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|The Xtreme Element, at under 4 pounds, is Nike Golf's lightest bag ever. (Courtesy of Nike Golf)|
The latest carry bag from Nike Golf, and its lightest ever, the Nike Xtreme Element is a golf bag for all games.
There are two kinds of golf - walking and cart golf. And although both games are scored the same way, the experiences are quite different.
Unfortunately, most modern golf courses aren't conducive to walking. But during the rare times you have the option to walk, like at Phoenix's Papago Golf Course or San Francisco's Harding Park Golf Course, it's nice to have a bag that you can easily carry and carry all your gear in.
For that matter, even if you're not walking, a golf bag that goes in and out of the trunk without a lot of effort and is a breeze to tote to the cart-staging area is a plus, as well.
On both counts, the new Nike Xtreme Element, the lightest bag ever from Nike Golf, scores well.
It has a distinctively different design than most other manufacturers' carry bags. Weighing less than 4 pounds, Nike Golf has used the same aluminum materials used in today's bike frames and applied it to the exoskeleton frame of the Nike Xtreme Element bag, the latest model in the Xtreme Lite line. The uppermost portion of the stand is made of nylon-injected plastic for more durability.
There a few things I always look for first in a golf bag. How easily do the clubs go in and come out? How easy is it to pick up with one hand? How many pockets are there, and are they functional? How sturdy is the stand mechanism, and how easily does it work? And how comfortable and easy is the strap system?
On the first count, the Nike Xtreme Element has a five-way divider, with the woods in the largest opening at the top. I found that whether the bag is being carried or on a cart, I had no trouble removing or replacing clubs. With some carry bags, clubs often get stuck.
This bag is also easy to pick up with its sturdy pistol grip-like handle connected to the exoskeleton. Using one hand, the bag balances well, and since it's light, it doesn't take a whole lot of strength to lift it out of the trunk.
There are seven pockets with a large side pocket like most bags have, and three vertical pockets are at the bottom. With the rain cover in the right bottom pocket, it looks like you have a choice of the other two vertical pockets for golf balls. I chose the middle pocket, but you could go with either one. The only drawback is that I found myself reaching for balls from the wrong pocket from time to time because the ball pocket is usually more obvious on other bags, but really, once you get the feel for this bag, you go straight to it.
I used the other pocket for miscellaneous items like sunscreen, yardage books, a bag of tees, ball mark repair tools and extra pencils.
There is also a mesh pocket located on the left bottom. Ideal for a water or Gatorade bottle, it's in a good location when you're carrying your clubs, bringing access naturally close to your left hand for ease.
There are also two smaller pouches - one fur-lined valuables pocket in the upper right hand corner and another small pocket middle left. The top one is ideal for wallet and a cell phone; the bottom one I used for my keys and a small notebook.
This bag has a revolving strap system, meaning there is a swiveling mechanism on the connection of the left shoulder strap. This not only makes the straps easier to get on, but it also makes for a more comfortable fit as you move. They are also easy to adjust. The stand mechanism is also sturdy and retracts and sets easily.
With most bags, I won't carry an umbrella unless I'm pretty sure it's going to rain. The reason: Most bags have a poorly designed umbrella receptacle, making it difficult to remove the umbrella when it starts raining. When that's the case, you wind up getting wet anyway, so what's the point?
With the Nike Xtreme Element, there's a fabric loop about halfway up and one at the bottom, which secure the umbrella without requiring Rubik's Cube-type ingenuity to remove or replace.
The rain cover is a little above average. Like most, it snaps into place, but it has a Velcro strap to secure it, making it easier than some buckle straps. Club removal is through a zippered top. I still think Ogio's Hoode design, which uses tension rods and snaps back into place after club removal, is the most user-friendly on the market.
There are a lot of good carry bags on the market, and this is right up there with all of them. For example, I've always liked Ping's Hoofer bags if you do a lot of serious walking, because Ping's double strap system, once you get it figured out, is still the most comfortable and adjustable in golf. But Hoofers don't work as well on a cart as well as the Xtreme Element, which makes it more versatile.
If you only have one bag, this is a good choice, because it transports easily from the trunk, works fairly well on a golf car and is easy to carry. At $160 MSRP, it's competitively priced with other carry bags in this class.
December 22, 2008
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
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