Posted by Rob Rigg
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?
- 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.
By Rob Rigg (written 2009 – updated 2013)