FlagBag Golf Co: Capturing a magic moment in time

Flag Bag Golf Co
The 18th green at Muirfield

To the guys at FlagBag Golf Co a golf bag is so much more than a functional piece of equipment in which to carry your clubs.

It’s a canvas, a blank page, an opportunity for the golfer who throws it over their shoulder and heads out onto the links to say something about themselves, to tell a story about what the game means to them. Why? Well, each FlagBag is, as the name would suggest, woven together using a patchwork of pin flags from the golfer’s carefully chosen clubs.

Some have their bag made up of one club’s flags. Others choose a number of their favourites from around the world. Not only is it a sustainable approach to recycling nylon, but a deeply personal, lasting and meaningful piece of history in a game obsessed with the march of technology and the need to have the newest thing to hit the market.

FlagBag is a welcome throwback and the likes of Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst, Cabot Links, Crystal Downs, San Francisco Golf Club, Olympic Club, California Golf Club, Monterey Peninsula CC, The Honors Course have already seen the opportunity and now stock the bags for their members to buy. You can also buy direct, of course, with Tour pros and sporting personalities among those now bought in. But more on that to come.

Josh Smith, the visionary behind FlagBag Golf Co and an incredible golf artist to boot, takes up the story.

The Wandering Golfers: Storytelling is at the core of what you guys do – could you sum up why it was so important to put that front and centre?

Josh Smith, founder of FlagBag Golf Co: Great question. I think people see them and say to themselves, ‘which courses have meant the most to me in my lifetime of golf?’ I think they immediately wonder, ‘if I were to have a bag made with 1-6 course flags special to me, what would I choose?’

Flag Bag Golf Co
FlagBag Golf Co is the brainchild of Josh Smith

It’s not an easy question to answer but it sure is fun and begs the question, which courses and why?  And that digs into the soul of that particular golfer, maybe taking a second to reflect on his or her golfing past. That said, most customers have a bag made up with just one course on it, their home club or favourite resort etc.

The materials you are using and the partnership with (Macdonald Leathergoods) add to that deep feeling of authenticity around what you are creating. It all feels deeply rooted in the game of golf. How important was that to you?

Flag Bag Golf Bag using Royal Dornoch's iconic flags
A FlagBag Golf Bag uses Royal Dornoch’s iconic flags

JS: When I had this idea to repurpose golf flags while sitting in my office one day, I figured I’d try to make a small quiver and make a bag for my two young daughters.  I sat with that for a month or two and realised it would take me too long to do this alone.  And since I’ve known Todd Rohrer, former owner of Mackenzie, for about 15 years, I decided to reach out to him.

Technology has obviously impacted golf in the same way that it has our lives in recent decades. FlagBag feels like a wonderful throwback to a simpler time, just at a point where people seem to be looking for more meaningful experiences. Does it feel like that to you?

JS:  It does. I think anyone carrying a single strap golf bag without a stand has some interest in connecting to the game on a timeless or more throwback level.  It’s exciting to be involved with this great game and to help customers connect to it that much more with this carry bag, which returns ‘course fabric’ back to the course it came from. 

Your bags are obviously designed to be carried and not thrown on a trolley or on a cart. Do you think that walking a course with a bag on your shoulder gives you a different feel for a place?

JS: Both Matt and I are always ‘walk first’ guys. We absolutely believe the finest way to appreciate golf courses in their best form is done by walking.  In addition, we think conversations and connection to your playing partners are also better when you can walk alongside each other.  I’ve been a Superintendent, either helping build courses or caring for courses for around 20 years, and I’ve always seen that walking gives a better feel for the experience, playing, observing and even designing.  We also understand not everyone can walk so luckily these bags also work well on a cart if you run the strap right through the handle, which is nice!

Is there one bag you have created that had a particularly memorable/special/emotive story behind it? Or one bag you have taken more pleasure in creating?

JS: We’d probably agree that the bag we made that was a gift to Mike Keiser, our friend and visionary behind Bandon Dunes, was our most poignant. We had a tag burned inside that read ‘Dream Golf’.  It probably just should have said THANK YOU! – Golf.

Flag Bag Golf Pebble Beach
FlagBags played a key part at the AT&T at Pebble Beach

Another fun one was a bag Arron Oberholser had us make from many different courses he cut his teeth on growing up playing, wherever he could find a game before eventually making and winning on the PGA Tour. 

And making Gil Hanse, Bill Coore and David McLay Kidd ‘resume’ bags was a massive early company highlight.  Tonight, on the way home from my green committee meeting, I had the pleasure of delivering Buster Posey his FlagBag at his home and that was a Home Run kind of night. Haha.

The story of how the idea came to you, Josh, is well-told of course. But was there a moment you can reflect on now that made you think you were really onto something? And has there been a moment since which made you pinch yourselves?

JS: Can’t think of one moment but I really felt onto something.  And it kept building slowly and strongly as I pictured possibilities – all before I had even seen the first prototype. I was sending texts to Todd with increased excitement and fervour to see how the first bag could look.

The largest pinch-yourself moment might have been hearing CEO of a very large shoe company carries our bag that he bought off the wall at his club and loves it.  But maybe as cool as that has to be receiving a call on a Friday night confirming the large order for 170 FlagBags to be given as the tee prize to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am.  

And then hearing Jim Nantz mention the company on live coverage and seeing Bill Murray and the others playing and walking together with them. I was very proud of the team to nail this order on time!

I drove down to Pebble but didn’t have access inside the COVID bubble, and I sat in a beach chair on Carmel Beach looking over at Pebble Beach while watching the coverage on my phone and sipping a skinny Margarita.  What a world we live in.

Then got to meet Will Zalatoris for dinner that night at Tehama set up by some old Cal Club friends.  He’s a fine young man. Proud to have met him.   

A FlagBag in the wild at Sheep Ranch, Bandon Dunes
A FlagBag in the wild at Sheep Ranch, Bandon Dunes

The US is obviously where it all began. You have recently shipped your first bags to Asia. Australia is already a market. The bags have visited some of the great Scottish clubs. What does it feel like to see your baby going global?

JS:  We know that many of the great golf courses, clubs, traditions and logos are spread well around the world.  We hope to make bags from all over the globe.  This first 11 months has been a great start. After that I’d like to play golf outside of America for the first time and meet up with some of those customers! 😉

What does the future look like for FlagBag? 

JS: We feel very happy with the original 6.5” FlagBag + Macdonald wanderer, which carries 14 clubs just fine, but we are creating some new products. Dopp Kits should be more available soon and we have some really fun plans ahead.

For more information about FlagBag Golf Co, visit www.flagbaggolfco.com

The founder of The Wandering Golfers, Ben grew up on the links of Scotland learning the game from his beloved Grandpa. Previously a writer and broadcaster for The Times and BBC

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