Golf Bags Buyer’s Guide
Are you considering a new golf bag? Plugged In Golf is here to help guide you through the many options so you can make an informed decision. Whether this is your first time buying or it’s time for something new, the good news is the right bag is out there.
We’ll discuss each of these in detail, but first, bag types:
- Staff – the big ones you see pros (or, more accurately, their caddies) carrying
- Cart – designed to be strapped to a golf cart
- Carry – lightweight with double straps, most often with legs
- Sunday – ultra lightweight, meant to carry a few clubs for an easy stroll
As you can imagine, the lines between bag types are blurry. Increasingly, manufacturers are adding features or massaging the norm in each segment to appeal to consumers’ wants and needs. The first thing for you to establish is what your bag will be doing 80% of the time when in use, and be realistic. Do you typically drive up to a bag drop, get a cart, and go? Or do you carry your bag to the driving range and practice frequently? Do you like to stuff your bag with apparel for every weather possibility? Is storage for a cold 6-pack a must? Everyone utilizes their bag a little differently, so let’s explore the options.
Not just for professionals, you can pick up a stock staff bag at most retailers for $250 to $500. These will have a large brand name on the side, and you can get your name added to the front pocket. For a truly unique bag, companies like JStewart Golf will create a custom staff bag for $500 to $700. This is a great way to promote you and/or your business. You can read about the ordering process and review of the PIG bag pictured above here.
Staff bags are big and roomy so make sure you have adequate trunk space if you don’t have a cart to keep it on. Staff bags do stand up on their own nicely, which works well when you are trying to show it off. Just be ready for the attention you will get if your game doesn’t match up with your high profile bag. Bottom line – a custom staff bag is as cool as it gets. With that said, don’t show up at a caddies only course or event with this bag; they’ll just switch out your clubs to a ‘house’ bag.
Pro – Built for show
Cons – Heavy, cumbersome, and impracticable for most golfers
As the name implies, cart bags are meant to be utilized on a golf cart. This segment boasts plenty of pockets in materials that bring it in around 7 or 8 pounds – several pounds lighter than a staff bag. The bag top is typically 10″ to 14″ across, and you’ll need to choose between individual club slots or roomy sections. Either way the dividers should be full length to the bottom of the bag allowing smooth club retrieval and shaft protection. Manufacturers call the number of slots/sections “X-Way”. So a 14-way top is individual club slots. With a 6-way, your clubs will need to share sections.
As you contemplate club arrangement consider the orientation of the bag on the back of the cart. Same goes for evaluating pockets and zipper locations. And pay attention to how the wide nylon strap of the cart will secure the bag – a good bag will have a feature built in to take the guess work out. A staff favorite at PIG, the Sun Mountain C-130 pictured above may be the perfect cart bag (retail $230). Rigid handles at the top make it easy to get in and out of your trunk, pockets are expertly oriented toward the user, and the materials scream quality. Similarly as mentioned above, this in not a bag for courses that require caddies.
Pros – Perfect if you own your own cart or never walk, room for all your gear
Cons – Not good for walking the course or travel
Once again, the category name speaks for itself. Whether you mainly transport your golf bag to the practice area or truly enjoy walking 18 holes, a carry bag is designed to make the effort as easy as possible. Carry bags have dual straps, one for each shoulder to evenly distribute the load. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, carry bags have pop out legs making your clubs readily accessible. But be sure to check the sturdiness of the legs and their pop out mechanism before you purchase a new bag. Some bags require surgical precision to pop open and others topple over if not perfectly level.
Tops are in the 9″ wide range with 4 to 6 sections for clubs. The bag pictured above, a Sun Mountain Three 5 Zero-G (retail $230) is an upgrade to the class leader Three 5 (retail $210) for even more walking comfort. Bag weight (3 to 5 lbs) and number of pockets vary greatly in the carry bag arena, so again be realistic about how much gear you want to store and how far and often you walk. If you mostly walk check out the Sun Mountain 2Five bag to save a few more pounds while maintaining features not found in Sunday bags. Many bags in this segment will have a water bottle holder built in for staying hydrated, but can also double as a place to keep a tube of divot sand.
