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Cigar for the Course

Smoking and Golfing Make for a Winning Combination
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 1)

Duval is not the only touring professional to pick up a cigar company endorsement contract. Jimmy Johnston carries the golf bag of Victor Sinclair Cigars on tour each week, giving his sponsor exposure to thousands of golf fans, as well as distributing free samples of the company's Victor Sinclair and Don Rafael cigars to eager Tour players. "We started shipping Jimmy 50 cigars a week," says company president Victor Long. "Now it's up to 200 a week on Tour. The players hang around Jimmy's locker on Tuesday [the first practice round of the week] waiting for handouts."

Victor Sinclair is a cigar company whose business is intimately, if not inextricably, tied to golf. It supplies the PGA Tour's TPC (Tournament Players Championship) Network of golf courses, makes private-label brands for events such as the President's Cup, and stocks the humidors at such prestigious links as Sea Island and a little old golf course in Georgia called Augusta National. "It's a great honor to sell our cigars to Augusta, even in the small quantities they require," Long says. "It's a way of showing our love for and commitment to golf."

Long says that smoking your favorite cigar on a golf course is in many ways a perfect marriage of two of life's great pleasures. "A round of golf gives people the time to enjoy cigars without interference. You're playing with friends, feeling the camaraderie. You're outside, enjoying the scenery. And cigars, of course, are all-natural, a part of nature. You probably couldn't find a more comfortable place to be with friends and smoke a cigar than a golf course."

Other big-name PGA celebrities, such as Davis Love III, the 1997 PGA Championship winner (featured in the August 1997 issue of Cigar Aficionado), and Brad Faxon, both confirmed cigar lovers, seem to agree. Though neither endorses any particular brand, they can often be spotted before and after rounds indulging in their favorite treat.

If you subscribe to the concept that a cigar is best enjoyed in a venue where one has the most peace of mind, where one can be simultaneously lost in thought and physically stimulated, then surely the links are a perfect setting. Moreover, if you believe the game of golf is best enjoyed when one is not paralyzed by swing thoughts and mechanical enigmas, when one can take time to look at the trees and "smell the tobacco," then a long draw on a good cigar is a great way to get in touch with the contemplative, spiritual side of the game.

Dormie Imports, Ltd., of Portland, Oregon, is a cigar company built on this philosophy. Dormie's president, Tom Whittaker, who admits to "a terrible passion for cigars and golf," thinks the typical cigar lounge in most major cities is sometimes too smoky for even the most committed cigar aficionado. "The golf course is one of the last safe havens for cigar smokers, a place to relax and enjoy," Whittaker says. "For someone who smokes an occasional cigar, this environment may, in fact, be the most enjoyable."

Dormie makes the Match Play brand, a series of Dominican cigars named after some of the world's greatest golf courses: St. Andrews, Prestwick, Turnberry, Troon, Olympic and Cypress. Sold exclusively to "A-list" retailers, medium-bodied Match Play cigars, according to Whittaker, are aimed at cigar smokers who appreciate the contemplative nature of decision-making and who possess the ability to relax in a competitive "match play" environment.

"Every time I start to get hung up on 'swing plane' and 'hip position,' I know it's time to clip a cigar and take a look around me," Whittaker says. "It's the surest way to get my game back."

How ripe has the golf/cigar marketing partnership become? In Scottsdale, Arizona, at one of the game's great merchandising centers, a 13,000-square-foot retail carnival called In Celebration of Golf, you'll find playing equipment, apparel, antiques and even painted-on-site fine art. You'll also find a cherry-wood humidor created by artisan Douglas London, which commemorates the Ryder Cup matches. The humidor's lid features the souvenir matchboxes of the past 32 Ryder Cup events, with the rosters of each team inscribed on the back of each box. The humidor retails for $590 (matches included, of course).

Scottsdale's other great proponent of the cigar/golf relationship also happens to be a major retailer of fine smokes. But this place is neither a golf shop nor a tobacco store: it's a golf course.

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