Keeping Score

Aqua Wave keeps 'mudders' on course

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

You drive a sport utility vehicle, and I carry a waterproof golf bag, but we’re both living the same fantasy: We think we’re the Marlboro Man. Or maybe Indiana Jones.

You’re sure that you will commandeer your spiffy SUV into the wilderness to claw through imposing rock piles, forge raging streams and climb a high sierra to reach the stunning view atop a stark butte while your supermodel wife laughs at the sun with her blindingly white teeth.

But, c’mon. You’re never going off-roading, and you know it. Your biggest driving adventure will be ramping a double railroad crossing at 34 mph or accidentally backing over a bike rack before your kid’s soccer practice.

You still want the SUV, though, because you’re born to be wild – in your own mind – and you want to keep your options open.

I get that. I carry a waterproof golf bag for the same reason. I need it to heroically survive a drenching gale in Carne’s windswept dunes, sideways rain at the Old Course while angry whitecaps joust on the Firth of Tay or a torrential frog-strangler at Royal Cinque Ports.

But seriously, am I going to play in the slop and get drenched at a public track back home in Pittsburgh, just to post a meaningless 18-hole score?

Nah. I used to be gung-ho about battling the elements. Once upon a time, I lived to wear my rain gear. I needed it plenty of times in amateur tournaments in which I stashed a dry towel wrapped in plastic in my golf bag, a veteran bad-weather move.

Now, I’m way older, maybe wiser and much softer. Warm and dry with beverage in hand beats cold and dripping wet, 4 up.

But I want the fantasy that I’m a determined mudder (yes, I still carry two pair of rain gloves), even though reality says I’d rather look the part than actually play it as I roll into the autumn of my golfing years.

Big Max’s Aqua Wave seals out the elements, reducing the excuses not to play in the rain.

So, I’m packing the Aqua Wave, a waterproof bag made by Big Max ($249.99, It’s light and sleek, very high-tech and totally waterproof. Mine happens to be a striking teal blue color with orange trim, so I can spot it easily at a crowded bag rack. I like that.

Waterproof golf bags aren’t a new idea. In 2007, Sun Mountain made the first one in the U.S. I briefly owned one until U.S. Airways permanently lost it on my way home from the Masters. Sun Mountain still makes the cleverly-named H2NO in stand bags and cart bags.

Big Max is still fairly new to America. The company began in 1994 in Austria and created Europe’s first three-wheel pushcart, in 2000. The company got into golf bags four years ago and, after great success in Europe, is breaking into the American market.

I’m hooked on the Aqua Wave for two reasons. It works as advertised, and, yeah, the aforementioned fantasy.

“The average guy thinks, I’m gonna play in the rain, but the reality is, we’re all mostly fair-weather golfers,” said Mike McHugh, general manager of Big Max USA. “We all think we need the waterproof bag. The affluent guys see the cool-looking bag that’s waterproof; it shows you’re more outdoorsy. And you’re definitely taking that bag to Bandon Dunes, because you know you’re going to need it there.”

The Aqua Wave is the full-size Big Max waterproof stand bag. The Aqua Ocean ($179.99) is a slightly smaller version that’s great for carrying. The Aqua Sports 2 ($299.99) is a cart bag. The Dri Lite G stand bag ($199.99) and Dri Lite Active cart bag ($229.99) are water-resistant but not waterproof like the Aqua bags.

Yes, I already have tested my Aqua Wave … in kind of a sissy way. I was hitting balls at a driving range in a light October drizzle. Then it started to pour. I attached the rain hood and retreated indoors. When the rain quit after a 10-minute surge, I returned to the tee and checked the contents of my bag. The sweater inside still was dry. So was the golf glove. In another pocket, my rangefinder had no sign of moisture. The pocket with golf balls was dry. So was the pocket with tees and markers.

The only thing that matters to a real golfer, of course, is the grips of the clubs. They, too, were dry. I was convinced. And that was before McHugh told me how Big Max tried out the bags.

“In the initial testing in Europe, they filled all the bag’s pockets with water and hung it from the ceiling for 10 days,” McHugh said. “Nothing leaked. They unzipped the pockets after 10 days, and the water came out. The rest of the bag was entirely dry. It was pretty impressive.”

The Aqua Wave features some nice little touches. I like the slot handles on either side of the bag’s top, making it easy to pick up and load.

There is also a perk I completely missed until McHugh clued me in. Near the top of the bag, just above the umbrella-holder loop, is a circle with the Big Max logo. It’s made of Velcro, and it’s a place to quickly stick a glove – attached by its own Velcro section – while putting. I hadn’t noticed it.

“I use the glove-holder all the time,” McHugh said. “I’ve never seen it anywhere but on our bags.”

One quirk of the Aqua Wave is that you’ve got to be slightly more careful with the pocket zippers. You can’t just grab a zipper with one hand and yank it open. To seal a pocket completely, the zippers must be intricately tight. So, it’s a two-handed operation: one hand to hold down the fabric and the other hand to easily pull the zipper. It is not for the impatient among us.

The Aqua Wave’s double-strap harness is great for carrying the bag. I can’t find much to criticize. I would like one more medium-sized pocket. Right now, I put my gloves in the pocket that’s supposed to be the drink cooler. I’d also love it if the full-length pocket, where I stash the rain hood and my rain gear, could expand a touch more.

Those are minor things to whine about when compared to the big picture. With this bag, I look ready for anything. I wonder whether I can get a tee time in Marlboro Country?

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email:; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle

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