The Walking Golfer’s Issues with Modern Carry Bags

Posted by Rob Rigg
October 2009

As walking golfers, we spend a great deal of time carrying our golf bags around, unless we are pushing them of course.

I am constantly amazed at the “complexity” of modern carry bags that can be found at most golf retailers and I will comment on this development from the perspective of a minimalist walking golfer in the following essay, while also making some recommendations to consider while evaluating golf bags and discussing ideas to help minimize carrying weight.

What is the purpose of a golf bag?

  • To carry your clubs and golf balls
  • To carry other items you may need on the course such as a jacket or water bottle
  • To hold items that you may want to keep close, such as a wallet and cell phone

What are some other elements of a carry bag that walkers tend to benefit from?

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to carry
  • Minimal stress on your body

So what is the ideal template for a golf bag?

As a minimalist walking golfer I believe that the MacKenzie Golf Bags is as close to perfect as you can get – they have two pockets, a single strap and little internal structure.

However, if you want a stand and double straps, then there are several options out there that are light weight and simple. Perfect for carrying. The Sun Mountain Stryder is a personal favorite of mine.

What are my issues with a lot of Modern Carry Bags?

1)  There are too many pockets.

I have seen some supposed carry bags with upwards of ten pockets, each apparently with its own unique purpose. How could anyone possibly need ten pockets and how could you use them all while keeping track of your items?

I think that four pockets is sufficient for a golf bag. One for balls, one for tees/markers, etc., one for a jacket and another for wallet, valuables, iPhone, etc. I have a MacKenzie Sunday Bag with one pocket and I can fit everything in there that I need.

My suggestion here, is simply to evaluate what you want/need to carry in your golf bag, and buy one that meets your requirements without unnecessary “bells and whistles”.

2)  There are too many dividers.

Why do you need fourteen dividers, or eight? Do you even carry fourteen clubs? If so, do they all need their own individual compartment?

I think two sections for your clubs is enough. Six at the most. If there are two sections then your woods and putter live in the top and the irons go in the bottom. If there are four or six sections then woods and hybrids go at the top, long and mid irons in the middle, and short irons and wedges at the bottom. Your putter can live in the top or the bottom with its fancy headcover.

3)  While often light in “empty” weight they encourage golfers to pack “heavy”.

Even a one pound bag only weighs one pound when it is empty. As soon as you begin adding clubs, jackets, balls, tees, range finders, GPS devices, brushes, markers, umbrellas, etc., etc., your bag quickly turns into something that belongs at boot camp, not on a golf course.

The key question in the carry bag debate is – What do you absolutely need in your bag to enjoy a round of golf?

  • Clubs – probably 8 to 12 (Each club is a pound of weight)
  • Golf Balls – a sleeve to a dozen depending on handicap (An extra couple of sleeves adds up)
  • Towel – the new microfiber towels are fairly light and hold water really well
  • Jacket – only if necessary
  • Water Bottle – to stay hydrated (A small bottle that you refill throughout the round is best)
  • Wallet, keys and cell phone which can go in a valuables pouch or valuables pocket.

Beyond these items, everything else can be carried in a pant pocket or left in the car.

If you pack light, then you can probably drop at least 5 lbs from your bag, which is a huge difference over eighteen holes.

4)  There are way too many unnecessary clips, loops, rings and slots on most modern golf bags.

What do we really need on our bag that cannot fit in a pant pocket? A towel and maybe a bag tag.

  • Scorecard holder? That is what your back pocket is for.
  • Rangefinder pocket? Use a D-Ring to clip it on or lose some weight and look at the sprinkler heads.
  • Sleeve for a Sharpie? Mark your golf balls ahead of time or just leave it in your ball pocket.
  • Clip for your groove cleaner brush thingy? It’s called a tee.

Here are some additional ideas to decrease the weight of your golf bag:

a)  Drop the umbrella unless it is really wet

How often do you really play in the rain?

I lived for several years Pacific Northwest and played all year round. If it looked like Noah’s Ark is going to float by then I would stay home. If it is drizzling a bit, then I would just walk through it and make sure to have a couple of extra gloves in the pockets of my waterproof jacket and maybe an extra towel. An umbrella is often nothing more than dead-weight.

On a links course when the wind is up, an umbrella is usually turned inside out or blown away. It is useless.

An umbrella will add a few pounds to your bag, so even if you like to carry one when it might rain, remember to take it out when it is dry, your body will thank you on the back nine.

b)  Think about losing the stand . . .

