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Nike Xtreme Element

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Club Storage
94
Legs
86
Straps
89
Pockets/Storage
83
Rain Hood
92
Carrying Impressions
90
Style
80
Innovation
87
Cost/Value
85

The Nike Xtreme Element is bargain priced (at least for a premium brand bag), and gets the job done. It won’t impress anyone with any of its features, but you won’t be cursing your purchase decision either. Think Kate Jackson in “Charlie’s Angels”. Or, if you prefer the 2000 movie version, think “a bit better than Drew Barrymore”.
Retail price: $160
Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Nike Extreme Sport Carry


94 / A

Club Storage
A 5-way top splits the club storage area of the Nike Xtreme Element into 5 sectors. There are two full-length dividers that run the length of the bag, so the club storage space is divided into three major sectors, with the 5-way top splitting two of the major sectors in half. For those who like throwing all of their woods into a single area, this is the perfect set-up. Nice and simple, just the way we like it.


86 / B

Legs
The legs on the Xtreme Element are skinnier than most, and while they are capped with rubber tips, they do not have the wide feet found on some competitors. As a result, even though they generally accomplish the task of propping the bag up, they don’t exactly inspire confidence – when setting the Xtreme Element down, we often found ourselves double-checking the stability of the bag before we would release the bag entirely.


89 / B+

Straps
Nike has extended its “Air” technology to the straps on the Xtreme Element, which have visible air bladders that provide extra cushioning on top of the regular padding. There are 4 adjustment points for the backpack-style straps. While the straps were plenty comfortable, we didn’t find a profound difference between these and the more traditional padded straps. One unique feature is that Nike’s “Revolving Strap System” allows the user to completely unclip one of the straps – handy for caddies who are hauling two bags at once.


83 / B-

Pockets/Storage
The Nike Xtreme Element features 7 total pockets.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with 1 small velour-lined valuables pocket along the outside of this garment pocket. One complaint is that the zipper for the garment pocket is tucked under a flap of material running the length of the bag, and the fit is so tight that the zipper is difficult to use. And while the garment pocket is large enough to hold the basics, it is noticeably smaller than the ones found on larger bags.
  • Two medium-sized pockets sit to the right of the spine of the bag.
  • A medium sized pocket sits to the left of the spine of the bag, with an additional beverage pouch (no insulation lining) along the outside of this pocket. Bonus points for the Xtreme Element for the manly size of its beverage pouch, which is capacious enough to hold even the largest of energy drink bottles.
  • 1 small pocket sits on the left side of the bag.

The Xtreme Element includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella and a ring for attaching a towel. There is no dedicated pocket for a pencil/pen, but there are four small tee holders.
A curved metal exoskeleton running down the spine of the bag drives the unique layout of the bag. In the end, it will store your stuff, but because of the unconventional pocket placement, you’ll have to do some experimentation with where you put things.


92 / A-

Rain Hood
The rain hood included with the Nike Element Xtreme is nicely done. The hood snaps to four buttons around the perimeter of the bag, and a strap is passed under the two legs, then threaded through a buckle to attach back to itself with Velcro. The snaps are extremely easy to secure, but for some reason, Nike made the strap almost exactly the same width as the buckle through which it must be threaded, requiring the user to show some needle-threading skills (not something you want to deal with if caught in a sudden rain shower). If the strap was an eight of an inch narrower, this would be a breeze.


90 / A-

Carrying Impressions
We generally enjoyed carrying the Nike Xtreme Element through our test rounds.

  • Weight. The Xtreme Element is among the lighter bags we tested, coming it at 5.2 pounds (including the rain hood).
  • Balance. With a little fidgeting of the straps, we were able to get the bag to balance, although it still had a tendency to feel heavier on the right side. Admittedly, this could be user error, but we didn’t experience the same problem with other bags.
  • Padding. Two thin pads are placed where the bag rests against the user’s lower back – this would have been a nice place to add some of that fancy “Air” technology.

80 / B-

Style
Oy vey – in our opinion, the Nike Xtreme Element was the homeliest bag we tested. Some combination of the color schemes and the design just didn’t float our boat. The bag comes in three color combinations:

  • Grey, with blue trim
  • Black, with grey and red trim
  • Silver, with grey, black and neon green trim

87 / B+

Innovation
As mentioned above, a curved metal bar runs down the spine of the Nike Xtreme Element. We’re not sure if it’s a lightweight solution to providing a little bit of shape to the bag, or if it’s purely cosmetic – in any event, it isn’t really a detriment. We give a few extra points just for trying something different.


85 / B

Cost/Value
The Xtreme Element is a simple lightweight carry bag. At $160, it tied for the least expensive bag we tested, but is relatively bare bones in terms of its feature set. This is a case where low price doesn’t necessarily mean the best value. While it gets the job done, we think there are more intriguing offerings at slightly higher price points.


