124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

Golf Digest Logo lucky break

How a golf-course superintendent transforms flags from top clubs into usable keepsakes

October 17, 2023

Illustration by Amber Day

The work of a golf-course superintendent is as much about artistry as it is agronomy, so Josh Smith’s hobby isn’t that far out there. When he isn’t spending 60 hours a week keeping Orinda Country Club looking proper in the San Francisco Bay area, Smith creates his handmade FlagBags, giving golfers a tangible—and durable—way to commemorate the most important courses in their lives.

Smith repurposes “experienced” pin flags that have flown over some of the most iconic courses in the world into golf bags that take advantage of the flags’ virtually indestructible nylon. It’s a usable keepsake that you don’t have to worry about shrinking in the dryer or staining with some wayward mustard at the halfway house.

It started in 2019, when Smith got a box of tournament flags. “They were near new, and my head pro said he couldn’t give them out to members because some would feel left out,” Smith says. “I thought I’d make a quiver for my daughters. I’d use the flags to put together a tiny little golf bag and learn how to sew it myself.”

Smith struggled with the needlework, so he reached out to Macdonald Leathergoods founder Todd Rohrer, who makes premium leather carry bags at his shop in Portland, Ore. Smith mapped out his idea for building bags from a mosaic of flags, and Rohrer’s team built a prototype. Seven months later, Smith went to Portland to pick it up. “The second I saw it, I knew it would be a hit,” Smith says.


The Sheep Ranch Course at The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

David Cannon

Smith brought in his brother Matt to help with the business side, and the two reached out to famous courses across the country to solicit flags to build a first round of bags. “We talked to the superintendents at the best clubs—National Golf Links of America, Pasatiempo, Bandon Dunes, Cal Club, San Francisco Golf Club,” Josh says. “All these cool places thought it was a great idea, and we had the flags within a week. We got 12 of them done, and we got a website up and started showing the world.”

The bags were an immediate hit, and the company has been profitable since day one. When the chairman of the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am noticed that golf writer Alan Shipnuck had commissioned a FlagBag from his favorite Monterey Peninsula courses, he ordered 175 of the $895 bags for the 2021 Pro-Am participants. FlagBag got a shout-out from Jim Nantz on the CBS telecast.

Smith spends more than 30 hours per week laying out bag designs before Rohrer’s team builds them. Customers can purchase the bags directly from FlagBag’s website or through the network of private clubs and resorts that offer bags for order in their shops. The company repurposes used flags or purchases new ones from clubs. Customers can also submit their own flags. “It could be a group of flags from your home club, or maybe you went on a golf trip and want to commemorate all the places you visited,” Smith says about the designs, which usually require four to seven flags to go with the leather and metal trim pieces.

Though Smith can get flags from many top clubs, there are a few restrictions. “The only way you can get a Pine Valley flag is to make a hole-in-one,” he says. “They protect those very carefully, and we certainly respect that tradition. We’re hoping someday somebody makes three holes-in-one so we can make them a free Pine Valley bag.”