What do you like about your golf bag? What do you want in your next one?
Each golfer has unique demands for their golf bag, and a lot of those demands are based on how they play the bulk of their golf.
Some golfers, like me, play most of their golf walking. That means a bag has to be lightweight enough to not be a burden but have enough storage to hold the things I need when I play, like a water bottle, some balls, a space for my phone and/or charger. I play more golf than the average person in a year, so stability and longevity is important, too. I'm not buying a new bag every year.
Plenty of other golfers typically ride in a cart when they play. Their bag doesn't really need a stand, and so it can be bigger, with more pockets. Lots of cart players prefer specific club dividers so they can easily pluck clubs for each shot.
For golf bag makers, they have know the profile of a golfer they're trying to serve before they start designing it.
“You have to start with the golfer and their needs, not the product you want to make," said Ralf Niesing, chief golf bag designer for Big Max. "Every golfer puts different demands on their bag so you have to look at how golfers use the bag before you design it."
No one design can please every player, so bag companies like Big Max have to make choices and trade-offs in each bag to offer a full line which can appeal to as many different types of players as possible. Of course, on top of those standard features, finer touches improve the quality of the bag -- but they also increase the cost.
“If you seal a seam to make the bag 100 percent waterproof it takes time and expertise so you have to have a higher price to cover the cost. If you use high quality double stitching then again, more time and expertise is needed. When quality goes up, inevitably so does price," Niesing said. "For all of these things we have to find the best solution for our customers. Big Max always looks to produce high quality products first and then try and reduce prices afterwards. Everyone finds their point of compromise in different ways, you just need to know your customers.”
Beyond features, companies like Big Max have to incorporate a pleasing aesthetic. The colors and textures have to appeal to a golfer's sense of fashion. Some want simple solid colors, while others want more intricate patterns and color schemes. Like any clothier, Big Max turns to apparel makers for some cues.
“We take inspiration for colour combinations from outside of golf. We look to fashion brands, sportswear and footwear," Niesing said. "Every year has new favourite colours so you have to design ahead of the trends. Our style is definitely ‘European’ but I think that translates really well into the U.S. market now as it is becoming a lot more open to bold colors and styling.”
For Big Max, they have an added wrinkle in their design process. They're a leading maker of push carts, so their bags have to fit their carts perfectly while also being adaptable enough to fit other manufacturers' carts, too. There's nothing worse than loading a golf bag on a walking cart and realizing the two just aren't compatible.
In my head, I figured each manufacturer would produce each of their bags in the same factory, with the same partners. Turns out, that's not the case. Big Max works with separate factories for their stand and cart bags, then work with a third factory for travel covers.
“Each factory could do a decent job of the other categories but if you want the best you have to know who you are using and know they are certain of the level of quality that you demand," Niesing said.
A round of golf is just better when you have the right bag that feels like it's an extension of you. As golfer's tastes change and evolve, companies like Big Max are responding with touches that improve your on-course experience.