With another golf season right around the corner, it's time to take inventory of the gear in your bag. Giving your clubs a once-over is important, but there's more to being prepared for the new season than simply having a gleaming set of sticks and a few sleeves of balls.
Whether your plan is to play on a regular basis or practice a few times a month, you'll likely want to take inventory of the items on this list before you head to the first tee.
Golf bag: Unless your golf bag is falling apart at the seams, you probably don't need to worry about finding a new home for your golf clubs. With that in mind, if you feel like it's time for a change, just know there are a myriad of bag options on the market depending on if you walk or ride on a regular basis.
For the walkers (and riders), there's Titleist's 4Up StaDry that comes in at a whopping 3.5 pounds. For a stand bag, that's incredibly light. It's designed with a waterproof nylon shell, three-way divider and padded straps.
PING's ultralight Moonlite is another option and holds 14 clubs and weighs 2.5 pounds, but it lacks stand legs. The legs are replaced by a standing strap that keeps you from having to bend down to pick up the bag. A water-resistant belly keeps your clubs and valuables dry when the bag is on the ground.
As far as staff bags are concerned (the bags you see caddies carrying on TOUR), try and avoid them if you can. Unless you have a TOUR card or ride in a cart at all times, there's no need to lug around a staff bag on the course. Not only is it a hassle to travel with, it weighs a ton.
Tees: You can buy them in bulk or scrounge up a few on the practice tee, but whatever you do, make sure you have some in your bag. Don't be the golfer who constantly asks their playing partner for a peg on every tee box.
If you want something besides the standard wood version, consider springing for a pack of plastic tees. Champ's Zarma FLYteePRO has a shock-absorbing tip and is made from a polymer material infused with Kevlar, making it virtually indestructible.
Golf gloves: Chances are you have a few gloves from the Bush administration in the bottom of your golf bag that need to see the bottom of a trash can. If you do have some old gloves that still have some life, check the overall feel and fit to ensure it doesn't slip out of your hand on the downswing.
If new gloves are on your list, think about purchasing two or three and rotating them during the course of the year. That should extend the life of the glove and keep it from getting stretched to the point that it no longer offers a snug fit.
Ball marker and divot tool: A simple coin will do to mark your ball. However, if you feel the need to stand out from the rest of your foursome, there are some unique ball markers out there. One in particular is Seamus Golf's hand forged ball marker. Each copper marker is heated to approximately 2,200 degrees and then hand-shaped on an anvil by a second-generation blacksmith. At $30 per marker (about the same price as a box of balls), they don't come cheap. But it's guaranteed to be a conversation piece during your round.
With regard to divot repair tools, you don't need anything flashy to keep the greens in good shape. Just make sure you have one handy to repair your ball mark, along with at least two others if they are noticeable. A simple tee will work as well. Bottom line: have something in your bag to keep the greens in good shape.
Headcovers: Headcovers fall under the same category as ball markers and divot repair tools. You can buy something flashy for your clubs, or you can stick with the headcovers that come on your metalwoods. The key is to have something to protect the heads during the course of the round so you don't incur any unnecessary marks on the crown or face.
As far as one-of-a-kind headcovers are concerned, Seamus, Sunfish and Jan Craig are just a few of the custom options in the industry and offer hand-knit and fine wool headcovers. Prices vary but you should expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 to $60 per headcover.
Valuables pouch: Most golf bags come with a built-in valuables pouch, but if you're like most golfers, the pouch is packed with ball markers, tees and golf balls. In an effort to keep your wallet, keys and watch in one place, spend $15 to get a separate pouch. Most offer very few frills, multiple pockets and are made from durable polyester materials, which means you will probably need just one in your lifetime.
Rangefinder: These days, it pays to have a reliable rangefinder to get around the course. Sure, getting the correct yardage won’t help you hit better golf shots. But it will improve your pace of play by making it incredibly quick and easy to get the exact number to the pin. Bushnell's Tour V4 boasts 5 times magnification and is accurate to within one yard with 5 to 1,000 yards of ranging performance, including 400 yards to the flag. It also has a slope function — the slope setting can be turned off during competition — that gives the exact yardage regardless of elevation change.
Leupold's GX-4i2 (6x magnification) comes with a multitude of features in the DNA engine, like the company's PinHunter 2 and Prism Lock technology that allow the rangefinder to pick up the target from up to 450 yards (GX-3i2 and GX-4i2) and get resolution to within 1/10 of a yard against any background. The body of the device is also made from a very durable aerospace grade aluminum.
Rangefinders don't come cheap — expect to pay $300 to $400 for the latest technology — but you'll be able to say goodbye to searching for sprinkler heads forever.
Umbrella: Whatever you do, don't be the guy with the small personal umbrella on the course. Depending on the wind and rain conditions, your little umbrella could be toast before you make the turn. Invest in a large umbrella similar to what the pros use.
You'll be able to hang a towel underneath to clean off your clubs and keep your glove dry in-between shots. If you want an umbrella that can withstand most storms, spring for a GustBuster. It's wind-tested to 55-plus miles per hour and has aerodynamic vents in the lower canopy that allow wind to pass through. The design also lets the canopy flex with the wind and then return to its original shape.
Travel bag: Professional golfers are constantly on the road, traveling from tournament to tournament with their golf clubs in tow. Most players on TOUR log anywhere from 20-25 starts each year — which means the travel bag that's keeping their clubs safe during each trip takes a beating.
Even if you don't log the miles of a pro, that doesn't mean you should skimp on your travel bag if you take a yearly buddies trip. Club Glove is the most used travel bag on TOUR and a popular option for recreational golfers.
Club Glove's Last Bag weighs 10.6 pounds and is made with Cordura 1000 D water resistant nylon that's up to three times stronger and lasts up to five times longer than standard polyester. The standard version can hold the average stand bag and a driver that's up to 47 inches, while the XL version holds tour staff bags.
The travel bag also has a high impact wheelbase with in-line skate wheels that make it easy to maneuver, two exterior shoe pockets and an over-the-top zipper for easy loading and unloading.