I know this is controversial.

There are several disadvantages to the stand bag:

  • The lifespan of the legs are usually not more than one or two seasons, especially if you travel
  • The mechanism that opens/closes the legs requires a stiff and uncomfortable “barrel” body
  • Unloading a stand bag and popping the legs open can be more awkward than sliding off a single strap bag

There are also several advantages that make stand bags popular:

  • Keeps your clubs off the ground when it is wet and keeps your towel hanging clear of debris
  • You do not have to bend down to the ground to select a club

Stand bags are obviously very popular, and for good reason, so if you are going to buy a stand bag find the lightest and most minimal possible to increase your enjoyment on the course while reducing stress on your body. To take advantage on the natural shelf where you back meets your butt, ratchet up the straps so the bag can rest there while you are walking, it makes a big difference over eighteen holes.

c) Try a single strap

If you decide to lose the stand, then consider using a single strap which will allow you to make use of the “stick” method of carrying a bag which greatly reduces the weight of carrying on your back and shoulders. To use the “stick” method, just throw your sticks over your shoulder, so they face behind you, and use your other arm to pull the top of the bag horizontally across your back so the bag rests on the shelf on top of your butt. Your arm will hold the bag in place and it will feel very light. When you slide the bag off your shoulder it will land on the bottom, standing up, making club selection easy.

Regardless of the type of golf bag you decide to use, please consider keeping it as light as possible and leaving any unnecessary items in your car or at home.I fear that the evolution of modern golf bags has helped drive fellow golfers into carts and off their feet because they do not think they can carry the weight of a bag for a full round without injury and they do not like the idea of a push cart.I think it is time for the golf industry to simplify their carry bag designs and provide the consumer with products that help them minimize total bag weight, not increase it.Again, what is the benefit of a 1 lb bag if there are 25 lbs worth of clubs, balls, accessories and junk sitting in, or hanging off of, it? None.So walking golfers, please consider developing a minimalist attitude which will allow you to reduce the weight of your bag as much as possible to help prevent fatigue and injury while making your round more enjoyable.

By Rob Rigg (written 2009 – updated 2013)


25 Comments

Scott
January 22, 2013 9:50 pm — Reply to this comment

Welluntil Rob fixes this blog/site I am opting out Rob. Your blog has numerous spammers. I guess you need you need to go to some type of captcha to be able to post. I have had a dozen spams within a few days…before that posts would be every few months. 🙂

Scott

Looper Johnny
January 16, 2013 11:36 am — Reply to this comment

Hey, Ive been walking most of my adult life, In 1999 I came up with a bag design that received a utility patent . It has been a struggle bringing it to market.The design has very good carry qualities . I just cant seem to get it produced. The home made prototype is working perfectly.
Golf companies wont take outside ideas or have no buget for development & research. I’m not sure what to do

Rob Rigg

Not many companies investing $$$ in golf bags these days. Tend to make products that last a year or two and then you have to re-load.

Scott Phillips

Good for you! If you haven't patented it yet, do so and get help if needed. Then look into Kickstarter to find additional funding... Good luck!

Will
October 3, 2012 8:31 am — Reply to this comment

For anyone still looking to buy a good walking bag you should check out Jones Golf Bags. They are old school light weight bags (no stand) with a single strap and three pockets. I purchased mine not long ago and absolutely love it! Enjoy your walk.

Rich
September 18, 2012 2:20 pm — Reply to this comment

I have been researching golf bags for the 2013 line ups, and I stumbled across Ogio’s Line and I have found out that Ogio is probably the best bags out there, and I got one. I used it and loved it. I purchased one of their lightweight bags and I can feel the difference.

http://www.vegasgolfpros.com/Ogio_Stand_Golf_Bags/

Dave C.
July 27, 2012 2:00 pm — Reply to this comment

I just bought a Sun Mountain Sunday bag, no stand. It was on sale at $ 50, the last one the big golf store had. It has a lot of doodads and pockets, but except for a few balls and tees, will not see the pockets used. For the price, even on sale, I hope it lasts a while. The material seems flimsy, but hopefully made of some space age material that is more durable than it looks. With my usual 5 or 6 clubs, effortless carrying is the rule.

The Jones bag I got as a gift last year was NOS, still in the package when I got it. A week or so ago, I was horrified to see one of the side seams split open about 5 or 6 inches. I’ve sewed it up myself, (didn’t do a great job) and it’s still usable, but a split like that on a new bag, was very disapointing. I hope the Sun Mountain fairs better.