OGIO Nexos

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Club Storage
87
Legs
87
Straps
90
Pockets/Storage
95
Rain Hood
85
Carrying Impressions
80
Style
81
Innovation
96
Cost/Value
81

OGIO basically throws everything (including the kitchen sink) into the Nexos bag. The good news is that some of the innovations are great. The bad news is that others still need a little bit of work. Oh, and the OGIO Nexos is the heaviest and most expensive bag we tested. So if you like gadgets, usually take a cart, and are price-insensitive, then this may be the bag for you. Frequent walkers who lost their 401(k) in the stock crash might want to turn their attention elsewhere.

Retail price: $260

Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the OGIO Edge Stand Bag


87 / B+

Club Storage
A 10-way top splits the club storage area of the OGIO Nexos into, you guessed it, 10 sectors. Dividers that run the full-length of the bag partion off each of the sections. According to OGIO’s marketing literature, some of the sectors are slightly raised – “think of it as stadium seating for your woods” – and the system is supposed to help isolate woods, hybrids and wedges from one another. We apparently are not smart enough to figure out which sectors are for which clubs, and even if we were, we’re not sure why our clubs need stadium seating. In any event, there is lots of room for your clubs – whether your wood are banished to the back row of the stadium so as not to obstruct the view of your hybrids and wedges is up to you.


87 / B+

Legs
The OGIO Nexos features the “Arc Lite” leg system – the legs rotate slightly to the side as they are deployed and rotate back in when disengaged – which is supposed to keep them from smacking into your leg as you pick up the bag. Well, it must work, because we didn’t experience any problems with running afoul of the Nexos’ legs when picking up the bag. On the other hand, we hadn’t really noticed that as a burning issue with any of the other bags either. This strikes us as possibly being what some engineers call “a solution looking for a problem.”
The legs extend somewhat independently, which makes deployment on uneven lies a bit easier. We did note that, as with the Ping Hoofer Vantage, it requires an extra “oomph” of exertion on the bag to pop the legs out. Not that you need to start weight training or anything, but it takes a little bit of getting used to.


90 / A-

Straps
The two straps on the OGIO Nexos are integrated as a single unit, and, in a literal show of one-upmanship, are adjustable at FIVE different points, instead of the typical four (the extra adjustment point on the Nexos is the ability to fine tune the width between the straps). Combine this with some nice padding, and you’ve got an excellent strap system.


95 / A

Pockets/Storage
Whoo boy – we don’t even know where to start on the OGIO Nexos’ pockets! The bag features 11 total pockets, 6 of which are zippered.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag. Inside of the garment pocket is a zippered plastic-lined “isolation chamber” pocket that would be useful for storing wet rain clothes. Along the outside of the garment pocket are (a) a small pocket labeled as “Cigar Sleeve”, (b) a small pocket and (c) a medium-sized pocket. OGIO provides a plastic “Cigar Caddy” that holds 3 cigars and fits nicely in the Cigar Sleeve. They think of everything!
  • 1 small velour-lined valuables pocket (non-waterproof) sits above the garment pocket. Just above the valuables pocket is a small sleeve for a divot repair tool (again, OGIO thinks of everything and includes a divot repair tool with the bag). Also on the right side of the bag is a Velcro patch for attaching a glove (we know that’s what it’s for because there’s a picture of a hand in the middle of it).
  • On the spine of the bag is our favorite feature of the OGIO Nexos – the Zipperless Ball Pocket. It’s a medium sized pocket, and the nifty thing is that it has a little spring hinge, so you just pull on the handle to open it (imagine the hinged door on a big blue U.S. mailbox). Extremely handy for quick and quiet access to grab another ball.
  • Inside of the Zipperless Ball Pocket is another tiny pocket (which is big enough to store a few tees or a spike wrench).
  • Slots for 6 tees run along the right and left exterior sides of the Zipperless Ball Pocket
  • On the spine of the bag just above the Zipperless Ball Pocket is the “OGIO Ball Silo”, a plastic structure into which 3 additional balls can be stored. Exactly how many balls does OGIO think we’re gonna lose? Sheesh, a little faith would be nice.
  • At the top of the left side of the bag is a sleeve for a pen (again, we know this because it says “Pen Sleeve” on it)
  • A medium-sized pocket sits on the left side of the bag. Running along the outside of this medium-sized pocket is a small pocket meant for a GPS device. The GPS device pocket features a plastic window, so the user can insert a GPS device and see distances without taking the device out. This is a nice idea for use with simple devices like a GolfLogix GPS-8 or IZZO SWAMI, which focus on providing basic information, but is less relevant to owners of uPros, Garmins and the like, who are busily zooming in and out on different spots on the course (and thus might prefer to have the GPS device available for easy access either in their pants pocket or clipped to the outside of the bag).
  • Also on the left side are (a) a beverage pocket, (b) a sleeve for a scorecard and (c) a sleeve for a pencil. OGIO has thoughtfully labeled each of those pockets as “Hydration”, “Scorecard” and “Pencil”. The beverage pocket is unique in that it is angled almost parallel to the ground. What this means is that when you’re walking, the beverage sits straight up, providing easy access. While this is convenient while walking, the down side is that we had the beverage fall out once or twice when we set the bag down.
  • The OGIO Nexos includes a loop for attaching a towel (labeled “Towel Loop”) and a strap for securing an umbrella (complete with a small picture of an umbrella on it).

