What are the most important things to consider in buying a golf carry bag?
The challenge in buying the perfect golf carry bag is weighing all of the possible trade-offs in manufacturers, features and price. There are an immense number of models to choose from. Whether you want an ultralight Sunday bag or a ginormous stand bag to use at the driving range and on a golf cart, there is a model for you.
This Buyer’s Guide presents the main factors and trade-offs that you should consider in making your purchase. And we will explain a little bit about our own biases in how we select top models.
Our biggest bias is that we prefer full function bags that are durable, reliable, easy to use and comfortable when walking 18 holes on a hot, sunny day. The bags also have to be golf or push cart friendly for the days when we don’t feel like carrying the full load.
The factors we care the most about are: Weight; Getting clubs in and out of the bag; Ease of carrying the bag, Storage/pockets, Stability of the bag; Extras and Value.
Golf Carry Bag Weight
Full service carry bags can range from 2+ to 7+ pounds. Every ounce added or subtracted represents a tradeoff in one way or the other. The weight of the bag is driven by the material of the “cloth” and various handles, stands and straps, the number and size of the pockets, the size and composition of the bag top including number of club sections and whether the dividers extend to the bottom of the bag.
Our preference: We look for bags that range between 4 and 6 pounds. We utilize manufacturer weights throughout this website.
Getting Clubs In and Out of the Bag
In looking at bag specs there will always be questions about:
- How many sections/slots are there for the clubs? Models come with anywhere from 3 to 14 sections in the top opening.
- How many dividers are there and are they full length? Some bags have no dividers below the top opening while other have dividers that fully separate all 14 clubs
- What is the diameter our dimensions of the top opening? The range is typically between 8 – 10 ½ inches across
These specifics are all important in terms of whether your clubs will easily move in and out of a bag and whether they will become entangled within the bag.
Our preference: We prefer bags with openings that are between 9 – 10 inches in diameter with 4 – 7 top sections and at least 3 full length dividers. Any greater number of sections tends to add unneeded weight and decreases the ease of moving clubs in and out of the bag. Also, in some instances the greater number of openings (for example 14 individual slots) makes it difficult to insert larger grip putters into the bag.
Ease of Carrying the Bag
In thinking about the ease of lugging the bag around the first and most important consideration is the quality, comfort and adjustability of the shoulder straps and whether they provide optimal balance and weight distribution. Beyond the shoulder straps you must consider other aspects of the bag’s features for being carried: Does the bag have a top handle? Does it have a handle on the spine of the bag? And, does it have a bottom handle, strap or hand hold for easy grasping?
Our preference: We prefer bags that have two straps and/or a harness configuration. These provide the best weight distribution for walking 18 holes. We would hesitate to purchase a bag without top, spine and bottom handles. Whether lifting your bag out of your car trunk or moving a bag a few yards to the fringe of the green the extra handles make for quick and comfortable movement of the bag.
Talking about pockets is like reading “The Three Bears”. Too many! Too few! Just right! In recent years there has been a staggering growth in the number and specialization of pockets. The range is as few as three pockets to upwards of twelve. And each of these multiplying pockets has a supposed different function that span velour personal accessories pockets to beer coolers to GPS pockets to full length apparel pockets. In addition to the pockets there are all manner of attachment options for towels, umbrellas, balls, pencils and tees as well as Velcro patches to secure your glove.
Our preference: Too many pockets and attachments encourage golfers to use their bag as a storage locker. Too few pockets just creates an unorganized mess. We believe that somewhere between 7 – 9 pockets is “Just Right”. A velour pocket to protect your smartphone or GPS is nice. A full length apparel pocket to carry raingear (if there is a chance of rain) is also nice. An insulated, easy to reach, sleeve for carrying a cold drink is also a plus. The towel ring is mandatory. Avoid the extremes and find the happy middle.
Stability of the Bag
The modern full function carry bag comes with a stand that levers away from the bag to enable a tripod stance. Judging stability comes down to the width of the legs, the solidness of the connection of the bag bottom to the ground and the angle of the bag when the legs are extended. If the legs are too narrow or the bag stands too vertically then the bag can tip easily even by a gust of wind or an uneven ground slope. Other considerations for the stability are the feet of the legs. If the feet are too narrow than the bag legs can sink into wet or loose sand.
Although not necessarily impacting stability of the bag, the legs should also be sturdy and well designed for a prolonged life. This aspect comes down to the ruggedness of the lever points and fastenings to the bag. Also, the legs need to be constructed in such a manner to lie snuggly against the bag when you are walking. Loose legs will cause them to dangle and rub up against your legs which is not an enjoyable situation.
Our preference: There are too many variables to define exact angles and lengths but our preference is for significant diagonal angle with a wide stance of the legs and for the feet to be designed to prevent slippage or sinking into the ground.
To simplify your selection process we have only identified bags in our reviews that have appropriate stability features and that have gained strong customer support for their overall stability and durability.
Although the other factors are the most important for the average golfer, there are always added benefits and features that will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and from model to model. A few of these “extras” to look for and consider are:
- Style – Do you like the way the bag looks? How many color combinations does it come in and is one of those color combinations your favorite?
- Cart friendly – While we spend most of our reviews trying to find the perfect bag to carry, the reality is that many of us will occasionally hop into a golf cart or use a push cart. So, does the bag easily fit into a cart and is it stable? Or, does the bag tend to twist around in the cart? Does the bag have a strap channel so that the cart’s strap can easily lock the bag into place without obstructing key pockets.
- Rainhood – Virtually all bags come with rainhoods. Some bags creatively attach the hood to the bag so that it is out of the way during sunny days but always with you when a flash storm pops up.
- Can the shoulder straps be removed – Although we tend not to remove the straps when using a cart, some folks prefer to remove the straps / harness when utilizing a cart. Removing the straps can improve the fit of a carry bag on a golf cart.
Value is subjective. It weighs the price of the bag with your perception of the bag’s features, benefits and shortcomings. If the bag exceeds your wildest expectations you are going to be willing to pay more for it. If the bag is a horrible mess then you won’t be willing to pay much to buy it. Carry Bags can range in suggested manufacturer’s retail price from $50 to over $300. And as usual the best values are somewhere in between the two extremes.
Our preference: We prefer to purchase a high quality, easy to carry, feature-rich, durable carry bag with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) between $150 – $210. We then search for bargains on Amazon.com to purchase our preferred bag at 20 – 30% off full retail.
We have reached the end of our 2016 Golf carry Bag Buyer’s Guide. We hope you have found the information helpful. You should click on one of the following links to continue your selection process!