The Ultimate Walker
Thanks to Bandon Dunes and all of its spiritual offspring, walking is making a comeback in golf. And whether you carry your own clubs or hand them off to a caddie, walking requires a lighter sling. For those that are considering making the switch to walking the course, I offer this comparison of five of the best golf bags for walkers – Shapland Sunday Bag, MacKenzie Walker, Original Jones Bag, CRU Legacy Bag, and Seamus Fescue Project (from left to right above).
If you want to read more about each bag, I’ve linked each review below.
Update: My favorite Sunday Bag is the Koger Bag. Full review HERE
These five bags represent a wide array of top designs. On the minimalist side, there’s the Seamus Fescue Project bag (above, left). The top, like the rest of the bag, has no structure, and is divided by two strips of leather that do a surprisingly good job at keeping the clubs separated.
The other bags in this group all have structured tops. Among those four, the Shapland has the most dividers with its 4-way top. MacKenzie has just one divider (above, middle). Both the Jones (above, right) and CRU (above, left) bags have their tops divided into three sections. None of these bags have full length dividers, so it comes down to preference regarding the number of dividers one wants.
Another thing worth mentioning is each bag’s structure. The Seamus and Jones bags have no spine which can make it more difficult to slide clubs in. MacKenzie and Shapland have spines which makes it easier to move clubs in and out but can be a negative if you’re trying to fold the bag to pack it or store it. CRU’s removable spine/alignment rod sheath gives you the best of best worlds.
To test storage capacity, I first put ten golf clubs into each bag so that the pockets would operate within their normal constraints. Then, I loaded as many golf balls as I could into each pocket. A pocket was deemed full when the zipper could not easily close or when additional balls could not be added easily. Total golf ball capacity for each bag is as follows (maximum of 185), with the number of zippered pockets in parentheses next to the bag name:
Jones (3): 185 golf balls
CRU (4): 185 golf balls
MacKenzie (2): 175 golf balls
Shapland (5): 130 golf balls
Seamus (1): 46 golf balls
Unsurprisingly, Jones and CRU won thanks to full-length apparel pockets. Despite having only two pockets, the MacKenzie Walker bag finished a close third. The Seamus bag burnished its reputation as the minimalist’s choice holding only 46 golf balls.
Beyond raw capacity, organization is worth considering. The Seamus bag has only one zippered pocket, but it has two other pockets (one with a magnetic closure) that keep things very accessible on course. Shapland’s five zippered pockets are the high water mark for everything getting its own place. CRU also gets high scores for pocket organization and layout.
Most of these bags have something out of the ordinary that gives it a unique flavor. Seamus has the drawstrings (above) which inspire a variety of creative uses, holding anything from towels to speakers.
Shapland is the least like a traditional Sunday bag thanks to its rain hood, double straps, and multitude of pockets. MacKenzie (above) has the walking loop at the base which makes for a more pleasant carry.
The CRU Legacy bag has two standout features. Its removable spine/alignment rod sheath is one of the smartest features I’ve seen. The Legacy also has a full sized handle at the base for easy loading into a trunk and for enhanced comfort while carrying.
Shoulder Strap & Handle
Three of the bags in this test feature traditional single shoulder straps. Shapland and CRU use a system that can operate as either a single strap or dual straps. CRU also has multiple anchoring points that allow the bag to be carried comfortably by virtually any body type.
If you assume that all shoulder straps are the same, a look at the photo above should change your mind. Players that want a very padded shoulder strap would do well with the CRU, Jones, MacKenzie, or Shapland straps. Jones had the thickest padding, and Shapland adds cushioning on the side of the bag to make the walk more comfortable. Once again, Seamus goes with the bare bones approach using a thick piece of cotton webbing.
Similarly, there’s a surprising amount of variance among the handles on these bags. Shapland, CRU, and MacKenzie have handles with a good deal of structure that stand on their own and are very easy to grab. The handles on the Seamus and Jones bags are simple leather loops.
This is the most straightforward category: I unloaded the bags and put them on a scale. Keep in mind that the weight of the Seamus and MacKenzie bags can vary based on the materials used and, for MacKenzie, the model you select. My Seamus is a bit heavier than average due to the basketball leather; my MacKenzie is the larger model and the mid-weight material.
