Three summers ago, I stood on the 18th tee at a Pittsburgh-area public golf course debating what club to hit.
(Fair warning, fellow golfers: The following story does not have a happy ending.)
The 18th tee at Harmony Ridge Golf Course in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, is at the bottom of a series of wooden-beam steps sunk into a slope. I don’t recall which club I hit off the tee on this par-3 hole but I remember which club I didn’t hit — my 4-iron. I remember that because I never saw it again.
I flipped the 4-iron off to the right of the markers, teed up a ball, played my shot with some other club and during the excitement of this historic moment (Exaggeration Alert!) … well, I left the 4-iron there in the semi-rough, climbed the steps, got in a golf cart and drove to the green. Whoever found the club never turned it in. It’s small consolation, perhaps, but that person is forever cursed. (Hmm. If it was a member of the Chicago Cubs who found the club, that would explain a lot.)
I might still have that 4-iron in my bag today if better technology and/or ingenuity had been available at the time. (No, you wouldn’t, old-timer, you’d have a hybrid in there instead by now.) But I’m not bitter.
Now for the belated happy ending. There are at least two ways to avoid losing a club on a golf course. Three, if you include hiring a caddie, a luxury I enjoy at least once a decade.
The technology option is Club Catcher. It’s so simple, even a senior who left a 4-iron on a tee box once can figure out how to use it.
Club Catcher CEO Jesse Koenig says on his website that 70 percent of all golfers have left a club behind on a golf course. I don’t know if that’s hard data but I’d say that number is low. Who hasn’t forgotten a club?
The first step to not inflating that number is to buy a box of four Club Catcher sensors ($79). Only four? Yes, that covers your putter and your wedges, the clubs you’re most likely to leave behind on a green. You could order enough Club Catchers for your whole set, sure, but what are you going to do — lose a 4-iron? Not likely. You’d have to be a complete a clown.
The next step is to screw the sensors into the ends of the grips on your four clubs. Then download the Club Catcher app. It’s free. There is no annual subscription, either. Let’s skip the high-tech interplay here. What happens is, if you take two wedges and a putter from your bag and walk to the green, then return to your bag with only one wedge and a putter, your cell phone or SmartWatch receives an alert and it beeps. Aha! You left behind a club.
“I should probably put in a few funnier sound options," Koenig said. Like the quacking my cell phone makes when I get an incoming call? Absolutely.
Club Catcher’s sensors are simple and almost foolproof. As long as your phone has power and you don’t, ahem, lose it.
The non-technology option to stop misplacing clubs is the Nevr Looz golf bag ($299 suggested retail).
Design ingenuity, not computer chips, makes the Nevr Looz work. Not surprising, perhaps, that it was created by a civil engineer, Robert Weinmeier, who spent 10 years working on the $1 billion Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
At first glance, the Nevr Looz is different from other bags. It looks as if the bag is missing one side or maybe there was an explosion. Actually, that open side is the easy-in, easy-out access lane for your clubs.
The main point of Nevr Looz is law and order. Weinmeier, a man who likes his world neatly ordered, was bothered by his clubs being mixed up in his regular bag and sometimes hidden behind another club and, like my unlucky 4-iron, the odd lost club, which is how the product name Nevr Looz was born.
“It’s like those papers on your desk,” he said. “Do you want them in a file or scattered around your desk?”
I refuse to answer that under protection of the Fifth Amendment. Anyway, a series of very orderly patented clips clamp each club into its assigned slot in the Nevr Looz bag to organize, secure and protect every clubhead and grip. Picture the horses neatly arranged in the Kentucky Derby’s starting gate, only with golf clubs and a bag instead, and you’ve got the idea. Also, you can hold the Nevr Looz bag upside down over your head and nothing falls out.
One byproduct of this unique bag arrangement is the end of club clatter. You know the clanking sound your clubs make if you’re carrying your own bag or riding in a cart? Nevr Looz gets rid of that. In addition, that means the clubs aren’t banging into each other and leaving marks or dings. Too bad that’s a few decades too late for some of my old putters with face dents from before the era of putter covers.
This is a little bit of a judgment call but if you’re a neatnik enough to carefully clamp your clubs down after each shot, you’re probably going to notice right away as you re-stow your clubs that there’s a David Letterman-sized gap in the bag if one or more clubs — like my 4-iron — is missing. If you don’t catch on immediately, you’ll probably notice the gap the next time you pull a club because the Nevr Looz club lineup is that tidy and you get acclimated to being well-organized (perhaps for the first time in your life?) that quickly.
It’s not the same as a DEFCON 1 alarm ringing but for the very organized among us, it’s a close second.
The bags are notable for a few other things not related to avoiding club loss. The Nevr Looz has two putter tubes, which have been expanded to two inches in diameter to accommodate fat-gripped putters. There are 16 pockets, more than you probably need, and that includes a velour valuables pocket and a top-secret hidden pocket that, if you’re able to find it, is a good stash for your car keys. The pockets are angled upward so they’re easier to access even when the bag is strapped to a motorized cart.
Also, another ingenious feature I haven’t seen anyone else invent is the Nevr Looz bag’s outer layer or “skin” is removable and can be swapped out in seconds so users can change the bag color to accommodate their mood, their favorite sports team’s colors or maybe match today’s wardrobe.
I wouldn’t bother with the latter. Nevr Looz can’t match my look unless it comes in wrinkled.
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