Golf bags: is stand, cart, tour or carry best for you?

Golf bags come in numerous shapes and sizes but which type should you be buying?

Golf Bags
(Image credit: TaylorMade / Srixon / Ping)

There are many things to consider when choosing the best golf bag. The brand will be important to some, especially if you’re like me and have mild OCD tendencies which mean a golf bag simply has to match the irons they transport. Almost as important as having everything matching is deciding if a stand, tour, carry or cart bag is best for you.

Golf bags come in numerous shapes, sizes and prices and they are not all designed to do the same thing. There are four standard types of bag and within those four categories are numerous different styles, not to mention a wide variety of colours and designs.

It can be quite daunting if you don’t know what you are looking for and it is easy to make the wrong choice. Unless, of course, you read my handy guide…

Choosing the right bag for your needs

The first thing to consider is where you are mostly going to be playing golf. For example, what is your climate? Do you need to use a buggy because of the heat? If not, perhaps your local course is hilly, in which case you probably won’t be wanting to carry a big heavy bag up and down those hills for four hours. Not just because it’s physically draining, but because the more tired you get the more this will affect your accuracy, especially on the tee when you’re hitting driver. 

Your age is also a factor. Senior golfers usually favour a trolley, whereas younger players tend to carry their bag. This impacts greatly on which bag you should go for. For golfers who use a trolley then a Cart Bag is the logical choice. For those who prefer to carry their golf bag the Cart Bag is the worst possible option as they are heavy and not designed to be carried on your back for any length of time. Golfers who like to carry their bag will need a Stand Bag or perhaps something even lighter, such as a Pencil Bag.

There is also the Tour Bag which is the most expensive and is essentially the Rolls Royce of golf bags. These are the bags you will see the tour professionals using in tournaments. You can carry those but be aware that they are heavy. In fact, in most cases they are at least twice as heavy as Stand Bags. Remember, tour pros have caddies, you don’t.

So let’s take a detailed look at the four types of golf bag and who they are aimed at.

Stand Bags

(Image credit: TaylorMade / Callaway)

Stand Bags

For those who like to carry their bag

Reasons to buy
+Travel light but still have storage+It stands up by itself
Reasons to avoid
-You have to carry it for 18 holes

These are the most popular choice with amateurs. They’re lightweight (usually around 5lbs or less) but still roomy enough to hold your clubs as well as other essentials such as shoes, waterproofs, spare golf balls, refreshments etc

The cool thing about these bags is when you set the base down the legs automatically extend out so the bag will stand by itself, hence the name. This not only helps to keep the bag clean on muddy courses but it makes it very easy to get your clubs in and out of the bag and therefore saves time between shots.

Stand Bags have lots of pockets and are usually either fully or partially waterproof. You can use these on trolleys or a buggy too as they are extremely versatile, but the main use of the Stand Bag is that it is easy to carry around the course.

There are some high end Stand Bags that are actually like mini-Tour Bags with legs. These give you the best of both worlds. You’ve got the lightweight, functionality of a Stand Bag and also the great look and quality of the Tour Bag. Those aren’t cheap but they’re a good all around option for those who like to occasionally carry their bag while still wanting to “look like a pro”.

Golf Cart Bags

(Image credit: TaylorMade / Titleist / Srixon / Wilson)

Cart Bags

For trolleys and carts

Reasons to buy
+Loads of storage+Stylish looking
Reasons to avoid
-Cumbersome if you have to carry it

As the name suggests these are designed specifically for golfers who use a trolley or a buggy (or a cart if you’re in the US). They are heavier, more cumbersome and a lot less functional than a Stand Bag when it comes to lugging it around on your back for 18 holes, particularly because the carry strap is on the opposite side to where you will find it on traditional golf bags. 

The reason for this strap location is that this bag is not designed to be carried much further than from your car to your buggy. The strap is then usually removed and stored in one of the pockets so the bag sits snugly on the trolly or cart.

Cart Bags usually have a divider that provides each individual club with its own compartment, whereas with a Stand Bag you’ll often have two or sometimes three clubs per section. Cart Bags also have more pockets than you’ll know what to do with. 

These things have pockets and little compartments everywhere, all designed in such a way that you can easily access them when your bag is secured to your trolley or buggy. Many even come with an insulated drinks pocket to keep your refreshments cool on those hot summer days.

They aren’t always waterproof though and those that are will usually cost you a bit extra.

Golf Tour Bags

(Image credit: TaylorMade / Ping / Wilson Staff / Callaway)

Tour (Staff) Bags

Used by the pros

Reasons to buy
+They look fantastic+Loads of storage
Reasons to avoid
-Very heavy-Very expensive

They’re big and they’re beautiful. There’s nothing quite like a Tour Bag (also known as Staff Bags) and they look so cool that it’s almost worth the effort of lugging them around for four hours. Almost, but not quite.

Whether you go for a Tour Bag depends either on how fit and strong you are or whether you have a trolley. If you use a trolley regularly then you can use a Tour Bag but really a Cart Bag is the more practical option and there isn’t really any logical reason to go with a Tour Bag other than vanity. Which is of course fine. They look good, they’re made from high quality materials and, most importantly, the pros use them. We all want to be like the pros, right? 

I would love to use a Tour Bag but it isn’t practical for me. While I do prefer to carry my bag rather than use a trolley, I’m a fairly unfit bloke in his late forties whose local course is so hilly that to get around it you need a sherpa rather than a caddy. So struggling around with a massive Tour Bag wouldn’t be smart. That’s why I use a Stand Bag, but I do own a Tour Bag (a classic white and black PING model) which I occasionally take to the driving range, but mostly it’s just there to be looked at in wonder, as it sits there in all its majesty.

Carry Bags

For those who want to travel very light

Reasons to buy
+Extremely lightweight+Easily transported
Reasons to avoid
-Virtually no storage space-Limited protection for clubs

Titleist Sunday Carry Bag

(Image credit: Titleist)

Also known as Pencil Bags or Sunday Bags, these are ideal for the golfer who wants to travel light. They’re usually structureless and very minimalistic. There’s a pocket for balls, a ring for a towel and not a great deal more. You can fit a full set of clubs in there but ideally you might just want to go with a half set. 

If want to get a quick nine in before work you can put your clubs in a Carry Bag and throw it in the back of the car as it takes up very little room. Or perhaps you’re going away for a short break with the family and you know there’s a golf course nearby. Chances are there won’t be room in the car to fit your Cart Bag in there as well as all of the family luggage, but you’ll probably be able to sneak a Carry Bag in there without anyone noticing.

These bags are also ideal if you’re playing a par three course and only need irons and a putter. It saves you humping around a bag full of clubs that you don’t need. 

Carry Bags are relatively inexpensive so it is worth investing in one even it’s just for those rare summer evenings when you fancy travelling light and walking the course without pulling your trolley.

Which golf bag should you buy? Here's our summary

The important thing is to identify your needs and select the bag that best meets your requirements. If you are only going to have one golf bag then the best all rounder is the Stand Bag but if you are using a trolley then you definitely will want a Cart Bag. 

Tour Bags are a luxury and great for special occasions when you want to show off, while a Carry Bag is a good addition to any golfer’s collection because there will be times when it comes in very handy.