Seamus: 2 pounds 13 ounces
Jones: 3 pounds
Shapland: 3 pounds 9 ounces
MacKenzie: 4 pounds
CRU: 7 pounds
With the exception of the Legacy bag, I was surprised to see that the weight differences were so small. With so little structure or hardware, I expected the Seamus Fescue Project bag to be the lightest by a considerable margin.
One other thing to consider with weight: having more and larger pockets will likely cause you to carry more stuff. If we were to consider the fully loaded weight of each bag, the Seamus would be the lightest by a lot.
Before I get into comparisons, it should be noted that all of these bags are strong in terms of quality and construction. I expect that no matter which one you choose, you’ll get numerous years of service out of it.
With that said, the CRU Legacy bag is number one in terms of construction and durability. The combination of leather and heavy-duty metal hardware makes it feel bulletproof. Though the bag has a complex design, you’d be hard pressed to find a single stitch out of place. The quality is exceptional.
The MacKenzie and Seamus bags, also handmade products, are in the next tier for expected durability. The material used in these bags isn’t as heavy duty (or as heavy) as the Legacy, but they are plenty strong to handle normal golf activities.
Aesthetics & Customization
In terms of the overall look of each bag, I’ll allow the photos to speak for themselves. I expect each golfer will find him or herself drawn to one particular silhouette and style over the others. I’ll instead focus on the ability to customize each bag.
The Shapland and Jones bags each come in a variety of colors with some custom embroidery options. Shapland can embroider the side pocket (above) and Jones has two spaces on the bag for embroidery or initials, all at an additional cost. The CRU Legacy bag is primarily offered in black, though other colors are available via inquiry. Custom embroidery of the ball pocket and custom colored zipper pulls are included at no additional cost.
The Seamus Fescue Project golf bags are typically available in limited runs of different materials. You’ll usually find tweeds, leathers, and some bolder prints. You can also custom order a bag with the materials of your choice.
Customization is where MacKenzie runs away from the field. Every element of the bag can be made to your taste, and it’s easy to spend hours on their Bag Builder page (HERE) dialing in accent colors and embroidery. The only downside is that custom embroidery can add $100 or more to the price of the bag.
The prices of these five bags varies substantially.
The Original Jones Bag, shown here, costs $150. Their Player Series goes for $170.
Shapland’s Sunday Bag retails for $275.
Seamus sells their Fescue Project bags for $595. Custom bags and some limited editions can cost more.
CRU Golf lists their Legacy Golf Bag for $785.
MacKenzie bags cover a large range. Their entry level bag is the ballistic nylon which retails for $399. In waxed canvas (seen here), the Original Walker is $735, the smaller Sunday Walker is $685. The most expensive MacKenzies are made of leather and cost $1,095 and $995 for the Original and Sunday, respectively.
If you’re looking for bang for the buck, you simply can’t touch Jones.
After hours of weighing, stuffing, and carrying these bags, the only clear answer is that there is no clear answer. Each of these bags is unique – which is a genuinely amazing thing – and that means they will each appeal to a particular golfer. I have and will happily play golf with each and every one of these bags.
If you want a one sentence pitch for each bag, here it is:
Jones: the hands-down winner for value.
Seamus: the king of minimalism.
Shapland: for the golfer who doesn’t want to give up all the features of their stand bag.
MacKenzie: for the golfers who need to customize everything.
CRU: for the walker/rider who wants a bag that will outlast them (and their children).
What bag do you walk with? Tell us in the comments section!
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Thank you, Matt. This is some of your best work, ever, and that is saying something! The bags and emphasis on walking takes us back to better days, but I am getting nostalgic. You had two notable omissions from this evaluation — and I say that acknowledging you have to cut somewhere and not every OEM wants to provide stock. The two bag companies I am thinking are Vessel and Stitch. Vessel isn’t really marketed as a “lightweight carry bag”, so I can understand that, but the omission of Stitch, with their online and high end private club growth was curious. That nitpick aside, suffice it to say, this review deserves to be bookmarked.
I used to love stand bags, except that they all fail (some way too soon) and you have to buy a new bag before you really should. The other weak link in a lot of bags are the zippers.
