2019 STAND BAG BUYERS GUIDE
Are you happy with your current golf bag? How could it be better? Do you wish it had a bigger insulated pocket or a rangefinder pouch? Is there enough storage to carry the basics along with a rain suit, plenty of snacks, and enough water to keep you hydrated all day long? With companies more serious than ever about golf bag engineering, there’s a good chance that a new bag can improve on what you have right now.
While most understand the lines between staff, cart, and stand bags. Even within the confines of each of category, there is a tremendous amount of variety. Not all stand bags are created equal. If you’re a devoted walker, forgoing features in favor of weight savings and all-day comfort makes sense. If you push or ride a good bit of the time, more versatile hybrid bags offer nearly the capacity and features of larger cart bags while leaving the door open to walking the occasional 9 or even 18.
Whether you’re looking to buy a new stand bag today, are looking for some buying advice, or just want a closer look at what’s on the market right now, this guide will help you find the right stand bag to fit your needs.
How We Test
We’re here to help you find the perfect stand bag for your needs.
To do that, we employ a rigorous and fully independent testing process that leaves no zipper un-pulled, no pocket un-explored, and no stone unturned.
The Test Process
Bags are loaded with 14 clubs and two dozen golf balls. Testers are encouraged to load and unload clubs from the bag as they would over the course of a typical round of golf. Consideration is given carrying functionality, the design, accessibility, and usability of the pockets and other features.
The metrics we consider when rating golf bags include Features (35%), Storage Capacity (20%), Comfort and Functionality while Walking (25%), Weight (10%), and Style (10%).
Best Overall is awarded to our highest scoring bag in the test. In addition to an Editor’s Choice, Best Value may be awarded to a bag that offers excellent performance at a reasonable price. Finally, Best in Class recognition is given to bags offering features that push the established design envelope.
STAND BAG FEATURES THAT MATTER
While the quantity of storage is invariably a consideration. Focus on what makes sense for your individual needs. More isn’t always better. For some, a large side pocket might be unnecessary, while others will need extra space for their favorite training aids, a full rain suit, a waterproof hat, and rain gloves.
Water bottle pockets should be easily accessible and large enough to accommodate as much water as you need. When it comes to insulated pockets, bigger is usually better, especially if you’re a near constant snacker. Well-designed GPS pockets allow for one less thing to be clipped to the bag, while still allowing for easy access.
As with pockets, more isn’t always better. While riders and members of the Push Cart Mafia can take full advantage of 14-way tops and putter wells, avid walkers are generally better off with few dividers and the weight savings that comes with keeping it simple. While many divider configurations look similar, some do a much better job allowing you to pull clubs in and out of the bag with ease.
While it sounds obvious enough, do forget that comfort is a huge part of carrying. Nearly every bag is comfortable when it’s empty, but you need to consider how the bag feels on your back when its filled with 14 clubs, and all that other gear we just discussed. Simply put, the bag needs to feel as good on your back as it looks on the ground. Your bag should never get in the way of walking 18 or even 36.
Hand-in-hand with comfort, weight is a critical consideration for the walking golfer. While a single pound might not sound like much, the extra mass can dramatically affect fatigue levels throughout a round. A little extra weight can mean the difference between finishing strong or leaking oil on the back 9.
For those who push or ride, weight should be less of a concern. When the bag is rarely on your back, the massive storage, additional features, and more versatile tops found in hybrid bags can be well worth the extra weight..
The materials, the hinge point, and even the stability of the frame itself play a critical role in the design of a stable stand bag. A bag that’s stable in the store may not hold up when it’s loaded with gear. There’s nothing worse than a stand bag that can’t stand on its own on the golf course, no matter what the conditions.
EXPERT TIP – CHECK YOUR ZIPPERS
Zippers are an often overlooked component of good golf bag design. Even when durability and waterproofing are already the primary consideration, well-designed zippers allow for easy one-hand operation. You shouldn’t need to put the bag on the ground or use both hands to get at the gear you need.
- Don’t just count pockets. Always consider the quality and functionality of the storage space. A pocket with limited accessibility has next to no value. Look for pockets that are easily accessible, and can hold everything you need them to hold.
- Do you carry a GPS or rangefinder? If so, consider buying a bag with a thoughtfully placed magnetic pocket for easy access.
- If you walk or push more often than your ride, hybrid bags offer more storage space and their 14 or 15-way tops are more functional on push or riding carts.
- Conversely, if your bag is almost always on your back, fatigue can be an issue. Consider forgoing all but the minimum storage space necessary in favor of a lighter and often more comfortable bag.
- If you frequently play courses with limited or no water stations, you may want to focus your options on bags offering dual water bottle pouches.
- While waterproof bags can help, if your bag gets wet over the course of a round, be sure to empty it completely, put it in a warm, place, and give it adequate time to fully dry before using it again.
- Leather bags are often easier to clean. Nylon is lighter but tends to retain more dirt. For those looking to save weight and keep things looking fresh, consider a bag like the PING Hoofer, which allows the outer shell to be stripped off, and machine washed.
Next-Level Hybrid Bag – OGIO Alpha Convoy 514 RTC
For those who push or ride more than they walk, the OGIO Alpha warrants serious consideration. Offering a massive amount of storage, easy to grip handle, and innovative features like Fidlock magnetic towel loop and the interchangeable MOD storage system, the Alpha Convoy sets a new standard for hybrid bag designs.
The Alpha is heavy, but the extra weight is more than offset by its capacity and well-designed 14-way top. At $299.99 the OGIO Alpha is one of the more expensive bags in our test, but for golfers who go directly from the range to the cart (RTC), it’s just about perfect.
ULTIMATE STYLE – COBRA CROWN TOUR STAND BAG
Made by Vessel, this Cobra bag offers style for days. With its leather construction it’s in a class by itself, though like the OGIO Alpha Convoy, it’s well above the average weight for the category.
Offering a single strap system by default, The Cobra Crown Tour ships with an accessory strap that provides a bit more stability and comfort while walking – though unless you have someone to carry your bag for you, it’s better suited for riding and push carts. Other features include generous storage and two water bottle pockets.
Q: How much should I spend on a bag?
A: While there’s no definitive answer for everyone, we’ve found that well-designed, fully featured bags for avid golfers generally start at $150, with the majority of our top choices being in the $200 range. Golfers who play just a few times a year may be able to find a suitable offering for a bit less.
Q: Do I need an insulated pocket?
A: If your golf is limited to 9 holes at a time, you may be able to get by without an insulated pocket. If however, you’re on the course for the full 18 and prefer to carry a selection of snacks with you, an insulated pocket is essential. In general, when it comes to insulated pockets, bigger is better.
Q: How much does the strap system matter?
A: If you’re going to carry regularly, finding a strap system that works for you is mission critical. The seemingly smallest details matter. Look for strips with ample padding. Curved designs are generally more comfortable. When possible, you should test the strap system with the bag fully loaded to see if it’s a good fit for your body.
Q: Should I buy a bag from one of the big equipment brands?
A: While it’s true that often the top performers in our tests come from names you know, many equipment OEMs source their bags from 3rd parties like Sun Mountain and Vessel. Rarely do these white-label offerings match the performance of the top bags in the supplier’s own lineup.
Q: Does the top matter?
A: The short answer is yes. If you carry all the time, a 4 or 5-way top is almost certainly the way to go. Having fewer dividers makes getting clubs in and out of the bag easy. Bags with 11 to 15-way tops are more prone to snagging and are much better suited to push cart users and riders. Also, keep in mind that bags with 4-way tops are, on average, 2lbs lighter than those with 14-way tops
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