Our conclusion? The OGIO Nexos is unparalleled for storage. And as much as we mock the labeling of the different pockets and doodads, it’s actually quite useful to know what they’re for.


85 / B

Rain Hood
In principle, the concept of the rain hood for the OGIO Nexos seems great – instead of a zipper for access to the clubs, the rain hood uses spring tension to close what looks like a gigantic clamshell. Installing the hood is supposed to be easy, involving plugging the hood’s two posts into two receptacles on the bag and Velcroing the hood all along the edge of the bag and around the straps. Unfortunately the process isn’t intuitive – it took us some time to realize that the posts must be rotated so that they are inserted in the proper direction. This involves closely examining the post each time – something we don’t think we would want to do when the raindrops start falling quickly. More importantly, we had a problem with the posts occasionally slipping out of the receptacles. Our conclusion is that in swinging for the fences, OGIO ripped one foul into the upper deck. Nice effort, but in the end, just a loud strike.


80 / B-

Carrying Impressions
The downside of all the gadgets and gizmos on the OGIO Nexos is that they add weight. The Nexos is quite a load to carry, and may actually fare better as a cart bag.

  • Weight. The OGIO Nexos was the heaviest bag we tested, weighing in at 9.2 pounds (including the rain hood).
  • Balance. OGIO gets this right, as the bag sat well and the weight felt evenly distributed when both straps were in place.
  • Padding. A large pad is placed where the bag rests against the user’s lower back – nothing fancy, but it provides adequate cushioning.
  • Handles/Straps. The “TORQ Strap” is a rubber strap that can be clipped around the retaining bar of a golf cart to provide additional stability beyond the golf cart’s normal retaining strap. An integrated lift handle at the bottom of the bag makes it easier to put this behemoth into the trunk at the end of a round.

81 / B-

Style
The OGIO Nexos has a look that only a mother would love. It’s a bit rotund, and has some funny bulges. It is only available in 3 color combinations:

  • Black and gold, with white trim
  • Tan, with navy trim
  • Black, with white piping

Oh, and did we mention the plaid lining inside the pockets?


96 / A

Innovation
OGIO earns the highest score in this category as they go farther in trying creative ideas than any other manufacturer. Of course these experiments achieve different levels of success, but kudos to OGIO for putting themselves out there with new features.

  • Successes include the Zipperless Ball Pocket, the “isolation chamber” pocket for wet clothes, and the plethora of pockets.
  • Innovations that need a little work or only fall into the “nice-to-have” category include the multi-level club divider, the Arc Lite leg system, the vertically oriented beverage pocket, and the spring-tension rain hood.

81 / B-

Cost/Value
Innovation apparently doesn’t come cheap, because the OGIO Nexos retails for a whopping $260, making it the most expensive bag tested. The price, combined with some of the weaknesses we found in using the Nexos as an every day walking bag, tempered our rating of the bag’s value.


Ping Hoofer Vantage

SCORE
86
GRADE
B
Club Storage
94
Legs
87
Straps
85
Pockets/Storage
84
Rain Hood
93
Carrying Impressions
87
Style
89
Innovation
82
Cost/Value
84

While the Ping Hoofer Vantage provides solid performance, it doesn’t truly stand out in the crowded carry bag market. A number of our reviewers had used Ping Hoofers in the past, so we were hoping to see some innovation, but the Hoofer Vantage is not much different from the bags from 7-8 years ago. Ping seems to be experimenting with a couple of minor new features (the strap and the beverage pocket), but the execution isn’t quite there. It feels like when audio manufacturers started sticking fancy auto-reverse mechanisms and light meters on cassette tape decks – sure, it made the tape deck niftier, but it didn’t really hide the fact that the world was moving on to the compact disc. Ping traditionalists will still like the Hoofer Vantage, but the competition seems to have passed it by a bit. Better bags can be had at a lower price.

Retail price: $189.99

Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Ping Hoofer C-1


94 / A

Club Storage
A 5-way top splits the club area of the Ping Hoofer Vantage into 5 sectors. There are two full-length dividers that run the length of the bag, so the club storage space is divided into three major sectors, with the 5-way top splitting two of the major sectors in half. Fans of simpler set-ups for club storage will like this bag.


87 / B+

Legs
Ping bags have always been unique in both the angle of the bag when the legs are extended, and the way the “hoof” shaped bottom collapses to engage the legs. The greater angle between the legs and the bag can be helpful on uphill or downhill lies. At the same time, the engagement mechanism requires a bit of weight on it before the legs will extend. This generally isn’t a problem when the bag is full (the weight of the clubs themselves will help), but takes a little bit of practice. The legs on the Hoofer Vantage are rubber tipped, but lack the wider feet found on some competitors, which costs it a bit in stability.


