Rugged. Refined. Iconic.
No, in this case, these terms are not being applied to the latest SUV or expensive men’s cologne, but to the lowly golf carry bag.
Having said that, perhaps “lowly” is a misnomer, as well, because there are some carry bags that are anything but. There is no shortage of bags on the market, but Where To Golf Next has chosen these three because they are in some way extraordinary.
Let’s start with the Jones bag. Back in 1971, George Jones designed and constructed what he considered the epitome of the carry bag. Although he started selling them out of the trunk of his taxicab in Portland, Ore., he grew the brand to where it was ubiquitous with high-school and college golf teams and serious recreational golfers.
More than a million hit the fairways. Alas, after Jones sold the company, it foundered to the point of near oblivion. In 2011, new owners took over Jones Sports Co. and the once iconic brand was resurrected.
“It’s a classic, a heritage brand,” says Chris Carnahan, who not only is a partner in the company but also its business and creative director. “It’s substance over style, but you could say the style is in the substance.”
He points out that although the original Jones bag concept with its single strap and three pockets has been retained, there now are multiple options including cart and stand bags.
On that minimalist note, MacKenzie bags are intended for golfers who want to enhance the simplicity of the game, says Nic Mulflur, head of business development for MacKenzie Golf Bags, based in Beaverton, Ore. “Our bags are hand-made in collaboration with the buyer. They’re heirloom quality, a piece of golf art, really.”
And well they should be for the price. The Leather Original Walker will set you back $1,095, for example.
“MacKenzie bags appeal to a niche within a niche,” says Mulflur. “Either you get it or you don’t. Those who do get it fall in love with our bags.”
The first two golfers to “get it” were PGA Tour pro Peter Jacobsen and his brother David who, in 1985, were about to tee off at the Old Course at St Andrews. The caddie master assigned a single caddie, Rick MacKenzie, to the pair. MacKenzie took a disdainful look at the Jacobsens’ cumbersome bags and commenced to take their clubs and other essentials and load them into two slender leather carry bags. The brothers were so impressed with this return to the essence of the game that when they returned to Oregon, they commissioned a local craftsman to construct similar bags. Today, the concept remains the same.
While the first golf stand bag was patented in the 1890s and revived by Sun Mountain in the 1980s, it took Ping to come up with yet another breakthrough technology that popularized the concept.
It was an uphill climb at first, says longtime Ping sales representative David Marshall.
“It was looked at as an ‘old man’s bag’ because you didn’t have to bend over to pick it up.”
The challenge was to break into the collegiate market. As recounted in the company’s history book, “And The Putter Went PING,” Ping tour rep Gary Hart contacted Oklahoma State University golf coach Mike Holder in the late 1980s to ask if his team would try out the new bag. Just one player did. But when the team played in the rain, the rest of them quickly discovered the advantage of the stand bag.
Subsequently, it became the standard for every college team and walking golfer. Its success continues unabated. MyGolfSpy.com called the Ping Hoofer the “ultimate stand bag for 2017.” The Ping 4 Series finished third in the website’s rankings.
(In case you’re wondering why it’s called the Hoofer, it is not only because you’re likely “hoofing it” when you’re golfing, but also because the base is shaped like a hoof. “That design makes the bag extremely stable,” says Marshall who itemizes the myriad other advantages of the Hoofer including its durability, light weight, 12 pockets, wide stance, attached deployable rain hood, more.)
As mentioned, there are dozens of carry bag choices. But if you want to be iconic, rugged and/or refined, you might want to consider these.
John Gordon, who has covered golf for more than 30 years for Canadian newspapers, magazines and a TV network, has authored eight books on the game. He lives in Midland, Ontario.