile items—like your self-esteem, if you didn't leave it on the back nine.
Bottom Line The ClubPorter Pro ranks just behind the Hybrid SE only because of the extra thirty-four bucks.
Cargo Golf Pro-Series $159; 866-227-4690; cargogolf.com
Specs Three-way full-length dividers; combination lock; seven pockets
Comments If you often travel to the British Isles—or any other locale that hasn't given up on golf as a walking game—this is the bag for you. The Pro-Series is the only travel bag with a double-strap system and removable folding legs ($20 extra). It also has a "skin" that can be shed before traveling (leaving just the hard shell, which can withstand 2,000 pounds of pressure) to save wear and tear.
Bottom Line BEST OVERALL The Pro-Series simply screams genius, especially if you're a walker.
Bag Boy Hybrid SE $165; 800-955-2269; bagboycompany.com
Specs Six-way dividers; two combination locks; seven pockets
Comments After the Rig, for its sheer uniqueness, the Hybrid SE will turn the most heads. And it doesn't stop at aesthetics. Seven pockets—including an oversized one for shoes—leave little space unused. (There's even two huge garment pockets.) Four Velcro straps secure the bag's top to curtail the overly curious from breaking the locks to see what brand you're playing.
Bottom Line BEST BUY If you're a traveler who rides, the Hybrid SE is your next golf purchase.
By Scott Mowbray
Not many years ago, few Americans other than the long-haul tourists who golfed Arikikapakapa in Rotorua—where the hazards are foul-smelling thermal mud pits—knew that New Zealand made great wine. Then the Kiwis, who had been watching the success of Australia's swaggering reds, broke into the U.S. market with some astonishing, nuanced whites. It was just one example of a repeating pattern in the wine world in which an obscure region (closer to home, think Washington state) finds its game and, through good marketing and intelligent pricing, makes like David against the three Goliaths of California, France and Italy. At the moment Argentina, mindful of Chile's success, has tangoed in with unexpected elegance.
All of this is good, but confusing to the drinker. What's next, Switzerland?The Republic of Georgia?