Putting The Cart Before The Golfer

August 29, 2010

When I took up golf 19 years ago, I had the intense pleasure of equipping myself from scratch after repeated trips to Nevada Bob's. Among many other items, I bought a pullcart -- a necessity because my first "carry" bag was a pain to carry. The bag wasn't huge by the standards of the time, but it was made of vinyl, and it felt like a steamer trunk when it banged against my thigh. During the next few years, golf bags lost weight, grew legs and evolved a second strap, and I happily abandoned my pullcart. My current bag weighs 3½ pounds and has a padded belt, which shifts the load to my hips.

Yet, I've stopped carrying it. On recent trips to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia -- countries where pullcarts are ubiquitous -- I rediscovered the joy of walking with unencumbered shoulders. A few weeks ago, back at home, I bought a cart for myself, and the model I chose is a major improvement over the one I owned in the early 1990s: It's designed to be pushed rather than pulled (making it torque-free), and it has a cup holder and an umbrella mount, and it folds to approximately the size of a toaster oven, so that it fits easily in the back of my car. It's also so stable that I often let it run down hills by itself. (I've flipped it just once, into a ditch at my brother's member-guest.)

In the United States, pullcarts are considered old-guy accessories. That doesn't bother me, because I turned 55 this year and am therefore officially well into my back nine. But it's possible that even juniors ought to make the switch. A 2007 study by a pair of British researchers concluded that youngsters who carry their bags risk back pain and injury and should be encouraged "to adopt alternative methods of club transport." The swing is hard enough on growing spines; why make things worse?

My cart is so new that I haven't fully pimped it yet. I've added a name tag and an extra towel, and I've hung most of my extensive glove collection on the cords that hold the accessory pouch to the frame. There's room for a cooler and a subwoofer, and I'm thinking about spinners for the wheels. Mainly, though, I'm enjoying a sense of liberation. My knees now feel as spry as the knees of a 53-year-old, and my bag seems heavy to me only when I lift it into my car.