I am a sucker for a good golf bag.
Ever since I was old enough to carry my own bag, I have searched out the most comfortable and efficient way to transport my equipment with me around the course. Whilst I have spent a lot of time in America strapping my bag to the back of a cart and go-karting around courses, I prefer to walk and carry.
So when I heard Ping were redeveloping the L8 bag, originally designed 25 years ago, I was keen to try it out.
In terms of design, I would say this is a hybrid bag. It is not as heavy or as big as a standard stand bag and not as lightweight and thin as a pencil bag. At just 1.8kg it is lighter than just about any stand bag you will find.
Pulling it out of the box for the first time I could feel, or rather I couldn't feel, the weight of the bag. Ping have carefully designed to the bag to offer everything a golfer needs in a bag, and not a thing more.
Ping have always designed comfortable, efficient straps and the E2 strap system on the L8 continues that trend. Adjustable at the front and back of each strap, the system is quick and easy to use, easy-to-wear and, unlike some bags, subtly concealed within the design of the bag.
I took time before my first round with the L8 tightening and loosening the straps to fit my shape and size. It is really important that you do adjust the straps to feel comfortable as soon as you get a carry bag. You want to ensure the weight of the bag is evenly divided across your shoulders and doesn't overload one side of your body. The E2 system on the L8 ensures this process is easy and won't take more than a couple of minutes in the car park.
As for the body of the bag, it is very sleek. You will quickly notice it takes up less room in your car, your locker and of course on your back.
I've haven't played a round yet with the L8 where a playing partners has failed to ask me about the bag, noticing the smaller size compared to what they are carrying. In fact, one of them even went out and bought one on the back of seeing it in action.
"You're welcome Ping!"
The bag has a soft but sturdy 4-way divider on top. Whilst it does fit 14 clubs, the space inside the bag was noticeably less generous than a larger stand bag. It's ideal for a 1/2 or 3/4 set, but will fit 14 clubs albeit with less wiggle room.
Inside the bag, two full-length dividers keep your clubs pretty well separated and help ensure you don't pull your bag onto the green when removing your putter!
Most pencil/Sunday bags you find don't include a stand, but the L8 features Ping's latest, understated stand system. Ping say they have worked to improve the bracket that secures the legs to the top of the bag in an attempt to make the bag, and the stand itself, more durable.
Whilst the stand is a great feature to have, I did find it a little shy. Some stands spring into life and extend the legs quickly when you place the bag on the ground. The L8 was a little more timid. Whilst it never collapsed or fell down and would always stand where I placed it, I often found myself either assisting the legs with my legs, or re-standing the bag to ensure the legs were fully extended.
After trying a few different movements, I found the best method was to place the bag down vertically, then angle it towards the ground.
All golf bags will carry your clubs. And all stand bags will perch your bag when rested. Therefore, for many people, it's the details or small features of a bag that can be a crucial selling point. In that respect, the L8 will not disappoint.
Whilst it is a compact design, it features ample, efficient storage space. The apparel pocket was large enough to easily store a full set of waterproofs and features a hidden slice of genius from the Ping designers.
Inside the top of the apparel pocket is a clip and a valuables pouch. The clip is great for carrying your car or house keys and keeping them away from your phone or the bottom of a deep pocket, whilst the elasticated valuables pouch keeps your wallet and phone dry, out of sight yet easily accessible.
Moving further down the bag, the L8 features a single ball pocket that also includes an internal, elastic pouch perfect for a glove or GPS device. Beside it on the outside of the bag is an easy-to-reach drinks pouch that can carry a bottle of water, but could also be used to store a rangefinder or scorecard.
Talking of water, I have played a couple of rounds with the L8 in the rain. Whilst it is by no means a waterproof bag, it's minimal design and simple pockets did well to keep my belongings dry, whilst the clip-on bag cover (included with the bag) is small, but easy enough to secure before popping up your umbrella.
So what were my overall impressions?
Having used Ping Hoofer bags for much of my youth, I had high expectations of the L8. It did not disappoint.
It has a great and unique blend of size, weight and functionality. The weight saved is noticeable and great for 36-hole days or evening nines. At a shade over £100, it sits in the middle of the market in terms of price, but higher up in terms of value in my mind.
Whilst I've had my issues with the stand, it hasn't stopped me from continuing to use this bag and I would highly recommend the L8 to avid walkers, or junior golfers.