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We were happy to step aside last week for a lady ' in this case, Annika Sorenstam ' but were also pleased to be back with this weeks Whats In The Bag, which is all about ' well, bags.
 
Theyre portable golf offices, theyre billboards, theyre sports most marvelous suitcases. Golf bags, utilitarian and prosaic as they are, have somehow worked their way into a special place in the games heart. Ask any golfer of a certain age, and he or she can probably recall the comforting look of a favorite set of clubs waiting in the corner of a room as winter gave way to spring ' waiting expectantly, encased in an old, worn, well-used and well-loved golf bag.
 
Since people got smart and stopped carrying clubs around like sticks of lumber (remember the paintings of old Scots followed by hapless caddies with an armful of hickory?), golf bags have come a long way. Plenty of choices are available to do more than just transport your clubs. Whether you decide to go big or small, theres a bag out there that can prepare you for any golf circumstance.
 
Lets start kicking the tires from the top down:
 
Big, bigger, etc. The huge tour bags we see following the pros really are traveling offices. In their pockets must go everything from rainsuits to refreshment, not to mention balls and clubs. These leather monstrosities may be lighter than they were, say, a decade ago, but they have to be extra durable. Thirty airports a year will take it out of you. Bags like this can cost half a grand, easy.
 
If you like that look and have the room, you can get a replica tour bag, which most manufacturers offer. Theyre almost always logoed, so you better embrace the particular brand youll be displaying. The bag will probably be made of strong vinyl, but it will lack some of the super-duty strength features found on the real deal. For instance, the top wont be double-ring reinforced. Real tour bags are, so the caddie or player can sit on them during waits on the tee. But a very good replica tour bag can be had for between $225 and $450.
 
Careful, though: Such bags are hard to travel with. And dont even try to get a caddie to tote one. At Pebble Beach, theyll just laugh at you and pack your bare essentials into a carry bag. But for some golfers, life isnt complete without a big tour bag to adorn, say, a home office or den. And thats completely understandable.
 
Cart before, of course. With so much of the nation using golf carts, its no surprise that cart bags are so popular. They bridge the territory between the substantial nature of a tour bag and the convenience of a lightweight carry model.
 
With cart bags, your accessibility options widen considerably. When shopping, notice how the clubs would be arrayed when the bag is in use. Some cart bag tops are tiered so your shorter clubs are closer and your woods are further back, enabling you to find the one you want without too much sifting. And generally, all good cart bags have the pockets arranged so theyll face you when the bag is on the cart. The strap is out of the way on the other side.
 
But the strap and handles are important if you want to have an easy time getting the bag back and forth to the trunk of your car. With any bag, check the fit in your trunk.
 
Carry on, my wayward golfer. Carry bags with stands are perhaps the most versatile vessels for our clubs. They can be strapped onto a cart if you like, but they also travel well, and of course you can hoof it with them easily.
 
Carry bags can hold a lot, as we found when taping this edition of WITB. But overpacking defeats the purpose. The best way to use one of these streamlined bags is to decide what you need ' and only what you need ' for a round, and then proceed to pack as lightly as possible. That could mean, in addition to clubs, balls and tees, just a jacket, or perhaps a two-piece rainsuit, but no extra sweater. Its up to you ' and thats the best part. But for comfort, remember:
 
Strap it on right. Whether you go dual strap or single, try the bag on in the store, and make sure its full of clubs, balls, and whatever else you need to get a feel for how it will perform on the course. Let the pro shop staff adjust the straps for you and get the bag into a position that will be comfortable for your back. Everyone has his or her comfort zone: For instance, I like a dual strap adjusted so the bag crosses diagonally just at the small of my back. I walked all over Scotland that way without a hint of back pain.
 
Whatta ya got in there? A little foresight can save your golf day. We in Florida wouldnt think of leaving the first tee without some sunscreen in our bags. But those of you in Vancouver wont need that extra weight in October. Plan ahead, think where and when youll be reaching, and be prepared. The bag is there to serve you.
 
Thanks for watching and reading. See you next week, when WITB steps into the worlds of golf shoes and apparel. Thats Wednesday, June 3 at 10 p.m. EDT.
 
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