85 / B

Straps
The Ping Hoofer Vantage does not have a single unit dual-strap like most of its competitors – instead, the two straps are completely separate. The right strap features a “dual retraction” system. It works exactly as described – some form of tensor (on each end of the strap) keeps most of the strap curled away in the innards of the bag, so there’s less of a chance of it getting fouled. Unfortunately, the left strap has no such mechanism. It just hangs there, so (a) we often fumbled to try to find it when we wanted to put our left arm through the strap and (b) it tended to get tangled around things like the towel. Users will eventually get the hang of it, but this is not a category in which the Ping Hoofer Vantage was exceptional. Padding was sufficient, so comfort was not an issue.


84 / B

Pockets/Storage
The Ping Hoofer Vantage sports 7 total pockets.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag.
  • 1 small velour-lined valuables pocket (non-waterproof) sits above the large garment pocket. One complaint was that this was among the smallest of the valuables pockets we encountered – so if you’ve got a lot of bling, this may not be the bag for you.
  • 1 small-to-medium sized pocket sits on the right side of the bag behind the large garment pocket.
  • 1 medium-sized pocket and 1 small pocket sit on the spine of the bag.
  • 1 medium sized ball pocket runs along the left side of the bag.
  • 1 beverage pocket, lined with insulation and complete with a drain, runs along the left side of the bag. While we liked the insulation and drain, the pocket is on the small side, so while it fits a regular bottle of Aquafina, users will have difficulty cramming an athletic squeeze-top bottle into the pocket. In addition, the pocket holds the bottle almost parallel to the ground, so it often feels like the bottle will fall out (but it never actually did fall out over the course of several rounds of testing).
  • There is a small pen pocket on the spine of the bag that Ping does not include in its pocket count.

The Hoofer Vantage includes a slot on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella and a ring for attaching a towel.


93 / A-

Rain Hood
The rain hood is nice and simple – two Velcro straps must be secured – one underneath the legs and one underneath the straps. That’s it. For additional security, the user can also unclip the left strap and pass it through the rain hood, but we didn’t find that to be necessary.


87 / B+

Carrying Impressions
The Hoofer has never been the lightest bag on the market, and the Hoofer Vantage is no exception. It generally performed fine during our test rounds, and didn’t really stand out in either direction.

  • Weight. The Ping Hoofer Vantage is slightly heavier than the average bag, weighing in at 5.8 pounds as tested (including the rain hood).
  • Balance. Ping gets this right, as the bag sat well and the weight felt evenly distributed when both straps were in place.
  • Padding. A pad is placed where the bag rests against the user’s lower back – nothing fancy, but it’s adequate for the task.

89 / B+

Style
Our style mavens thought that the Ping Hoofer Vantage was about middle-of-the-road among the bags we tested. It comes in 8 color combinations – none of which are particularly dramatic, which, in a world of fluorescent bags that scream “look at me!”, is a bit refreshing. The color options are:

  • Navy and white, with silver trim
  • Black
  • Royal blue and grey
  • Dark green, with black trim
  • Navy, with black trim
  • Black, with grey and neon green trim
  • Black, with orange trim
  • White, with orange and black trim

82 / B-

Innovation
The retractable right strap is nice, but other than that, there isn’t much new on the Hoofer Vantage.


84 / B

Cost/Value
The Ping Hoofer Vantage retails for $189.99, which is square at the middle among the bags we tested. Its performance is respectable, but one there is more “wow” factor available on other bag factors at that price point.


Sun Mountain Four 5

The Sun Mountain Four 5 lets users sort their clubs into 14 individual slots. It also sports many of the excellent features of its sister bags, including the stellar legs. Unfortunately, it comes at a premium price point, and we had trouble with the straps, both of which drove down its overall rating. Still, in honor of the incredible legs, we’ve thematically begun each of the following sections with a relevant (well, maybe only semi-relevant) line from a ZZ Top song. Maybe we’re getting a little insane, but you show us what kind of Pulitzer Prize winning prose you can come up with after you write reviews of 8 other bags…

SCORE
84
GRADE
B
Club Storage
85
Legs
95
Straps
81
Pockets/Storage
89
Rain Hood
83
Carrying Impressions
90
Style
90
Innovation
84
Cost/Value
81

Retail price: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Editor’s note: this review is for the 2011 version of the Sun Mountain Four 5. Manufacturers generally make minor changes to bag models each 1-2 years. We have provided links to check prices for the latest version of the bag.


85 / B

CLUB STORAGE

“Well I hear it’s fine…If you’ve got the time…” – La Grange.

The Four 5 has full-length dividers that divide the club area into 14 sectors, one for each club you can carry (and if you’re cheating by carrying more than 14 clubs, it will become patently obvious to your playing partners). As we stated in our review of the Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag, we’re not 100% convinced of the utility of a slot for each club. While pulling clubs OUT for use is easier (since you know exactly where to reach for the club), we found ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time trying to shove clubs back IN to the right slot – which was all the more maddening if we had just yanked the ball into a creek. But reasonable minds can differ on this – if you sort all of your CDs alphabetically, arrange the photographs on your desk chronologically and hang the shirts in your closet according to color, then this may be the set-up for you.


