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Bag of Tricks: Sun Mountain’s Zero-G stand bag

What they say:

  • Padded hip belt with Velcro closure comfortably and easily transfers the majority of the bag’s weight from shoulders to the hips, for an easier carry & reduced fatigue;
  • Extra padding supports lumbar region, promoting better posture and more comfort;
  • Top-molded stand attachment for increased durability and stability;
  • Patented Roller Bottom and recessed Y-spring leg activator for faster, firmer stand-leg action.

What we say:

Heres the simple truth: if youre a truly serious golfer, you should be walking the course.

And for someone who considers the walk an integral part of the game, the single most important piece of equipment you have is the golf bag itself, not whats in it.

Sure, you can toss that 15-year-old leather cart bag on a pair of wheels and drag it down the fairway, but you still cant take it on to the tee or pull it across the green so its always at your side.

You need a carry bag _ the lightest, easiest one to carry you can find.

The Montana-based outerwear company Sun Mountain likes to bill itself as the leading manufacturer of pull carts with its Speed Cart, but serious golfers will want to look past that and focus instead on SMs impressive line of lightweight carry-bag offerings _ particularly the impressive new Zero-G.

The Zero-Gs best and most innovative feature is a lightweight, non-slip belt that fits snugly around the players waist, allowing the hips and the bodys larger muscles to bear the bulk of the bags weight.

The Zero-G, which carries an MSRP of about $240 US, is a head-and-shoulders (and neck-and-lower-back) improvement over previous Sun Mountain incarnations, not least because of the waist support, but also thanks to upgrades to the small but vitally important details _ pockets, zippers and the all-important stand mechanism.

Take, for instance, the zippers. Presumably in an effort to reduce weight, earlier versions of the SM Superlight 3.5 used flimsy fabric zippers that had no structural rigidity, often making it difficult to operate certain zippers with just one hand.

On the Zero-G, the zippers are stiffer and easier to manage with one hand as you’re walking down the fairway. The pockets are also significantly roomier and easier to access with the bag on your back.

In order to save on weight, the umbrella holder remains little more than a fabric loop at the bottom and a button-operated elastic cinch at the top, which poses a problem. Overloading the clothing pocket that runs the length of the bag, as we all do on those cold or rainy days when extra layers are required, can unseat the umbrella at the bottom and cause it to dangle dangerously behind one’s legs.

The elastic cinch at the top can also make it difficult to quickly extricate and replace the umbrella. Solution: A single fabric loop halfway up the bag would help to secure the umbrella on an overloaded bag. Even better would be a full-length fabric umbrella well such as that on the Ping Hoofer, the best carry bag ever made.

The premium design feature on the Zero-G, however ” and the No. 1 reason to get one if you’re a walker ” is the waist strap, which very effectively removes the bulk of the weight of the bag from your shoulders and back and places it on your hips.

The waist strap, which adjusts from 28 to 46 inches and fastens easily with Velcro in the front, is a vast improvement over Sun Mountain’s ill-fated HUG arm ” a cumbersome, foam-encased steel U that barely lasted a year, mainly because it had to be offered in several sizes, making it unwieldy for retailers and distributors alike.

“We have had other strap systems that transfer weight from the shoulders to the waist,” Sun Mountain president Ed Kowachek said in a statement.

“The advantage of Zero-G is that the fit can be customized to the golfer by simply adjusting the length of the waist belt. Zero-G is one size fits all and its use quickly becomes second nature.”

Once properly fitted _ the process takes just a few seconds and is well-illustrated by the bag’s simple and clear instructions _ the strap’s non-slip lining holds the bag securely against the player’s lower back, which is protected by the Zero-G’s special padding. Bag chatter while walking down the fairway is all but a thing of the past.

Sure, it takes a little while to get used to the way the strap protrudes from the top of the bag when still brand new and stiff, but with use, it softens up and becomes less obtrusive.

Whatever quibbles you might have with the strap when the bag’s resting on the ground will vanish once it’s on your back.

The lightweight shoulder straps are easy to adjust, slipping on and off with the greatest of ease. The so-called “Roller-Bottom” stand mechanism works flawlessly (although no one has ever really topped Karsten Solheims absurdly simple spring design from on the Hoofer lo those many years ago).

And hats off to Sun Mountain for thinking of the little things: a water bottle pocket that’s at one’s fingertips when wearing the bag; a pen pocket (although it’s too shallow to securely hold a full-sized Sharpie); a velour-lined valuables pocket; and one of those hemispherical dealies for marking one’s golf ball with an alignment line.

The latter’s a nice touch, although impossible to use without damaging your back unless you take it off the bag (put it on one of those elasticized keychain things and the problem is solved).

You’ve also got to love the convenience of the built-in rubberized handle at the top of the bag’s collar, which is precisely where it needs to be when you’re taking the bag off, moving your clubs around the house or maneuvering in tight quarters, such as down hallways or staircases.

Heres the only beef, and its a big one _ the designers at Sun Mountain appear to be colour blind. While the Zero-G comes in a couple of more mainstream colour combinations _ red and white, black and blue _ there are some appalling choices available as well, from black, yellow and plum to black, citron (puke green) and lava (pumpkin orange).

To each his own . . . someone must like these colours. But the aesthetics definitely leave something to be desired.

If you’re more inclined to forgo the waist strap for an even lighter bag, SM has another option: the brand new Swift X, which according to spokesman Steve Snyders is the first ever full-featured golf bag to break the three-pound barrier.

The Swift X will hold a full set of clubs and has seven pockets as well as the standard dual shoulder straps and the Roller Bottom stand system, all with an MSRP of $149 US. It, too, comes in a variety of colour combinations, including black with white, yellow, plum, dark green or titanium trim.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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