Free Golf Balls! (For My Friends and Me)

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At a rich-guy club several years ago, I stopped by the golf shop to buy Pro V1s, and when the assistant behind the counter told me how much they were I said, “Oh, no, just a sleeve,” but—ha-ha!—the joke was on me. I bought them anyway, because I didn’t want some kid to think I couldn’t afford fifteen dollars apiece for golf balls. During my round, though, I played away from trouble, and I never went for anything in two. And when I got home I moved three slightly beaten-up Pro V1s from my shag bag to my golf bag, because by doing that, I figured, I was cutting my average cost in half.

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Recently, my friends and I have been using significantly less expensive balls, called Vice Pro. They were sent to us by Vice Golf, a German company, whose founders are shown in the photo above.

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The company has just started selling in the United States, and it’s eager to receive the tsunami-like marketing boost that follows any association with the Sunday Morning Group. Vice is the official ball of the German Golf Association, and Vice Pro won a gold rating in Golf Digest’s 2015 Hot List, and Titleist has endorsed the design, in a way, by suing the company (and several others) for copying the Pro V1’s patented dimple pattern.

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One of the many lawyers in SMG worked for Callaway during its (successful) lawsuit against Titleist over something similar, and the lawsuit took forever so I know from experience that we won’t have to send our balls back to Germany anytime soon. And that’s a good thing because everybody seems to like them—and not only because the ones we got have our (unpatented) logo on them. (Vice offers several personalization options.)

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Vice balls are sold only online. The ones we got were a great price (free); they’re more expensive if have to pay for them ($35 a dozen for the top-of-the-line Pro balls), but they’re still cheaper than the competition, and they’re even cheaper if you’re willing to order more than one dozen at a time. (If you buy five or more, the price drops to $25 a dozen.) The shipping cost ($7) is the same no matter how many you order—a further incentive to stock up. Tim has already re-ordered, and as soon as we’ve got some cash in our slush fund we’ll think about adding the Vice logo to our Jägermeister sweatshirts or our Famous Smoke Shop hats.

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Another Beef About My Golf Bag

The annoying part in question, lower right-hand corner.

While we’re on the subject of golf-bag design, I’d like to raise the topic of legs. My first Sun Mountain bag (which had the Titleist name on it) worked great, and I liked it so much that I wore it out. My second, third, and fourth Sun Mountain bags, however, had a problem that it took me some time to diagnose. After a while, the bag stand on each would become noticeably harder to use, and eventually I found that I had to really slam the bag on the ground to get the legs to extend far enough to make it stand up.

Titleist bag (made by Sun Mountain) with the same problematic leg joint.

The problem, I finally realized, was that that the plastic joint connecting the leg to the bag had twisted, from the stress of repeated use, and no longer pushed the legs out as far or as easily as it had originally. That couldn’t happen with the original design, because on those bags the joint was super-sturdy—a solid hunk of plastic that couldn’t be torqued out of alignment.

Bag with original, untwistable leg joint.

I solved this problem for myself by performing a radical legectomy on my first Sun Mountain bag (which I still had in my garage because I never throw away golf stuff) and transplanting those legs onto my current Sun Mountain bag—which now works great. I mentioned this to Rick Reimers, the C.E.O. of Sun Mountain (whom we should all bow down to for his long record of fearless innovation), at the P.G.A. Golf Merchandise Show, in Orlando, back in January. He wrote down my gripe on an index card but said he’d never heard of it before. I know I’m not making this up, because other guys I play golf with have noticed it, too. Or maybe we just play insanely many rounds and therefore have difficulties that normal people don’t. Thoughts?

Sun Mountain, Please Fix This Problem

Sharpie inserted all the way into the pen holder on Tony’s Sun Mountain golf bag.

I own pretty many Sun Mountain products—golf bag, push cart, rain suit, travel case—and I’m generally satisfied with all of them. I even defended Sun Mountain’s rain suits after all that trouble at the Ryder Cup. But Sun Mountain golf bags (and golf bags that Sun Mountain makes for Titleist) have an annoying defect that I first pointed out to the company, to no avail, eight or ten years ago: the pen holder on the bag (see photo above) is too shallow to engage the pocket clip on the cap of a Sharpie, which is the de facto official indelible ball-marking pen of the game of golf. As a result, the pen holder cannot be used for the only thing it’s meant to be used for. If you put a Sharpie in the pen holder on a Sun Mountain golf bag, the Sharpie will fall out, either during your golf round or, later, when you throw your bag into the trunk of your car. Making the pen holder a half-inch deeper would cost nothing but would solve the problem. Why hasn’t this been done?