95 / A

LEGS

“She’s got legs…and she knows how to use them.” – Legs.

The Sun Mountain Four 5 has the same great legs found on the other Sun Mountain bags and the Titleist bags (which seem to be made by the same manufacturer of the Sun Mountain bags). Engaging the legs is as simple as setting the bag down – there’s no need for the forceful downward shove that is required by some of the competitors. There is an element of independent suspension in the legs, in that they don’t both automatically pop out the same amount, which is helpful when dealing with uneven lies. Wide rubber feet enhance the stability.


81 / B-

STRAPS

“I been up, I been down. Take my word…my way ‘round. I ain’t askin’ for much…” – Tush.

Like most of its competitors, the Sun Mountain Four 5 features 4 adjustment points for the straps. The padding on the straps is sufficient – where we encountered difficulty was with the left strap. No amount of sliding buckles and straps up, down or around could eliminate the problem we had with the strap twisting up every time we slid our left arm and shoulder under the strap. Every time. We’re not asking for much – there must be some way to fix this, since the design of the straps seems to be the same as that of other Sun Mountain products. But whether it’s operator error, how the Four 5 is weighted, or otherwise, after 4 rounds of fidgeting with each adjustment point, we just gave up.


89 / B+

POCKETS/STORAGE

“You got to pack it up, work it like a new boy should.” – Gimme All Your Lovin’.

The Sun Mountain Four 5 features 7 real pockets, but claims that it has 8.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with 1 medium sized pocket and 1 small velour-lined valuables pocket (non waterproof) along the outside of this large pocket. The medium sized pocket contains a mesh “pocket” for holding a scorecard, but truthfully, this doesn’t seem worthy of counting as a pocket in and of itself.
  • One medium-sized and one small pocket rest on the spine of the bag.
  • A medium sized ball pocket is on the left side of the bag, with an additional beverage pouch (no “cooler” lining) along the outside of this ball pocket. The Four 5 gets bonus points because its beverage pouch is big enough to fit the largest energy drink bottles. You need all of the electrolytes you can get!
  • If Sun Mountain wants to boost the pocket count, it could bump it by one more if it wants to include the small pen holder along the spine of the bag.

The Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella and a plastic ring for attaching a towel, which fortunately is labeled “TOWEL” lest you embarrassingly clip the wrong item to the ring.

All in all, a traditional layout that works for packing up a fair amount of stuff.


83 / B-

RAIN HOOD

“It’s got me under pressure, it’s got me under pressure.” – Got Me Under Pressure.

The bag stumbles a bit with its rain hood. Securing the hood is a somewhat convoluted process of threading two Velcro straps through anchors on the front of the bag (instead of around the legs, which was our first guess), then snapping two buttons around the straps, and finally threading a final Velcro strap around the handle. Trying to accomplish all of this under pressure would not be a good idea. We would be willing to sacrifice some of the security in return for simplicity.


90 / A-

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS

“Go for a pelt that’s so nice and thin.” – Sleeping Bag.

The Sun Mountain Four 5 made a favorable impression in our test over several rounds on different golf courses.

  • Weight. The Four 5 weighed in at, um, not 4.5 but rather 5.2 pounds as tested (including the rain hood), coming in on the lighter side of bags tested. Over the course of 27 holes, we were glad to have something that was nice and thin.
  • Balance. We didn’t have any problems getting the bag to rest evenly across our shoulders.
  • Padding. We very much liked the two kidney shaped pads where the bag met the user’s lower back. The shape allowed a bit of air to circulate, keeping us a tiny bit cooler.
  • Handles/Straps. We love the handle that is integrated into the rim of the bag. The user simply grasps this handle with the right hand to place the bag securely on the ground (and activate the legs) and slide the strap off of the right shoulder in one simple motion. We wish all bags had something similar.

90 / A-

STYLE

There isn’t much dramatic about the way the Sun Mountain Four 5 looks, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It comes in 6 colors:

  • Light grey, with black and red piping
  • Black, with white piping
  • Yellow, with black trim
  • Red, with black trim and white piping
  • Green, with black trim and white piping
  • Blue, with black trim and red piping

84 / B

INNOVATION

Aside from the integrated handle at the top of the bag (which we love), there wasn’t much different about the Sun Mountain Four 5. We do note that attached to one of the zippers of the Sun Mountain Four 5 is a plastic half-sphere with cutaways that allow the users to insert the tip of a Sharpie and draw a straight line as an alignment aid.


81 / B-

COST/VALUE

“I don’t worry ‘cause my wallet’s fat…” – Sharp Dressed Man.

