I love to walk when I play golf. I especially love to walk and carry my bag. I think golf is meant to be played this way. Having played overseas a number of times, I find that with very few exceptions, players in Great Britain and Ireland either carry their bags, pull a trolley (hand cart), or use a caddie. At least in the birthplace of golf, walking is an integral part of the game.
Here's what I look for in a carry bag:
- The right weight. It should weigh somewhere between 3.5 and 6.5 pounds. You might think that three pounds shouldn't make much difference, but believe me, your back and legs start to yell at about the 14th hole.
- Double straps. Since Izzo invented the dual strap about 10 years ago, more than 98 percent of carry bags use that feature. It helps your back, balances your bag, and prevents fatigue.
- Easy on, easy off. Not all double straps are created equal. Some are positioned so they are a pain to use.
- Great legs. They must be lightweight and easy to open and close. And, they must keep the bag upright on uneven lies.
- The right number of pockets. Five is perfect: one for balls; one for tees, divot repair tools, and ball markers; one to hold golf gloves so you don't wad them up; one large enough for a rain suit; and one to hold everything you dump out of your pockets. Too many and the bag becomes too heavy. Too few and you can't take it on the road.
Here are my favorites (alphabetically):
It's extremely lightweight -- four pounds or so -- yet still has enough pockets to carry everything you need.
The skinny: You could easily go 36 on Saturday with this bag. ($190)
Izzo is the pioneer of dual-strap technology, and its new swivel straps make for easy on and off. The zip-off apparel pocket can lighten the load.
The skinny: Izzo has a new look and some new ideas -- all to make an already good thing better. ($189)
This bag has a lot of padding in the straps and lumbar support. It's lightweight enough to make it around 18 holes with full pockets.
The skinny: This is vanilla ice cream -- but rich vanilla ice cream. Nothing fancy, just a good, solid bag. ($160)
Nike Tour Lightweight
Nike chose to use the original Izzo strap system, which, for my money, is better than the new version.
The skinny: Nike, as you might imagine, did most everything right in its first try at a carry bag. ($160)
Ping J Bag
Ping practically owns the carry bag category, especially among junior and college players. The J Bag is slightly smaller than the Hoofer 2, cutting back on the Hoofer's roomy storage space. The legs work much better than on previous Ping bags.
The skinny: This is Ping's best bag yet -- plenty of storage, easy to carry. ($150)
Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5
Lightest by far of all -- except its smaller brother, the Superlight 2.5. Great straps; easy on and off. Titleist SX-26 is essentially the same bag ($135). Both are terrific.
The skinny: Your feet might hurt after seven straight days of golf, but with this bag, your back will feel just fine. ($150)
Best straps: Izzo wrote the book on double-strap technology and is still the leader with innovations like swivel straps that allow easy on and off. Nike uses the original Izzo straps on its Tour Lightweight bag.
Easiest on and off: Most bags are easy to get on with the first strap. But you can spend a lot of time finding the strap that goes over your left shoulder. The Izzo straps are the easiest and most comfortable.
Best new feature: Callaway, Nike, and Ogio all have a putter well, situated so the putter won't bang into the other clubs. At first it seemed nerdy, but the more I see it, the more I like it.
Most caddie friendly: Ping's Hoofer 2 and J Bag each have a separate system for carrying the bag with a single strap. Caddies love these.
Best legs: The Jones Club, Izzo Lightfoot, Ping J, Ping Hoofer 2, Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5, and Titleist SX-26 all have legs that stand up under pressure.
Most imaginative use of storage space: Club Glove uses a series of detachable pockets to hold everything from cigars to cell phones to a PDA. However, if you load it down, you'll be relegated to a cart. This bag is no lightweight.