Folks looking for a new bag should also consider Elliot. Great hand-hade bags from SC with a few models, lots of customization, great materials, features. and construction. Another great one is MacDonald Leathergoods. Innovative design, absolutely the best leather and perfect construction, heirloom quality that’s immediately apparent. And the best strap and zippers.
These bags both cost more than average but should last at least 20 years of regular use. When you factor in no replacement costs for subsequent bags and the joy to carry, their value rises to the top of the class. We have a lot of good options right now and these small shops deserve a look and maybe a phone call.
I love reading Plugged-in Golf, my first read every morning for five or more years. This is a great example why. I use a push cart, have no intention of carrying a bag, but this column is a fantastic read, entertaining and informative. Keep it coming. Thanks,
Great review! I grew up using a Jones bag and used one all through high school and college golf. Simple but effective. And always used the single strap with the bag carried backwards. Bought a Jones bag a couple of years ago after the company was brought back to life and I love it.
Great review. I enjoy switching to MacKenzie from my Scotty Cameron with Bag Boy cart when I want some more exercise, feeling minimlist or play 9.
Grew up with Jones bags. Moved to stand bags in 90’s and early 2k. Went back to Jones when company was resurrected. Absolutely love my Jones. As a committed walker, I feel they have it dialed in to perfection.
Great review. Impressive information. I use the Jones Original.
Ive got a new Ping Moonlite and I love it. Can hold full set if needed, plenty of diverse storage, as opposed to one big pocket. Good price too – under $150.
I always enjoy Plugged In Golf product reviews. On the light carry bags, seems like the Sun Mountain 2.5 or 2.5+ should have been included in the review, simply a fantastic lightweight carry bag w/stand, can have either 14 club divider or not, double strap, plenty of pockets, just seems like a miss not to include this as a great lightweight carry option
I have several carry bags
Jones and Mizuno scratch sacs are standouts
The Ping carry bag has a pole in it to stiffen the spine and is a good bag tho not as nice material as Jones or Mizuno
I play early, and had a Jones bag. Laying a bag on the wet turf did not work for me. I love the concept of these bags. but it didn’t work for me.
Jones was always the bags for high school and college golf , used a jones for years
Good test to run, as there is too little attention paid to those of us who still walk. However you missed the best bag: the Sun Mountain Sunday X-Strap. I’ve had one for years and its held up well. It holds 14 clubs easily, the two pockets probably could carry 2 dozen balls or more, several gloves, dozens of tees, and other gear like sunscreen, and has a water bottle pocket. You could probably fit a rain jacket, too; but if I carry I try to limit the weight. I only carry six balls, about 10 tees, and my rangefinder is a Golf Buddy watch. If I use more than that I go to the clubhouse and start drinking. Just saw one of these, new, on eBay, for $99. I’m sure I paid less than that at Rock Bottom Golf several years ago.
Lifting the bag off the ground reminds me of when I started playing golf in the 1960’s. Interesting review but I recommend the Stitch SL1 golf bag- under four pounds with a stand. I like the single strap compared to dual straps I had used for years on Sun Mountain and Titleist bags. Comfortable to carry. You do need to be creative with storage, which is limited.
Thanks for this, Dave. I wondered about the Stitch bag and wrote to Matt earlier in this string about them. That said, I am a bit p/o’d by Stitch’s newest SL-1 bag that is premium priced……. only because it has a better strap than the original.
7 lbs for the CRU is ridiculous–totally takes it out of the question. I have two Mackenzie Walkers–ballistic nylon for wet days, and a beautiful custom leather walker with my club logo. I had the wisdom to purchase these when they were considerably less expensive. The walking finger loop at the bottom of the bag lets you sling it over your back and it is just as comfortable with a soft well padded single strap as any double I have ever carried. Finally, an ingenious inexpensive “x ” shaped wooden trestle converts it into a stand bag saving a lot of extra bending. The pockets are GINORMOUS with plenty of room, more then many stand or cart bags. If you can’t tell—I’m a fan !!
Very good idea, i have checked the details that you have included here, can I share this on my social?
You’re more than welcome to share a link to this article on your social feed.