The Equipment Insider

Big Max banks on new light, dry golf bags

After becoming a leading manufacturer of push carts in Europe, Big Max expanded to the United States and is now becoming a serious player in the golf bag market

In the early 1990s, Thomas Reiter executed a vision he had while working on an old two-wheel cart. If he could add a third wheel to the front, he believed golfers everywhere could benefit from its ease and convenience.

Thus, his initial three-wheel folding push cart prototype was born and evolved into the Ti1000, the highest-ever selling model at Big Max, which Reiter is the founder and owner. The creation also became the first step in the company’s cart and bag evolution.

“I had set up my company, Golf Tech, in 1988 while I was studying at the Vienna University of Economics and Business,” Reiter said. “We mainly imported U.S. and U.K. products that were difficult to get in Europe and became quite successful. In 1994, we decided to make our own pull carts as there was a clear gap in the European market. My son Max had just been born so I named the company after him — Big Max.”

Six years ago, after gaining a high market share in Europe, the company expanded into the United States. It entered a moderately crowded and competitive golf equipment manufacturing industry. Big Max USA set up its headquarters in Tacoma, Wash., and hit the ground running, innovating and improving. While Big Max USA remains a player in the cart space, a primary focus has been on waterproof and water-resistant golf bags, using the same Aqua raincoat technology that was included in a Big Max USA Aqua bag line.

Two recent releases — the Dri Lite Hybrid and Dri Lite Sport 14.0 Series — have also utilized the same technology. Overall, both are ergonomically curved and padded.

The Dri Lite Sport is an ultra-light cart bag, weighing 4.4 pounds, and is impressive in that it combines practical features with a 14-way club organizer top, along with a dedicated putter well. The Dri Lite Hybrid, which is more of a stand bag, contains many of the same features.

“It has a 2,000-millimeter waterproof rating,” said Rick Oldach, CEO of Big Max USA. “That means if you get 2,000 millimeters of rain within 24 hours, it’s not going to penetrate the fabric. You have to be in a driving rainstorm to get your stuff wet.”

In the case of the waterproofed Dri Lite Sport, on first inspection it’s abundantly clear that engineers designed this for the golfer. This sounds like an obtuse statement, but it’s amazing how many golf bags work against a golfer’s needs (storage, pocket placement, weak dividers, upright balance issues) and focus more on style instead of substance. With this bag, both style yes, it’s also colorful and sleek — and substance are checked off. Take the nine pockets, for instance. Right away, the handles and compartments scream proper placement.

Big Max — Dri Lite Hybrid 14.0 Series Bag
Big Max's Dri Lite Hybrid 14.0 Series waterproofed bag is designed to withstand more than two 32-ounce stadium cups worth of water in a 24-hour period before the bag's holdings get wet.

For example, how many times has a player unzipped a ball pocket, only to watch in frustration as a popcorn effect develops — balls bounding out here and there. The ball pocket is contoured in such a way that a golfer would have to turn the bag on its side for balls to escape. Other pockets are specifically sized to hold tees, cart batteries, electronics such as mobile phones and range finders, umbrellas, beverages and more.

In other words, some pockets are spacious while others are sewn in for specific usage. Both bags contain waterproof valuables pockets, which is supremely helpful in self-containing condensing water bottles from leaking into other areas. A new integrated cooler pocket allows for food and drink to stay cool, while the bag stays dry. There’s also Bigmax accessory compatibility, which includes towel hooks, a glove holder and umbrella mount.

Over time, bags emerged to include club dividers to varying reviews. With the Dri Lite Sport and Dri Lite Hybrid, a 14-way foam-like fabric divider system allows left- and right-handed clubs to be organized by shaft lengths. Except there is one minor nuance. The Dri Lite Sport offers a putter well for easy grab and go.

In some ways, the divider feature could be viewed as a return on investment. Clubs tend to rattle and knock together, so the technology considers friction minimization, particularly on the tips.

“Think about if you have two or three graphite-shaft clubs in your bag,” Oldach said. “Those shafts get discolored and they do get markings on the shafts when they rub or knock together. With tremendous trade-in value — and you’re spending $400-500 on a driver and you want to get a new driver — you’ll want to trade that club in.”

A stand bag that’s easy to carry, the Dri Lite Hybrid was redesigned to lower the connect point so that once it’s secured, the legs aren’t bumping up on the cart. Whether it’s a riding or push cart, the bag connects so the stand is lowered below where that pressure point is on the cart. If walking, the pillowed shoulder strap wears comfortably but, more important, is designed where the weight doesn’t saddle on or stress the lower back.

Said Oldach: “If you are a rider, and in America we have a much higher percentage who ride, where the reverse is true in Europe, the cart bag is about accessibility. Want to have all your pockets fully accessible. You want to have be able to store gear in the right places and there has to be a balance issue.”

In terms of push cart compatibility, the Dri Lite Hybrid’s patented hybrid
stand system hides all mechanisms to create a floor that perfectly fits on every push cart, according to the Big Max website.

Big Max — Dri Lite Sport Series 14.0 Bag
Big Max's Dri Lite Sport 14.0 Series cart bag weighs just 4.4 pounds and comes with a bevy of innovative pocket functionalities, along with a stylish European look.

With the Dri Lite Sport categorized as water resistant and the Dri Lite Hybrid containing 100 percent waterproof material, the benefit of both promotes easy cleaning. The water-proof zippers are seam-sealed, sturdy and come with stretchable tie handles attached to the pull tabs.

“You really want to be able to wash your bag when done,” Oldach said. “It’s been on the bag rack with other people's bags. When you can do that, you have a waterproof bag where nothing will get wet inside.”

In terms of nitpicks, which are few and minor, one zipper on one of the Dri Lite Sport compartments got stuck. It should be noted that it wasn’t due to irritating fabric intersection like on some bags. With a subtle touch, the zipper easily worked again thereafter.

Overall, the features aside, both bags are sound and durable. It’s hard to envision either bag becoming damaged from being stacked among 50 others in a shotgun.

European style is also woven through the bags, and noticeable. The aesthetics pop.

“You have to find a way to separate yourself from the sea of bags, and we do get noticed when we’re sitting next to our competitors,” Oldach said.

For the features, both bags are priced in the middle compared to other similar bags. High-end dri lite bags retail as high as $400, while others on the low-end spectrum price as low as $30. Of course, those don’t have all the same bells and whistles. The Dri Lite Hybrid is sold for $229.99 and the Dri Lite Sport costs $249.99.

Despite the pandemic, Oldach said Big Max USA typically ships the next day.

“Covid has caused some heartburn for all of the supply chains,” said Oldach, “but we’re actually in pretty good shape.”

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