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Golf Bags to Lighten Your Game

There's no reason to shoulder such a heavy load on the course -- check out these lightweight options.

Photo: Sun Mountain

Here's what I used to carry around a golf course: anger, frustration, unrealistic expectations and a bag 16 times my weight.

But even the infantile mature eventually, and that's what happened. I don't get excited when I make a birdie anymore (I know a double-bogey is just around the corner), and I don't haul around a bag that makes Craig Stadler look slim.

I am my own Sherpa and I'm no Schwarzenegger, so I've switched to a practical Sun Mountain bag (see photo, right) instead.

The story of Sun Mountain Sports starts in the early 1970s with Rick Reimers, an inventive golf pro in San Jose, Calif.

This was the era of back-breaking golf bag, equipment as cavernous (and cumbersome) as a coffin and so hefty you'd swear you'd stuffed a corpse inside.

Surveying his surroundings, Reimers noticed that far too many golfers sloped around the course like Atlas: slump-shouldered and freighted with the weight of the world.

Surely, there had to be a better way.

Drawing inspiration from backpacking equipment, Reimers designed a new breed of golf bag, swapping out the usual materials (cotton and vinyl) for sturdy, lightweight nylon. His first carry bag, the Back 9, didn't make much green but it probably helped golfers land more shots there. At less than half the weight of a traditional bag, it freed you up to focus on your swing.

The Back 9 begat the Front 9 (similar idea but with a molded top and bottom), which sired the

Ping L8, a bag Reimers developed specifically for the company.

In 1984, Reimers moved Sun Mountain to Missoula, Mont., and his bag designs increased in their outdoorsy appeal.

In the coming years, Reimer and Co. continued popping out the patents. Along came the Eclipse, the first bag with built-in legs. Subsequent improvements included a drop-top that provided easier access to short irons, and a Y-spring that allowed the legs to retract close to the bag.

Sun Mountain is the Tiger Woods of golf bags -- constantly racing toward the top of the field. For 2008, Sun Mountain has added yet another innovation: the

Superlight 3.5 with HUG technology ($199). True to its name, the Superlight weighs just 3.5 pounds, a fraction of the mass of most beastly things you see at bag drops. It comes with a sturdy, fast-action leg stand and crisscross straps that evenly distribute its feathery cargo.

To the Test

A few months ago, in a rare instance of sharp decision-making, I traded in my old, bulky golf bag and went with the Superlight 3.5 instead. HUG technology refers to a padded C-shaped "arm" that attaches to the straps then wraps around your waist. It's designed to transfer the bag's weight from your shoulders to your waist and, along the way, reduce fatigue.

The padded arm works, but wearing it can feel a bit awkward, like strapping on your grandma's girdle. I removed it, but the Superlight still felt, well, super light.

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Like a lot of golfers, I've got enough burdens when I'm on the course. The Super Light relieves one. It also provides ample storage space in the form of zip-up pockets so I can easily haul all my other junk around (gloves, extra balls, eraser for my scorecard, handkerchief for my tears).

For some golfers, of course, any weight is too much to carry. From them, there's

Sun Mountain's Speed E Cart ($799), a motorized, wheeled gizmo that you prop your bag on. It rolls your clubs around the course, like a quiet, helpful droid. Golfers walk behind it, controlling its pace and direction by remote control. It has dynamic braking and, like your Lexus, cruise control to keep it moving at a constant speed.

Sun Mountain, of course, faces no shortage of competition. The market is dotted with plenty of smart designs.

Kangaroo Golf makes a sleek, superbly functioning motorized caddy ($2,500) that performs the same duties as the Speed E Cart. And companies like



Ogio and others have gotten in line with Sun Mountain by building innovative lightweight carry bags, which is a good thing.

Like other industries, golf is driven by innovation. There was a time, back in the dark ages, when shafts were made of hickory, balls were stuffed with feathers and woods were fashioned out of -- get this -- wood. It's a wonder anyone got their tee shots airborne.

It took some time, but bag-makers have come around. Amazingly, I still have buddies who go about their rounds benighted, lugging giant bags reminiscent of the one used by Al Czervik, Rodney Dangerfield's character in


(theirs, however, don't have radar screens, beer taps or hi-fi systems).

That's their loss. And they never learn, since they also toss their clubs in anger and launch into a fury when they don't fire a 65 (note: they never do). Poor, lost souls. You can shine your high beams on them, but some people never see the light. Meantime, I try my best not to judge.

Remember Mark Twain? He referred to golf as a "good walk spoiled." The man was no dummy, so here's the way I understand his misperception: he must have had to carry a really heavy bag.

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Josh Sens is a freelance writer living in Oakland, Calif., and a contributing writer to Golf Magazine. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Men's Journal, Golf Digest and other national publications.