A caddie’s definitive list of things you should – and should not – have in your golf bag

A former PGA Tour caddie sets the record straight for all golfers on what they should — and absolutely should not — be carrying in their respective golf bags. Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Every golfer on the planet has a bag.

In general, a golf bag is made of nylon, canvas or some lightweight, waterproof material that a genius devised in a laboratory specific for this purpose. Perhaps it’s an old school leather behemoth intended to be carried from the car trunk to the golf cart, never any farther. Golf bags are designed to hold 14 clubs, though it’s fair to ask if we really need that many. That’s a discussion for a different day.

The interior of the bag is divided into sections. Perhaps they are furry and soft to the touch. These sections help the clubs stay organized in groups of three or four and keep the clubs from banging together and rattling like a broken-down grocery cart as they are carried down the fairway or ride along the cart path.

Also, the Big Dog always rides alone. And the putter has no business hanging out with the lowly 6-iron. The wedges prefer to live in the same neighborhood.

Common sense stuff, really.

RELATED: The most unnecessary items caddies have stumbled upon in golf bags

Golf bags can also include many compartments — pouches, nooks, crannies, secret places to hide little things. Each one sealed with a zipper, velcro, snap, latch, button, buckle and whatever fastening apparatus those smart dudes in the lab recently concocted.

All these pockets and chambers look cool and are fun to explore. But their simple existence often sends the mind of the American male golfer spinning backward toward his days as a Boy Scout or propels him into a strange frame of consciousness where all of a sudden one round of golf equals scaling Mount Kilimanjaro.

(Man talking to self upon receiving a new multi-compartmental golf bag)

“Let’s see, what I can put in there? … How about a roadside flare, a flashlight and a handful of D batteries in case I get stranded on the golf course, one night … Or maybe a dozen Clif bars, two pounds of a protein powder and a set of mini-weights? … I know what would be perfect for that pocket: My tablet. Not my laptop, just the tablet. That way I can record my swing in the middle of the round and send it to Club Pro Guy for instant analysis.”

See what can happen? These things can spin out of control quickly. Next thing you know, the zippers are bursting at the seams. Your back discs are bulging, herniating, degenerating and there’s an unidentifiable stench emanating from the recesses of the hidden interior pocket you forgot was there long, long ago.

READ: A caddie’s guide to the dos and don’ts of a pro-am | The definitive guide to tipping your caddie

Honestly, those are your problems. Golfers are notorious hoarders, creatures of habit, superstitious, even. And while we’re concerned about your problems here at The Caddie Network, we are more concerned with caddies and their problems, real or potential. And carrying ridiculously heavy golf bags filled with unnecessary items tops the list. So, once again, we’re here to offer advice that will help you and more importantly, your next looper whoever that blessed man or woman might be.

Here are the items you need in your golf bag:

Clubs – Not necessarily 14 either, although that’s the limit. If there’s a club in your bag and you have lost all faith and hope in it ever being able to perform its job in a reasonable manner, get rid of it. The mere sight of the offensive object will only cause stress, tension and drive you one step closer to the edge. Give it away, toss it in a lake, bury it in the garage. Just let it go. You’ll be better off with 12 until a suitable replacement can be found. Less can be more.

Balls – No more than a dozen. Even if you’re playing TPC Sawgrass or Bald Head Island, where water hazards lurk and pounce, 12 is enough. If you lose more than a dozen, you should probably just enjoy the walk on however many holes you have remaining. Before your next round of golf, sort through the balls, move the more experienced ones to a box in the garage or a shag bag, maybe donate them to junior golfer or your kid, if he hasn’t already given up golf to devote all of his time, effort and energy to becoming a master of Fortnite.

Gloves – You know how many you need. Here’s your chance to load up. The average golf glove weighs 13 ounces. So pack ‘em in there.

Tees – Essential piece of golf equipment. Lightweight item. Still rely on common sense. There are only 18 holes (tees) on a golf course. Use this information to roughly determine how many tees you should have in your bag.

Ball markers – Self explanatory. Coins will do. I like to carry a penny, dime and quarter. Each can play a role depending on the length of the putt and position of the ball relative to my playing companions. (It’s possible I’ve given this too much thought).

Divot repair tool – Pretty cool if you know how to use them, but not altogether necessary. A tee will suffice. I’ve seen bags with 30-40 of those little metal forks gathered together in a bag or pocket. Excessive, dead weight.

Valuables pouch – Always an item to look out for next time you get invited to a fancy private club or attend a major championship. Nice to know your phone, wallet, keys, wedding ring, etc. are safe and sound in a comfortable home during the round.

Additional clothing, rain gear, etc. – This is where we’re going to start relying on your common sense. If you’re playing in a tournament and there’s rain in the forecast, be prepared. By all means. Bring the rain gloves, the bag cover, a waterproof jacket or pants. Maybe an extra towel and certainly an umbrella. Your caddie wants you to play your best and most enjoy the challenge of competition. Keeping hands and grips dry is imperative. However, if it’s 92 degrees in July and you’re playing a friendly round with three buddies, you don’t need any of this gear. Any rain in those conditions will likely be accompanied by lightning and if you don’t know how to proceed in those circumstances we’re not sure this column is going to help.

One food item, bottle of water – A round of golf takes four hours, often longer. It’s only natural to get hungry.  To be honest, writing that sentence made me hungry. So, put a high protein, healthy snack in the bag. Maybe an apple or banana. Those fizzy electrolyte tablets are useful when the heat index threatens triple digits. But you don’t have to load up for the winter. You’re not venturing out into the Yukon Territory. Just pack enough for one round.

That’s it. Yes, there are other things — alignment sticks, rangefinders, towels hanging from clips, 22 rattling, heavy metal bag tags, — that are commonplace on or inside many bags. Again, not necessary.

Keep this list handy. Refer to it often. When you feel your golf bag life spiraling out of control, when there are enough tees in your top pouch to repopulate a small forest in New Guinea and your collection of 62 divot repair tools sets off the metal detector at DFW, then it’s time to strip your golf bag back down to the basics.

For the love of spine, consider your bagman’s chiropractic bill. Part ways with the scuffed orange Top-Flite. Leave the rangefinder at home. And by all means, rid yourself of that ball retriever, of which we shall never speak again.


  1. Good list, though would include a plastic zip-lock bag with a couple band-aids, extra range-finder battery, shoelace, sunscreen, lip-balm, ibuprofen, bottle opener, and little roll of white athletic tape. It can get rough out there.

    1. Single (wide) strap, 4 to 6 dividers (hell no to 14 individual holes), with a stand (that works! ) Brands can vary widely but avoid Ogio and Nike (if they still make them. ) Ping and Sun Mountain are good as well as most big names like Callaway and Taylormade, etc.

  2. Great article.
    While caddying I have had these items. Each from a separate golfer thank goodness.

    -tennis shoes
    -74 golf balls (yes I counted them.)
    -15 range balls from his home course. (Deposited in bin on #2 tee)
    -Two Umbrellas (Sunny Day)
    -4 dozen balls in the boxes still
    – 2 litre bottle of water. (Turned out to be Vodka)
    -wifes purse (guess it kept her from shopping, I didn’t ask)
    -Heavy weighted practice club.
    -adult magazine (wasn’t mine honest)
    – full carton of cigarettes (about 20 packs)

    This is from 2006-present.

    Sure there is more but…….


  3. I have a canvas MacKenzie Walker, Titleist Sta-Dry & Stitch SL1. I use the MacKenzie when I walk and carry but if I head to a club with caddies (PH #2), what would the caddie prefer? I tend to be a minimalist (adhering to the list above), so I try to go light. Thoughts?

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