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Christmas Gift Guide

By: Joel Zuckerman


TallBoy Carbon Bicycle

At first blush, golf and mountain biking seemingly have as much in common as Shaun Micheel and Shaun White. The former is a PGA Tour journeyman nearly as well known for his medical battle with low testosterone as for his out-of-nowhere win at the 2003 PGA Championship, the only victory of an otherwise so-so career.

The latter likely has no such problem with testosterone; he might well have his photo in the dictionary next to "daredevil." White's action-sports expertise, primarily in skateboarding and snowboarding, is without parallel. "The Flying Tomato" has amassed nearly 40 medals (mostly gold) in the Olympics, X-Games, and various other competitions where adrenaline and athleticism go hand in hand.

However don't dwell on the differences, but instead think of the synergy between the two pursuits. Both are outdoor sports in which getting back to nature is part of the appeal. Both are gear-intensive, with special shoes, gloves and headgear de rigueur. Both rely on ever-evolving technology (Lighter! Stronger! More Resilient!) that gives hope to those trying to improve their performance. Granted, one involves more mud-spattering, body armor and bone breaks than the other, but you get the general idea.

In honor of these noble pursuits, herewith a Holiday Gift Guide geared towards fun in the Great Outdoors:

Santa Cruz Tallboy is one of the most attention-getting mountain bikes on the market, not to mention its recent accolade as Bike of the Year. "Tallboy" refers to the fact it has 29-inch wheels, which is the new standard in trail biking. The wheels are much larger than the previous standard of 26 inches, which affords fewer pedal strokes in cranking the bike uphill, and more stability plummeting downhill. Add in the lightness and stiffness of a carbon-fiber frame, the advanced geometry and top-end components that are hallmarks of the brand, and you have one of the finest velocipedes in the off-road world. www.santacruzbicycles.com

Miura K-Wedge

A Miura Wedge is more than one of the finest blades you can buy. It's also a statement that pronounces the owner as someone who wants and appreciates the best of the best - it's the Stradivarius of the sand. It takes the soul of an artist and the mind of an engineer to produce the distinctive fluted sole wedge that has reinvigorated thousands of short games and provided confident, high-spin exits from countless bunkers and thick lies around the green. Few can afford a Patek Phillipe or a Ferrari, but the finest wedge in the world is within the budgetary constraints of many discerning golfers. www.miuragolf.com

Tin Cup - Foursome Package

Tin Cup is a perfect stocking stuffer in the way that a wedge or a bike is not. This unique and eminently affordable golf-ball marking tool allows the user to express their individuality in literally hundreds of ways. Just place the cup over the ball and stencil in the design of your choice: college, pros, nations, animals, hobbies and holidays - the list is endless, and allows for customization of the golf ball without paying the premium associated with custom-logo balls. www.tin-cup.com

Shimano SH-XC30

Shimano Mountain Bike Shoes are among the industry standard. Unlike the modern golf shoe, which is built to be flexible, there is an inherent stiffness in a mountain bike shoe. This allows the effective transfer of pedal-stroke power from the foot to the crank, without undue bending or energy loss. But in addition to stiffness, a specialty shoe like this must also be lightweight, breathable, and supple enough to allow at least a bit of comfortable walking from the parking lot to the trail, or post-ride, from the trail to the nearest tavern. www.shimano.com  

Ecco's Men's Street Evo OneHybrid Outsole Shoe

Ecco Biom Golf Shoes continue to gain traction among aficionados, well beyond their unique stabilization bar specifically designed to enhance movement during the golf swing. Ecco engineers and designers know that the human foot is fine-tuned for movement, with 26 bones, 32 muscles and tendons, and 107 ligaments acting in concert as a natural shock absorber, cushioning the force of impact with each step. This shoe technology brings players closer to the ground to help increase power and stability and, by mirroring the path for natural movement, Biom's ultra-lightweight construction and extremely low-profile design creates a solid platform from which to play golf. www.ecco.com

TaylorMade's JetSpeed Driver

Taylor-Made's JetSpeed Driver is the latest offering from the industry leader, perhaps named due to the fact that they bring out new models with jet speed. In fact, JetSpeed is following close on the heels of the SLDR (referred to as the "Slider" driver.) The SLDR driver is a revolutionary new club featuring a sliding weight system that allows the golfer to easily and efficiently manipulate ball flight from a fade to draw. JetSpeed is the company's first-ever driver to incorporate Speed Pocket technology, utilizing a low and forward center of gravity to promote distance and accuracy with less spin. Both are excellent products, and either one is an improvement over what's currently in the bag. www.taylormadegolf.com

Zoic Mountain Bike Shorts

Zoic Mountain Bike Shorts, at a quick glance, could easily be mistaken for golf shorts. They have a traditional look completely at odds with the skin-tight Spandex standard most people associate with cycling apparel. Of course, look closely and you'll see all sorts of funky pockets, vents, mesh locking zippers, taped seams, a fully removable padded liner, etc., that make these shorts fully functional on the trail as well as something you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear in a restaurant, sitting down for a post-ride lunch. www.zoic.com

TRUE Sensei Shoes

TRUE Golf Shoes are among the first in the industry built on a minimal platform designed to enhance one's ability to move naturally. Originally inspired by the barefoot trend in running, TRUE has emerged as the trendsetter in golf's burgeoning hybrid golf shoe market. These minimalist golf shoes are a bit odd-looking, but undoubtedly among the game's most comfortable shoes. They are comfortable directly out of the box, with no break-in period necessary, and that's not something that can be said about many of the more mainstream brands. www.truelinkswear.com

Vans Shoes

Vans Shoes are decidedly not golf shoes, nor are they mountain-biking shoes. But even the most avid participants are off the course or trail far more than they are on. Vans are casual, colorful, utilitarian, stylish and ooze California Cool. There are plenty of people who, despite the rise of the "Tiger Generation" over the last 15-plus years, consider golf to be stodgy. Dedicated golfers can help turn back that stuffed-shirt image by slipping on a pair of Vans post-round; they have been making wearers look hip since the first model came out more than 45 years ago. www.vans.com

Joel Zuckerman, called "One of the Southeast's most respected and sought-after golf writers" by Golfer's Guide Magazine, is an award-winning travel writer based in Savannah, Ga. His seventh and latest book, entitled "Pro's Pros - Extraordinary Club Professionals Making Golf Great!" was released in June 2013. This is the first-ever golf book to shine the spotlight on the beating heart of golf - the unsung, yet hard-working club professional. Joel's course reviews, player profiles, essays and features have appeared in 110 publications, including Sports Illustrated, Golf, Continental Magazine and Delta's Sky Magazine. He has played more than 800 courses in 40-plus states and a dozen countries. For more about Joel, or to order this unique new book, visit www.vagabondgolfer.com.

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