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Review: Sun Mountain’s WeatherShield jacket

The golf season is underway in those parts of Canada where the runoff has (mostly) evaporated and anxious proprietors, buffeted no doubt by a combination of winter-induced cabin fever and economic apprehension, have opened the first tee.

Down in Niagara Falls, where the weather tends to turn temperate a little earlier, some of the marquee layouts _ Stanley Thompsons Whirlpool, for instance, or the McBroom layout at Legends on the Niagara _ have taken the wraps off the 2009 season.

Elsewhere in Ontario, including the Ëœgolf belt, a happy strip of sod that arcs over the top of Toronto like a lush green rainbow, a great many of the provinces workhorse courses are throwing open their doors this week in anticipation of a crowd of golfers randy with Masters hysteria.

Of course, the Canadian spring is hardly Augusta in April. The mercury still struggles to get out of single digits during the first half of the month, and snow is often not far from the forecast. So if youre going to play, youre going to need something to wear.  wshld-jkt-red

Enter Sun Mountains latest 2009 outerwear line, aptly named WeatherShield.

The last time the Missoula, Mont., based apparel maker shook the foundations was in 2007 with a remarkably flexible, lightweight, comfortable material called RainFlex _ a stretchable, breathable, yet water-repellent fabric that was nowhere near as bulky, noisy and restrictive as traditional rain gear.

The only knock against RainFlex was that it didnt hold up as well as a traditional waterproof shell under a heavy downpour, nor did it offer much in the way of warmth. WeatherShield is designed to take up the slack on both counts.

Essentially a combination of the RainFlex outer shell and an inner lining of fleece, the WeatherShield jacket is a more robust, substantial garment than its predecessor, although it still feels relatively light to wear _ something akin to a mid-weight sweater. Its a tad bulkier than the RainFlex line, and you have to be careful what you wear underneath: if youve ever tried to put fleece on over fleece, youll know what I mean.

Overall, however, the WeatherShield is a warm and cozy jacket thats perfect for those unpredictable spring days. It lacks the adjustability of some of its costlier, feature-rich competitors _ no elastic cinch cables or annoying Velcro tabs to mess with here. Instead, the jacket provides a little extra room through the midsection, but hangs nicely off the shoulders with a minimum of bunching or excess material.

The stand-up collars a nice touch, too: when things really get nasty, it will provide complete neck protection, but when it warms up a little, zip it down and the collar shifts unobtrusively out of the way. The cuffs are just thin elastic bands that    wshld-jkt-whtdont appear as though theyll stay put, but surprisingly, they seem to do the job.

Mobilitys no issue, either. I fully expected the WeatherShield to bind across the shoulders in the backswing, but the stretchy properties of the outer layer offer just enough give to make you forget youre wearing a rain jacket at all. And because its not a traditional rain shell, its virtually silent _ none of the noisy swish that comes with traditional rain suits.

The WeatherShield includes just two zippered front pockets plus a smaller one on the sleeve that looks like it might be well-suited for an iPod Nano or something of similar dimensions; I didnt feel the need to use it much. But I was especially appreciative of the fact that while the jacket didnt seem to hug my middle-age man-curves, it also didnt give that tenty, oversized appearance thats usually the alternative.

Sun Mountain _ which, incidentally, has scored the contract to outfit the 2009 Presidents Cup team, all of whom will be rocking a new RainFlex collection when they hit Harding Park in San Francisco this October _ offers a mens jacket as well as a reversible vest, with an MSRP of $140 and $100, respectively.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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