Dave C.

Been using the Sun Mountain Sunday Bag (no stand) for over two months now, with 6 clubs max. Seems to be holding up very well. At least it's holding up better than me. Last Sunday, after a few swings, I felt severe pains in my left shoulder (I'm left handed.) When I practice before a round, I hit a few balls RH, then go back to LH. After the RH swing, the left shoulder hurt, after the pain subsided, I hit two LH. Severe pain, I knew it was time to quit.

On and off through last week, the shoulder hurt occasionally on movement, and ached a little. Home treatment included Motrin and rest. Yesterday was the first day I didn't experience any actual pain. Will give it another week or so to recuperate before I attempt to hit a ball.

My late mother used to say that if a person is sick or injured for a period of time, that person needs that much time for recuperation after the pain or sickness subsides. Sound advice. However, the wife says I needed to see an MD right after the injury. Sound advice also, but I don't listen to her.

Happy golfing!

tim
July 25, 2012 8:48 pm — Reply to this comment

I carry on my left shoulder and hate double strap bags. why don’t they make simple single strap bags that don’t cost an arm and a leg? Our bags were canvas with a stick in them when i was a kid. Wish i had one now.

Scott S.
May 8, 2012 3:59 am — Reply to this comment

All,

Has anyone tried the newer version of the Sun Mountain Sunday X Stand Bag. I believe it was changed in 2011 or so to a bag that will handle 14 from 8 though I am not interested in carrying that many.

Any users? Love to hear some real world reports/reviews on it.

Thanks,
Scott S.

Ed Nelson

The Strider bag I mentioned below is the lightest stand bag Sun Mountain makes. The Sunday X-Strap weighs in at 2 lbs, but again, no stand. It does look very substantial, with a waterproof vinyl bottom, and one side of the X-Strap can be used as a single strap. Check: http://www.sunmountain.com/. Fairways and greens!

Ed Nelson
April 13, 2012 9:30 pm — Reply to this comment

I recently purchased the Sun Mountain Caddie Bag. It has a comfortable, well-padded single strap so your caddie (yeah, right…) can carry it over either shoulder. A hand hold on the bottom makes it easy to carry across your back, resting on your posterior. The strap clips on and off quickly, and coupled with the Velcro leg tie down, makes it a great bag for my ClicGear 3.0 push cart (or a hock, spit, ptooey powered cart, if you must). The bag is on the larger side for a carry, 9.5″ in diameter, 4.5 lbs, with four dividers. It has the long garment pocket on one side, a shorter pocket on the other, and a coal chute ball pocket/beverage holder on the front. The bag is durable, the hardware and zippers are sturdy, there are no large logos, and it is made in the USA.

Ed Nelson

OK, OK... I decided the Sun Mountain Caddie Bag would be good on the carts (push or powered), but not so much for a quick nine with a handful of clubs. So, I snagged the Sun Mountain Strider. The Strider is a compact, ultra-lightweight bag for the walking golfer. It is a 7.5", 3.65 lb bag with dual straps that works well as a single strap for short carries. It has two dividers, six pockets, and a cart friendly bottom. Again, this bag is durable, the hardware and zippers are sturdy, there are no large logos, and it is made in the USA.

Adam
April 7, 2012 5:12 pm — Reply to this comment

Exactly, so what is the SIMPLEST lightest golf bag. How about a link?

Rob Rigg

I don't think anyone has created the ultimate light weight bag - The MacKenzie TWG Llama or Sherpa are great - very light and water resistant. If you want a stand then Sun Mountain and Ping probably create the best simple standbags IMO.

David Hillman
March 19, 2012 3:37 pm — Reply to this comment

Rob,

I agree whole-heartedly with almost of your comments, except regarding stands. In point 4, you worry about the weight of scorecards, Sharpies, and brush-thingies. Those extremely minimal weights matter far less when you don’t have to lift your bag 40-60 times each round. Most of the weight of a typical carry bag is in the club-heads themselves. 12 club heads with an average of 250 grams each weigh six and a half pounds total, around double the weight of light empty bags. A stand bag keeps that weight at carry-level for the entire round. If you take 50 shots in round, that’s over 300 pounds you didn’t have to lift.

