CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Some folks say the best way to fight the golfless winter blues in the north is by putting on your living room carpet. Others take a golf trip to warmer climes. Others go to indoor simulators.
Me? I like to clean out my golf bag. Remove the accumulated detritus of last season, scrub the clubs, refresh the grips, and cull scuffed balls. All the better if I have a brand new bag to arrange everything in. Hey, maybe bag feng shui is the key to lower scores?
As golfers become more concerned about their health, stand bags designed to be carried around the course are growing in popularity. Here are three new offerings that each offer unique features to appeal to the carry conscious.
Burton golf bags have been carried in all the major international match-play competitions. Long held in high regard by industry insiders, Burton is finally updating its image and product line. The company's new stand bags are more fashion-forward and utility-oriented than ever before.
Burton's Alpine offering (MSRP $139, www.burtongolf.com) is the lightest of the three bags tested here. And other features earn high marks as well. The Cool Comfort straps wick perspiration away from your shoulders and are extremely comfortable. One of the nine pockets is insulated to keep a beverage or two cold. And the Cinch Tight system is easy to adjust.
This bag is sporty, although somewhat less stable than the other two heavier bags. There is a five-way club divider, but no dedicated putter bay. This is a perfect bag for younger golfers who want to look cool and don't yet have too much extra junk to weigh them down (you know, cell phones, Ace bandages, nitro tablets).
The Sun Mountain MPB (MultiPurpose Bag) (MSRP $170, www.sunmountain.com) is considerably heavier than Burton's, but it's engineering and flexibility give it an edge in a usually either-or market. The MPB is designed to serve equally well as a stand bag when you walk, and a cart bag when you ride.
The superb engineering touch are the full-length zippered sleeves into which the stand bag legs retract when the bag is not being carried. This keeps them completely safe from hooking on any of the other clutter you've got in your trunk and snapping off. Ditto when strapped to the back of a golf cart.
The extra weight of the MPB comes from the 14-way divided top with full-length padded club dividers. There is also a dedicated external putter tube (which won't work so well with really long putters), and an insulated beverage pocket among the eight pockets.
If you walk and ride regularly, this is the bag for you.
Now if you really want flexibility, no carry bag takes it to the extreme like the Aficionado II by Club Glove (MSRP $179, www.clubgolf.com). Billed as the world's first and only fully modular golf bag, all nine of the pockets and even both of the straps can be unsnapped from the bag in almost any imaginable configuration.
The bag can thus be as heavy or as light as you want it to be. If you're into customizing your bag according to the weather, the event, or the course you're playing, this bag is way cool. It is also handy for traveling because you don't have to unload your entire bag to lighten the load; just unsnap the pockets filled with stuff you don't need while on your trip, and snap them back on when you get home.
The Aficionado II's shoulder straps are so heavily padded, they felt a bit cumbersome. But one very nice touch is that the left strap (for righties) slides off easily while the right strap is fleece-lined, so it gaps your shoulder and doesn't come off until you're ready to set the bag down. The only design flaw is that the stand legs cannot be trapped down during transport.
So come on! Chase away those winter blues, load up a new bag, and resolve to walk off a few extra pounds this season. Stand bags like these make walking fun again.
January 15, 2005
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
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