One of our biggest issues with the Sun Mountain Four 5 was the value for the money. At a retail price of $199.99, it’s one of the priciest of the bags tested. Its real differentiator over the other less expensive Sun Mountain and Titleist products is the 14-way club storage area, but as we’ve noted that we don’t find that to be a real draw. But hey, if you’ve got a fat wallet, maybe it doesn’t matter…


Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5

The Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 is an excellent basic lightweight bag at a reasonable price. A fine example of doing things well, without resorting to using bells and whistles to try to distract the user.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Club Storage
91
Legs
95
Straps
84
Pockets/Storage
89
Rain Hood
83
Carrying Impressions
92
Style
90
Innovation
85
Cost/Value
93

Retail price: $169.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sun Mountain Three 5

Editor’s note: this review is for the 2011 version of the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5. Manufacturers generally make minor changes to bag models each 1-2 years. We have provided links to check prices for the latest version of the bag.


91 / A-

CLUB STORAGE

The Superlight 3.5 has a 6-way top that splits the club area into 6 sectors. There are two full-length dividers that run the length of the bag, so the club storage space is divided into three major sectors, with each of those split into two through the 6-way top. In any event, clubs generally don’t run afoul of one another very often. To us, this is pretty close to our ideal club storage setup – not too many sectors, but enough that it’s easy to find clubs.


95 / A

LEGS

Great legs! These are Stacey Keibler or Elle Macpherson quality gams we’re talking about on the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5. Wide rubber feet (the Stacey/Elle analogies have now ended) provide excellent stability, and the legs pop out easily upon setting down the bag. There is an element of independent suspension in the legs, in that they don’t both automatically pop out the same amount, which is helpful when dealing with uneven lies.


84 / B

STRAPS

Like most of its competitors, the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 features 4 adjustment points for the straps. The straps do a good job of keeping the bag snug against the user’s back, but there’s room for improvement, as the padding on the straps is a bit thinner than we would ideally like to see.


89 / B+

POCKETS/STORAGE

The Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 features 7 total pockets.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with 1 medium sized pocket along the outside of this garment pocket.
  • A small velour-lined valuables pocket is also on the right side of the bag, but note that it is NOT waterproof.
  • One medium-sized and one small pocket rest on the spine of the bag.
  • A medium sized ball pocket is on the left side of the bag, with an additional beverage pouch along the outside of this ball pocket.
  • There’s an additional pen holder along the spine of the bag, so if it wanted to, Sun Mountain could probably claim 8 pockets.

The Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella and a ring for attaching a towel.

It’s a very standard layout, but one that works well.


83 / B-

RAIN HOOD

The bag stumbles a bit with its rain hood. Securing the hood is a somewhat convoluted process of threading two Velcro straps through anchors on the front of the bag (instead of around the legs, which was our first guess), then snapping two buttons around the straps, and finally threading a final Velcro strap around the handle. Suffice it to say that when we tried this during a sudden spring shower, we got soaked. We think Sun Mountain went a bit overboard with the security levels – we’re not trying to protect Fort Knox– we just want to keep our clubs from getting drenched.


92 / A-

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS

The Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 performed well through our test rounds.

  • Weight. You would think this would be obvious, but surprisingly, the Superlight 3.5 was NOT 3.5 pounds – it came in at 4.3 pounds (including the rain hood). Clever marketing ploy by our friends at Sun Mountain! In any event, even at 4.3 pounds, it is still the lightest bag we tested.
  • Balance. The bag rested evenly across our shoulders.
  • Padding. We would have appreciated a bit more padding where the bag rests against the user’s lower back, although we recognize that would add weight.
  • Handles/Straps. One fantastic feature of the Sun Mountain bags is the handle that is integrated into the rim of the bag. The user simply grasps this handle with the right hand to place the bag securely on the ground (and activate the legs) and slide the strap off of the right shoulder in one simple motion. This became such a natural motion for us that we would search in vain for the same handle when testing other bags.

90 / A-

STYLE

It’s a nice-enough looking bag, but where the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 excels is its number of color combinations – a whopping nine choices! Plus additional lefty versions available only in black or black/red! We know lots of you choose bags based on whether you can show allegiance to your school through your choice of color, so where possible, we’ve noted the potential matches. Options include:

  • Navy blue, with white trim (Penn State, BYU)
  • Black and red, with white trim (Maryland, North Carolina St., or any school with Cardinals as its mascot)
  • Black and purple, with yellow trim (kinda LSU, but with extra black)
  • Yellow and black (Iowa)
  • White and blue, with red trim (Louisiana Tech)
  • Black and dark green, with white trim (WE ARE…MARSHALL)
  • Black
  • Black and white, with red trim
  • Black and silver, with orange trim

85 / B

INNOVATION

Like the other Titleist/Sun Mountain bags, the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 gets points for the integrated handle at the top of the bag. In addition, attached to one of the zippers of the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 is a plastic half-sphere with cutaways that allow the users to insert the tip of a Sharpie and draw a straight line as an alignment aid. This probably isn’t going to change anyone’s decision on whether to buy the bag or not, but hey, it’s a nice idea.


93 / A-

COST/VALUE

The simple design and easy-to-use features (other than the rain hood) make this one of the best bags on the market. Add on the fact that at $169.99, the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 was one of the least expensive bags we tested, and you’ve got yourself a solid value.