The Holy Grail of walking bags is a simple, light, single-strap stand bag with a nicely-padded strap. Alas, no one makes one. I have a decade-old Ping Hoofer which is close, with a fantastic strap, but it could be simpler and lighter. I would buy a replacement if anyone made one. The only real downside to a stand bag is that it is impossible to make one with the traditional good looks of a MacKenzie, or similar.

Rob Rigg

Hi Dave - Since moving to the desert I have used a stand bag on more than on occasion. I have to admit that the proximity of the clubs and strap does make it easier to pick up. The only thing that frustrates me is how a single strap plus legs makes it impossible to use the stick method - so I tend to just use double straps with the legs. The perfect golf bag still has not been made - agreed!

Dave C.
November 21, 2011 11:25 am — Reply to this comment

I never used a “modern” carry bag, I guess. Some 15 or so years ago, I decided to forego trolling a huge staff bag around with 14 clubs and other junk. I bought a very expensive stand bag on sale and experimented with the number of clubs to play with. With 6 or 7 clubs, I had a hard time carrying the bag. I actually thought something healthwise was wrong with me, until I asked a playing partner to pick up my bag and try to carry it. He picked it up and advised me to return the bag to the store. I did just that and got my money back.

Oddly, a week or so later, I happened to stop at a garage sale on my way home from golf. The elderly gentleman had golf stuff by his driveway, so I had to stop. I spied a old Jones Vagabond ( no stand) in decent condition, and paid the man the $ 2 he asked for. I used that bag for years until it was in tatters. I threw it away a couple of years ago. I should have had it repaired, I think it was similar to the model Tiger Woods used as an amateur.

I currently use a Sunday Bag that was given to me as a gift. I usually use whatever club I last hit to raise the single strap so I do not need to bend. 5 or 6 clubs, with a few balls and tees is all is needed to enjoy playing golf.

I’m thinking very seriously about getting a MacKensie ballistic walker next year. Cheers!

Benjamin Hogan
November 18, 2011 9:47 pm — Reply to this comment

I am a junior golfer and I love my stand bag, it stands at my side so i don’t have to reach to the ground to pick it up, it has just the right amount of pockets (more than two), a double strap so i don’t have one saw shoulder and one good one at the end of the day and when it does occasionally rain the umbrella loop comes in very handy. What are you on about?

Rob Rigg

Benjamin - Some golfers enjoy using a stand bag - or a light weight stand bag - I get it. I have moved to the desert and often use a stand bag because it keeps my towel away from cactus needles on the ground. However, I still firmly believe that golf bags have been over-engineered and I often prefer carrying a light weight single strap bag because it is easier on my body than a double strap stand bag. Cheers.

Dennis
September 7, 2010 7:37 pm — Reply to this comment

Never heard of it called the “Stick” method but it reminds me of my younger days before the double strap and how I used to carry my bag. I have to admit, I never had a problem with the single strap but I’ve gotten used to the double strap when I first bought an “Izzo” back in the late ’90’s.

What you say makes a lot of sense and I’ve started looking at Sunday bags as I think it’s really all you need. Good post.

Dustin
June 17, 2010 8:03 am — Reply to this comment

Interesting topic. I actually have a Sunmountain Four 5 , one of the 14 divider carry bags. The concept of the carry bag you describe is refreshing for sure, and something that I’ll consider in the future. My only thought is that I spend alot of $$$ on my golf equipment and protecting it is a priority to me, so shafts bouncing off shafts in the trunk of my car and putters banging loose iron heads is the a concern for me and major factor when purchasing a bag. I love the idea of a less complicated pocket system though, and the legs of a bag aren’t a big deal at all and would have no problem laying them down.

Rocky
June 15, 2010 9:02 am — Reply to this comment

Rob,
Is this the method that you use in those photos for the Walking Golfer of the Year article? I’ve adopted the method as well after seeing those photos.
thanks,
R

Rob Rigg

Hi Rocky,

The stick method is the one shown in the TWG of TY photo - Yes, makes carrying a bag very comfy for round after round.

Brian Stubbs
February 22, 2010 8:18 pm — Reply to this comment

Rob-

I couldn’t agree more. I am a golf professional and sell quite a few golf bags. It always amazes me how much “stuff” some golfers think is necessary to be in their bag. I got to meet Todd at the Show and his product is exactly what the golf world needs….and nothing more. As I have said many times (though not an original thought) “less is more”…I feel that way about logo’s, golf bags, and damn near everything I come into contact with.

Good work on your logo – it is perfect and says it all – just what a good logo should do. Best of luck to you and know that you have friends all the way in Georgia!!

Brian

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