I was recently playing golf with a men’s group at a local club, and was paired with two new guys that I hadn’t met before. After getting to know them for a bit, I started to notice how their bags fit their personalities to a T. One carried a 25-year-old Ping hoofer and the other toted a white Vessel carry bag with his name embroidered on the ball pocket. The Ping bag is one of the original stand bags, a classic, and a perfect fit for the 45-year-old musician who carried it. This guy is an artist and nostalgic, certainly not the type to get caught up in the latest trends. He clearly bought his bag when he got into golf, and there’s been no reason to change, so he’s riding it out. Contrast that to the Vessel owner... who spends money on his game left and right, even daily when he gets a slow hour at the office. This guy takes his golf game very seriously, likes to have nice things and works hard at a profession where he can toss money into his game without thinking twice. The kind of guy that sits on his computer through the winter and gets fired up thinking about the upcoming season and starts making reckless purchases. That’s how you end up with an expensive embroidered Vessel carry bag... which I must admit is a pretty slick bag.
The type, brand, color and general set-up of one’s golf bag can give you a window into their life and personality. These bags carry the energy of the owner themselves. They show everyone at the course what kind of vibe the player is bringing with them. Similar to the clothes you wear, but more specifically, the bag is a reflection not only of your personality, but of your game.. so let's get into it.
The basic separation is the carry bags vs. cart bags. Of course there are bags that function well in both scenarios, but let's start with the quintessential cart bag.
This bag is just great. It undoubtedly goes into storage at the home course, the outside staff throws it on a cart when the player gets there, there’s not much lugging around of this bag. It could also be a gated community situation, with a personal cart, and the bag eternally latched onto the back. Either way, this is a sedentary lifestyle. Sure, maybe the occasional member guest pops up and you gotta throw the sticks in the trunk, but that bag isn’t going far. There are ladies with these bags for sure, in fact, they’re more common with the fairer sex, but in terms of men, this guy most-likely has a huge gut. Probably enjoys a few sodas throughout the round, in a cart packed to the gills with old scorecards, dirty golf towels and scuffed up golf balls. The typical modern “cart bag” often has a slot for each of the 14 clubs in the bag. It's stiff, has a million pockets, and is typically bought by people that are clueless and have no taste for golf accessories.
The old school cart bag can be really cool, almost like an antique. If the player has one of these bags, and potentially throws it on a push cart, the norms don’t necessarily apply here, and this is a legit scenario (Generally, I’m anti-push-cart, but I’m warming up to them). The antique cart bag is a great option for the guy that plays a few times a year, probably had the bag handed down from a couple generations, and likes to hang onto the good memories on the course with family. Also, why spend money if you have a perfectly functional bag that’ll only be dug out of the garage a couple times yearly?
The other end of the spectrum is the staff bag. It’s one thing for a tour player to have the staff bag, and even then, most guys will have a secondary bag for playing at home. If you aren’t a coach, head pro, or tour player, it says a lot if you have a staff bag. You’re trying to look cool, and make yourself feel like a player, when most-likely you’re a 5 handicap that’s about a 16 if you were being honest with your scores. It’s a pretty ostentatious statement showing up with a staff bag, and if you don’t have the game to back it up. Not a great look.
And then there’s the world of carry bags.
I’m personally inclined towards the moon bag, or Sunday bag. It has always been a favorite of mine. Minimalistic with no stand and a single strap. The moon bag with 11 clubs is my sweet spot. It’s amazing the difference in weight it makes taking 3 clubs out of the bag (8, 6, 4 or 9, 7, 5). With a moon bag, it feels like you aren’t carrying anything at all. A few times on the Latino tour when I didn’t have a caddy, I’d take 4 or 5 clubs out of the staff bag and carry it around myself. Talk about a clown move.. but carrying it was no big deal. It forces me to be a little more creative a few times a round, knocking down the longer club or trying to nuke the shorter one... and makes walking around much more enjoyable. Initially, I liked the moon bag when I saw guys carrying them with the clubs facing backwards with the opposite arm draped around the heads. You watch someone carry their clubs like that and the only logical thought is... that guy is a stick.
The stand bag is the most common in the golf world. I always love seeing home course representation on the bag. Gotta promote your home club, and support your pro shop with your purchases. Normally, however, this means you got pro shop credit from the third-place finish in the member-member, and you’d already stocked up on enough balls the year. Either way, it’s nice to show pride in your home track, and a nice conversation starter when you’re playing elsewhere.
There are so many brands to choose from when it comes to carry bags, and the brand you choose says a lot about what you’re bringing to the table. Of course there are people who put zero thought into it, take what is given to them and maybe play twice a year in a corporate outing or on vacation. However, for the regular player, each brand carries a distinct stigma. Let's touch on a few.
Ping is the most iconic golf bag brand. They really set the standard when I started playing in the 90s and 2000s. The Hoofer really was the best, and I think it's still better than anything that’s made today. The straps were simple, easy to put on and comfortable. At junior tournaments, Ping bags were almost a must. It sounds so ridiculous writing it, but you HAD to have a Ping bag to be cool. It was just a question of how old it was, what model, and what color. Guys would put their AJGA sticker either on the foot of the Hoofer 2, or underneath the bottom of the bag, which had the year you graduated high school on it. It showed you were a member of the AJGA, the pinnacle of junior golf, which told everyone that you were a player. Nowadays things have evolved, as more companies are making better products, but Ping certainly had the market cornered early in the Tiger-boom days of golf.
Titleist says you are clean cut, top of the line in appearance, and professional. Sun Mountain says you think practically, and you're probably more of the outdoorsy or rugged type. They generally weigh slightly less, so it shows you’re digging into the minutia of the purchase. Nike says you like the flashy colors, and you haven’t changed bags in a decade. PXG shows that you have money, and you also have the belief that if it’s more expensive, it must be better. I’ve touched on Vessel, but I will say they set the standard in Staff bags, and the carry bags are awesome as well. Vessel is a classy brand, nothing too flashy but highly functional with high-quality material. Callaway and Taylormade make bags but are fairly forgettable. Stitch is one of the newer brands that make “cool” looking bags.
Then you have Jones, which started the whole stand bag game back in the day. Jones way the it bag of the 70's and 80's, and currently I’m using a Jones stand bag that LFG founder, Scott Riley, lent me. The single strap cushion is like butter.
More broadly than the brand, your golf bag, like the game itself, is a microcosm of your life. Are you scrambling on the first tee to find a coin and a golf ball? Or have you pre-marked your balls the night before and have everything organized in specific pockets? You can learn a lot about someone by looking inside their bag. What do you have in there for your 4 hours of solitude away from your wife or responsibilities? Is there a speaker? A flask? Or are there training aids, because you’re singularly focused on improving and preparing for your next outing?
Look at someone’s bag the next time you’re at the course and take a deeper dive into the information you’re receiving. I think you’ll garner some interesting insight into that person. Or maybe not, and I’m reading too far into this. Either way, the golf bag is most certainly for the player, not the game.