ViewTi (2009)

Where to start with this app…frankly, we are confused. There is a ViewTi Golf, ViewTi G, and ViewTi N, and frankly, we aren’t even sure which one we reviewed (whatever anyone wants to call it…it was the original app they released in 2009). Their website has shown different prices than their iTunes pages, and the demo videos on the site don’t always match the indicated application. It seems that the company is completely confused as well.

Editor’s Note: In 2010, the company released ViewTi 2010, and seems to be phasing out the original ViewTi, reviewed here. Sadly for existing ViewTi users, there is an upgrade fee to move to ViewTi 2010, which certainly won’t endear them to customers.

The application that we reviewed (which we believe is ViewTi Golf) offers a straightforward interface, with satellite maps of each hole and the ability to determine distances to any point selected (though not the corresponding distance to the hole, available with most other applications). One of the major problems with the ViewTi is that it downloads each image only at the time it is requested by the user (as opposed to downloading all views at the beginning of the round like many of its competitors). This left us with some painful wait times in the middle of play, particularly when we had lousy network coverage. Combine this with one of the least attractive user interfaces and you are left with an application that, while offering the basics, can’t keep up with the competition.

SCORE
80
GRADE
B-
Course Availability
84
Starting a Round
96
Ease of Use
82
Course Details
84
Features
87
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
65

Pros:

  • Scorecard and statistics tracking
  • Satellite maps of each hole
  • Provides distance to any point on the hole

Cons:

  • Limited number of zoom levels (determined by ViewTi)
  • Each new view is downloaded only when requested by the user, so it can be a bit of a wait for hole views to appear
  • Only half of the equation – shows distance from the user’s location to a selected point, but not the distance from the selected point to the green.
  • Confusing orientation of views with no consistent progression through hole.

Price: $28.99

Price: Download ViewTi Golf from iTunes


80 / B-

Course Availability
Critical Golf Test: The ViewTi is in the middle of the pack in our test of the availability of golf courses for iPhone golf GPS applications with 84% coverage. Coverage across all types of courses was very good, with the exception of “Best New” courses (only 9 out of 20). ViewTi had roughly the same level of coverage across different geographical regions.
Manufacturer’s Claims: ViewTi claims to have more than 23,000 courses in its database, which puts it second among the iPhone applications we tested.


96 / A

Starting a Round
The Good: The initial launch time for the ViewTi is shorter than most of its competitors, since it loads each view of the hole only when requested during play (instead of loading the entire golf course during the initial launch). Of course, this comes with a trade-off during actual play (see “Ease of Use” below).
The Bad: Not much.
Details: Starting a round is as easy as selecting from a list of courses that are ordered either by proximity to your current location or alphabetically by name (you set your preference in the Settings menu). The user can also simply search for a course by name. Selecting a course will take you to a page with a bit of info on the course and buttons to either call the course, get directions or view the scorecard, along with the ability to save the course for quick access in the future via a bookmark button.


82 / B-

Ease of Use
The Good: The ViewTi has an easy to use interface, which will take most people little if any time to learn to navigate. Determining distances is a simple matter of touching the screen and moving around an arrow/cursor. Navigating between the two types of views (Green View, which displays satellite images, and Number View, which only displays yardages in text) is done through a single button, and entering scores and statistics is a straightforward process through a typical iPhone “slot-machine” interface. A nice feature is that if you exit the application and need to come back, you can quickly resume play at the same hole.
The Bad: The orientation of the satellite views changes over the course of the hole. This creates a fairly disorienting progression through the hole as you may begin with a fairway view oriented in one direction, switch to a different orientation of the fairway for your next shot, then conclude with a green view oriented in yet another direction. While we understand the desire to rotate images based on player location, we would prefer that either all images are based on the player’s current position or that all are shown with the tee box at the bottom of the screen and the green at the top (the layout that all other applications tested use). Another problem is that, unlike many of the other iPhone golf GPS applications, there is no “you are here” indicator of the player’s position on the displayed hole.
Unlike competitive applications, which load the entire golf course at the beginning of the round, the ViewTi loads each hole view only as it is selected by the user. The result is that you sometimes have to stare at a blank grey screen in the middle of play while a view is loaded (we often experienced waits of over 5 seconds, even with a strong 3G signal, and this happened multiple times each hole).
Lastly, we simply weren’t fans of the look and feel of the application, which pales in comparison to other applications such as Golfshot and AirVue.
Details:

  • Buttons. Given that this is an iPhone application, everything is accessed through touchscreen buttons – those on-screen buttons that players touch to navigate the application. There are buttons on the initial search screen to access saved courses, rounds and settings. After you have started a round, there are always buttons to return to course details, access the scorecard, advance to the next or previous holes, and to track shot distances. If you are in “Green View” (with the satellite images of the hole), there will also be buttons to refresh the screen and zoom in/out. If you are in “Number View” (no images), there is the full “slot machine” interface to enter your score, fairways hit (or if missed left or right), greens in regulation and putts (which, as mentioned before, is also accessible from any other screen).
  • Battery Life. Every iPhone golf GPS application that we tested (including the ViewTi) was a battery hog. With each application tested, we were able to complete a single round, but wound up with a dead phone shortly thereafter. See our intro to iPhone golf GPS applications for tips on how to conserve battery life during play.