Pros – Good compromise for those who walk, ride, and enjoy having their bag at the practice range
Cons – Clubs fit snugly, pocket orientation set up for stand positioning – not cart
Finally a category name that’s not so intuitive. A Sunday bag is super light weight, typically has a single strap, and just a couple of small pockets. Although you can probably cram all 14 clubs in the bag, it’s best utilized with half as many. This is a bag for easy walking, a quick nine holes, or maybe a par 3 course. Prices range $40 to $1,000+ for a handmade, custom bag.
Matt Saternus recently wrote a comparison of some of the best Sunday bags which you can find HERE.
Pro – Great for walking
Con – Very limited room for extras
All the bags described will have loops for attachments such as towels and brushes. All but the Sunday bags should have some accommodation for a large umbrella. Staff and cart bags most often have a dedicated slot for the umbrella, while a carry bag will likely just have loops or ties. Rain hoods are again common in all but Sunday bags. Any bag of quality should have at least one velour lined valuables pocket. You may find upgrading to a waterproof bag well worth the cost after getting caught in a down pour and finding your warm clothes, wallet, and cell phone soaked and useless.
Most golfers will gravitate to the cart or carry bag categories. If you can’t quite decide, look for category hybrids. Manufacturers are adding legs to some cart models. And some carry bags are approaching the size of cart bags. If you end up with a cart bag, consider picking up a truly lightweight carry or Sunday bag to have as a backup for traveling or for that last minute invite to a club that utilizes caddies.
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One of the best and most concise bag articles I have read. Thank you Matt. Ray
this is a very good and more necessary article about golf bag. i have got more necessary idea from here. thanks a lot for this best idea
Do you have a publication that rates scotty Cameron putters against each other and other putters. it would be very welcome and a big help to me.
Rated how? On what metrics?
Really nice article. My only comment is that if you use a push or pull cart, a cart bag is easily the best option, they are not just for riding carts. Clubs do not bunch and the 2-3 extra pounds makes no real difference.
Actually I have a second – if you want a carry bag, do not discount a single strap, you can carry left or right shoulder clubheads forward or back, holding or not holding the other end of the bag behind you, basically eight ways. As a former orthopedic guy and biomechanical specialist, this is a consideration as most dual straps are very “fiddly”, having tried them all from the very first IZZO bag from the IZZO guy himself. What little I personally carry any longer, I use a single strap, but it may not be for you.
Did you ever stop and think all the necessary things actually put in your golf bag. I read this article and have to say, It’s an amazing and informative article for everyone that want to take items on his bag.
Hi Matt, Good summary–thanks. I’m headed to Ireland in Aug 2021 for a 7 day golf swing through 6 links courses, and will be part of a group. At 68yo, I’m not inclined to carry my own bag (6 courses in 7 days), will rent a cart (or “trolley” over there), and may use a caddy once or twice but not regularly. I have a hard shell carrying case, and will probably take only 9-12 clubs to minimize travel weight, but will take LOTS of golf balls .A waterproof bag is a given.
What bags do you recommend I consider? .Thanks!
For waterproof bags, we’ve found good success with the Sun Mountain H2NO and the Big Max DRI Lite.
I have had bags of different construction. The staff type is constructed w/ plastic tube and cart bags are typically constructed with a round ring at the top and bottom connected with wires in between. The cart bags always fall over when fully loaded with clubs, balls, clothes so I do not care for them. I have been lucky to get the staff type in a smaller size similar to the cart bags but cannot find them anymore. I have had Taylormade and my current Mizuno with the tube construction. My Mizuno is a little large on the power cart but does not bother me for the push cart. Mizuno is getting old and my friends always complain about the little largeness of the bag. Is there any that you can suggest with the tube type construction in a cart bag size?
I don’t think I’ve encountered a tube construct George. I can tell you the cart bags I’ve used from Vessel do not fall over. They also offer smaller staff bags that might fit your criteria.