By Kiel Christianson,
When's the last time you got to a green and suddenly realized you were missing your favorite wedge? For some of us, the feeling of panic is akin to discovering that your child has wandered off in the mall.
Cleveland Golf feels the pain of forgetful golfers. They have recently introduced a golf bag with Club Count Technology, which promises to remind us when we leave a club behind on the green. Or in the fairway. Or in the rough. Or in the woods after we answer nature's call. Or - well, you get the idea.
The Cleveland bag protected by Club Count Technology ($200) is a sleek but, at least on the exterior, unassuming cart bag. There are eight pockets, a single well-padded shoulder strap and multiple loading grips. There are also exactly 14 club bays, with dividers extending all the way to the bottom of the bag.
Exactly 14 club bays - this is a clue as to the technology hiding inside.
Well, that and the Club Count logo stitched in one of the small pockets. Inside that pocket is a small on-board device about the size of a fuzz-buster. Upon closer inspection, you'll also notice two small, red LED lights on either side of the club bays.
Once your clubs are all loaded into the bag, you press the On/Off button on the small device, and the bag beeps briefly, and the light inside the pocket and on the outside of the bag flash. After 10 seconds, the flashing subsides, and your bag is armed.
If you take out two or more clubs but return fewer, the bag waits 10 seconds and then beeps at you and the lights flash. This is, in case you hadn't guessed, the alarm letting you know that you're missing a club. And unless you are not only absent-minded but also extremely alacritous and a dangerously fast cart driver, you won't get too far without remembering you've left a club behind.
I've demonstrated this bag to several players over the past weeks on the course and have been barraged with questions, which, it seems, the engineers of this spiffy bag have already accounted for.
First, the bag does not go off if you only take out one club and do not return it. According to Cleveland, research has told them that golfers hardly ever forget a club if it's the only one they've taken out. So, you can chunk a 7-iron, drive up to the ball with the club in your hand and try again.
Second, once you return the wayward club, the beeping stops and the lights stop flashing (eventually). Third, there is a delay between the moment you return one club and before you return a second one before the alarm goes off, to allow for time to wipe off the face.
I have to be completely honest: Before testing this bag, I thought it was a total gimmick. There was no way, in my opinion, anyone would buy it or, quite frankly, that it even worked.
But when I showed it to golfers on the course, I heard comments like, "That is the coolest thing!" and "I need to get one of those!"
Now, these golfers were older, and most of them sheepishly admitted to leaving a club or two behind in the past. Rodney Dretsch, men's club president at Soldiers Memorial Field Golf Course in Rochester, Minn., noted that the guys in his weekly league were always forgetting clubs. But David Richardson, head professional at Soldiers Field, only half-joked that the bag would seriously cut into wedge sales at the pro shop.
"We'd never sell another wedge!" Richardson said.
As for performance, I noted three main concerns: First, there are only 14 club bays. If you carry a ball retriever or extra clubs for testing, etc., you're out of luck.
Second, some of the zippers on the pockets are sticky and hard to close.
Third, due to the Club Count Technology, the bag is quite heavy, although not significantly more so than many PGA Tour-sized staff bags.
Finally, over the course of five rounds using the bag, it went off spuriously three or four times - despite the presence of all 14 of my clubs - triggering a momentary bout of the aforementioned lost-child panic. Fortunately, after all clubs are accounted for, it's easy to turn off the bag and restart/reset it.
In short, for those of us suffering from senior moments on the course, Cleveland's Club Count bag might be worth the investment. Now, if they could come up with a device for golf writers who don't leave clubs but tend to misplace our cameras, notebooks, cigars, lighters, business cards, etc., etc. ...
For more information, visit www.clevelandgolf.com.
September 9, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.