Who out there is guilty of slinging an overloaded golf bag?
Come on. I can't be the only one raising my hand.
Just because many great golf bags today feature loads of pockets doesn't mean we have to fill them all up. Admittedly, I'm still trying to grasp that concept.
During a recent round at an exceptional golf course that required our foursome to take caddies (which I love on those rare, special occasions, by the way), I realized what a problem my "loading the golf bag" issue had become when my caddie demanded I switch my stand bag for a lightweight loaner bag from the bag room.
In fairness, our foursome had two caddies carrying two bags apiece. I can't blame my looper for not wanting my bag to be weighed down by a rainsuit and umbrella on a cloudless 85-degree day, an Orange Whip training tool, position sticks, bluetooth speakers and whatever else was in there.
So, we made the bag switch and tossed in just the bare essentials.
Once the round was finished, we went back to the bag room to move my belongings back from the loaner bag to my own back. As I hoofed it back to my car with that ridiculously heavy bag and jumped in for a four-hour drive home, I had a lot of time to think about what should always be in the bag and what shouldn't.
With that theme in mind, here are the nine things you should be carrying in your golf bag.
By the way, I'm sure I have golf minimalist friends out there who can eliminate even more... this is what I feel comfortable with:
9. Sunscreen. Do yourself a favor and do not mess with the sun's harmful rays. Always have a tube of sunscreen in the bag. And don't think that applying before your round and then throwing it in the trunk is enough. It's recommended that you reapply sunscreen when you're outdoors every two hours. For a round of golf, that means at least once at the beginning and once at the turn.
8. A rangefinder. For a long time, I believed I wasn't a good enough player to have a rangefinder. When I finally got one, I realized I wasn't a good enough player not to have one. I'm not like Johnny Miller hitting it within a half-yard of my target when I'm at my best. But my round moves quicker and I'm more likely to hit my shots -- even bad ones -- closer to the hole when I know precisely how far away I am.
7. A great towel. We're not talking about the beat up bath towel you dig out of the linen closet. This type is golf-specific -- one that retains water and has a pattern that allows you to dig in and get that dirt out of your iron grooves, keeping your clubs and golf balls clean over the course of a round.
6. A water bottle. Most courses have water scattered throughout at various tee boxes. Just to be safe, I always like to have a bottle of water handy. There's nothing worse than being parched on a hot summer's day as you make the climb up to an elevated green. It feels like you're in the Sahara instead of on the golf course. No thanks.
5. Two golf gloves. One might rip. You may sweat through one. You might get some rain on the course that soaks one. Have a dry second one for back up. It takes up virtually no room in your bag and is as light as a feather.
4. A palmful of golf tees. I'm not going to tell you to take only 2 or 3 tees, or even 5 or 10. I've played with guys who break tees virtually every time they use them. Personally, I prefer the plastic, unbreakable tees (they're not really unbreakable, but close enough for me). I like to carry just enough tees so that I don't have to ask a playing partner, "Hey, can I borrow a tee?"
3. Four coins or ball markers. Why four? One for you and one for each of the other three people in your group in case they don't have one. There's nothing worse than when your lining up that rare birdie putt only to have someone in the group use a tee to mark their ball that's halfway between your ball and the hole. So distracting.
2. Divot tool. I've seen people fix their ball marks with tees. Can we all agree that doesn't get the job done as effectively as a dedicated divot tool? I had an old golf coach who had a great rule that I try to follow to this day -- when you arrive at the green, use a divot tool to fix your ball mark and at least one other. It keeps the greens in good shape for everyone.
I recently got something called a "Switchblade" and I love it. It's basically a divot tool and ball marker in one. What's great about it is the fact that the divot tool portion closes up so it's not stabbing your leg while in your pocket. You just hit a small button when you're ready to use it.
1. 6-8 golf balls. This is mainly for your regular golf course, or a course you're familiar with. I realize you might need more on a more difficult course. I'm so guilty of carrying way more golf balls than I need. It's pretty much a mental block. I stress out over, "what if this isn't enough? What if I run out of balls at the turn and I spent $120 to play this course?"
If you really sit back and think about your recent rounds, you might be surprised when you realize how few golf balls you've actually lost.