84 / B

Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: ViewTi enables the user to touch the map of the hole and place a cursor to get distances to any point on the course (users can place the cursor in all views except the highest level course overview).
The Bad: The application doesn’t provide pre-mapped distances to any hazards or target points (other than the green) on the maps, so if you want to know the distance to a point, you have to use the touchscreen. In addition, while ViewTi provides the distance from the player to where the cursor is placed, it does not provide the distance from the cursor to the green – something they really must add to the next release if they want to keep up with the competition.

Golfshot iPhone Golf GPS Application

Click image for views

Details:

  • Views. The ViewTi provides two types of views:
    • Number View – The only information provided in Number View is the yardage to the center of the green
    • Green View – Green View, which, contrary to its name, shows more than just the green, consists of up to four different levels of zoom of satellite images of the hole ranging from a view of the hole and surrounding area to a close-up of the green.
      • Course Image – This highest-level of views features the hole you are on (though sometimes the hole will be slightly cropped…tsk tsk), and a few surrounding holes. The only distance available on this screen is to the center of the green – users cannot select points to receive distances in this view. The orientation of the view is based on the player’s position. If you move and then come back to this view, the application will need to re-load the image (with a wait time of up to 5 seconds…again).
      • Hole Images – There generally are one or two levels of satellite zoom available for the hole. The wide-angle view displayed is based on the player position and as such will need to be reloaded if a player changes position and then returns to the wide-angle view. The next level of zoom is not based on player position but rather is fixed, and will not need to be reloaded if the player moves. Note that we experienced a bug where the zoom buttons were not displayed, although a restart of the application usually solved the problem.
      • Green Image – The ViewTi will also display a satellite image of the green and a very small amount of surrounding area. This image is always oriented in the same direction (it does not rotate based on player position), but ViewTi does try to help indicate relative positioning by placing a yellow line that emanates from the center of the green and extends in the direction of the user’s position.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are available on both the satellite view and the summary hole view. Hole handicap is not available.

Suggestion Box: The “refresh” and “zoom” buttons would benefit from being placed against the backdrop of a solid color to make them easier to see. Also, we couldn’t figure out how the ViewTi decided which of the satellite images to show at the beginning of each hole. On occasion, we would be presented with the image of the green (even on a par 5), and other times we would see different hole images or the course image. There did not seem to be any correlation to the last view displayed on the previous hole.


87 / B+

Features
The Good: Simple interface for entering scores and statistics.
The Bad: If the user selects to enter scores for more than one player, he loses the ability to track other statistics. In addition, the application was just a little buggy – for example, in order to enter a score of 4, we had to move the slot machine roller to between the 4 and 5, which would then register as 4 on the scorecard.

Golfshot iPhone Golf GPS Application

Click image for views

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. ViewTi provides a simple interface to mark the distance of shots.
  • Score and Statistics. Users have the ability to enter their score, fairways hit (or if they missed left or right), greens in regulation and putts. The scorecard page shows the holes, par, the score/total score/score relative to par, fairways hit of total possible, greens in regulation of total possible, putts per hole and total putts. Unlike other iPhone golf GPS applications, ViewTi is not smart enough to ask for only relevant statistics, so users are still prompted whether they hit the fairway on par 3s.
    On the statistics overview screen, the user may also enter the rating and slope of the course (some competitive iPhone golf GPS applications automatically provide this information). Note that as described above, statistics can only be entered if the user is scoring just for himself.
  • Auto-Advance. There is no ability to auto-advance from hole to hole, so the user will need to manually advance to the next hole.
  • Preferences. ViewTi allows users to change very basic settings, such as background color, whether statistics are tracked, whether to keep score for additional players, and the basic unit of measurement (yards or meters).

90 / A-

Mapping Accuracy
Mapping Accuracy: We found no problems with mapping accuracy during our test rounds with the ViewTi – when we checked the distances displayed by the ViewTi at marked points on the course (both sprinklerheads and tee box markers), in most cases found accurate within 4-5 yards, with some holes varying up to 10 yards on occasion.


65 / D

Cost/Value
Retail Price: At $28.99, the ViewTi Golf application for the iPhone is one of the lower priced applications in our pricing comparison.
Fees for Access to Course Database: There is no cost to access the course database. All courses are included with the cost of the application.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With a one time charge of $28.99, the ViewTi is the one of the less expensive applications in our three-year cost of ownership comparison.
Value: While a reasonable value at $28.99, the ViewTi falls behind other iPhone golf GPS applications that offer more for lower or similar cost. And with the ViewTi 2010 available for just $1 more, there is no reason for users to purchase this original ViewTi application any longer.


Tested: v2.4