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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

How We Test Golf Carry Bags

The golf bag has evolved in recent years to the point that features such as backpack straps, rain hoods, and valuables and beverage pockets are all commonplace. But innovation is happening all the time, as manufacturers introduce novel ideas such as belt straps to redistribute the weight of the bag from the user’s back to the hips and legs, new forms of specialized pockets, and all kinds of doodads to make the 18-hole stroll a little easier.

Critical Golf reviews the latest golf carry bags based on their club storage area, legs, straps, pockets/storage, rain hood, carrying impressions, style, innovation and value. Our reviews are from the perspective of users who typically walk the course, which naturally puts a premium on lightweight bags with comfortable padding and quality straps. This also creates a natural tension between the weight of the bag and the amount of storage space and number of doodads the bag provides.

CLUB STORAGE. Bags were evaluated on the size of the club storage area, how clubs were sorted, and the ease of putting clubs in and pulling them out of the bag. The number of sectors into which the club storage area of each bag is divided is as follows:

Table 1: Number of Club Storage Sectors

Bag Club Storage Sectors
Nike Performance Carry Bag 14
Sun Mountain Four 5 14
Titleist Premium Stand Bag 7
Callaway Hyper-Lite 4 6
Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 6
Sun Mountain Zero-G 6
Titleist Lightweight Stand Bag 6
Nike Vapor X Carry 5
TaylorMade Micro-Lite 4
Original Jones Bag 3

LEGS. The legs on carry bags have improved significantly over the past 10 years. But some have improved more than others, and thus we reviewed legs for their stability and ease of deployment.

STRAPS. A critical part of a carry bag is the comfort of the straps. We evaluated whether there was sufficient padding on the straps, whether they tended to tangle, and how easy they were to adjust. One of the bags tested generated significant bonus points for a belt strap that transferred weight from the weaker muscles of the back and shoulders to the hardier hip and leg muscles.

POCKETS/STORAGE. Golfers have a tremendous amount of stuff, and always want to keep everything in their bag just in case they might need it. Sunscreen? Check. Band aids? Check. Rain jacket? Check. Spike wrench for metal spikes on a pair of shoes you don’t even own anymore? Check. Critical Golf reviews the latest carry bags for how easy they make it to store all of your gear. Our functional pocket count (ignoring things such as pen sleeves and tee holders, but including mesh pouches and drink slots) for each bag is as follows:

Table 2: Functional Pockets (Critical Golf count)

Bag Functional Pockets
Callaway Hyper-Lite 4 11
Nike Performance Carry Bag 10
Titleist Premium Stand Bag 10
Sun Mountain Zero-G 7
Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 7
Sun Mountain Four 5 7
TaylorMade Micro-Lite 6
Titleist Lightweight Stand Bag 6
Nike Vapor X Carry 5
Original Jones Bag 3

RAIN HOOD. When the big fat raindrops start pouring from the sky, how easy is it to secure the rain hood and protect your precious clubs? We tried to figure out how to install each of the rain hoods on the fly, intentionally ignoring the instruction manual – because who’s going to have time to find and read an instruction manual when it starts raining?

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS. Perhaps the most important category was our impressions from carrying the bag through multiple rounds. Weight, balance and padding were all considered as we traipsed across flat and hilly courses. The weight of the bags tested (including rain hoods, since most golfers tend to keep those in the bag at all times) were as follows:

Table 3: Weight (including rain hood), as tested by Critical Golf

Bag Weight (lbs.)
Original Jones Bag 3.5
TaylorMade Micro-Lite 3.9
Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 4.3
Nike Vapor X Carry 4.5
Titleist Lightweight Stand Bag 4.7
Callaway Hyper-Lite 4 4.9
Sun Mountain Four 5 5.2
Sun Mountain Zero-G 5.6
Titleist Premium Stand Bag 6.2
Nike Performance Carry Bag 7.0

STYLE. Andre Agassi said “Image is everything”. Of course, that was when he was young and had a full head of hair. Nonetheless, how the bag looks is a factor, and we give our admittedly extremely subjective opinion of each bag’s aesthetics.

INNOVATION. New inventions are cool, particularly if they make the carrying experience easier. We rate the carry bags on whether they are reaching for the stars, or trying to coast by on old technology.

VALUE. The carry bags we tested range in retail price from the low $100s to mid-$200s. Retail prices are shown below.

Table 4: Retail Price

Bag Retail Price
Original Jones Bag $139.95
TaylorMade Micro-Lite $149.95
Callaway Hyper-Lite 4 $159.00
Titleist Lightweight Stand Bag $160.00
Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 $169.99
Titleist Premium Stand Bag $190.00
Sun Mountain Four 5 $199.99
Sun Mountain Zero-G $229.99
Nike Vapor X Carry $230.00
Nike Performance Carry Bag $240.00

Price doesn’t always correspond to value, so we subjectively evaluate the value for each bag – are you getting your money’s worth?