The problem with being an innovator is that as soon as your hot new product is in the marketplace, everyone else steals the idea. And yes, despite patents and copyrights it still happens because other companies just dissect your invention, add a tweak or two of their own and then produce a slightly different bit of kit, which they can legitimately call their own.
It's happened to Ping with peripheral weighted clubs; it happened to Titleist with numerous golf ball developments; it happened to Callaway with bore-through shafts and larger but lighter clubheads. It has also happened to Sun Mountain, the company - lest you forget - that introduced the stand bag to a grateful world of golfers 18 years ago. These products have now become so ubiquitous, with just about every manufacturer worth the name producing its own version, that it seems hard to recall that only a generation ago you had two choices; a classic 'Tour' bag that weighed a ton and needed a Sherpa guide to carry it, or a pencil thin canvas job that had to be laid down in the mud and wet grass every time you played a shot.
So it's necessary to first of all declare an interest because ScottishGolf likes Sun Mountain products for a number of reasons. The company was first in the marketplace but nearly 20 years later that's not enough - to survive and prosper its bags needed to be not only innovative but also well made and good-value. You might sell people one of your new bits of kit but if it falls apart after a few weeks they won't come back for another. Oh, and you had to keep producing the goods, literally and metaphorically, by continuing to innovate.
We therefore took charge of the newest Sun Mountain with enthusiasm. It's called the Lightning and is one of the company's Roller Top. range. 'Roller Top' doesn't seem that big a deal when you first view the Lightning because it is, after all, just a grab handle to help lift the bag onto and off your shoulder/s. But the devil is in the detail and it's remarkable how, over the course of 18 holes, small things matter. It's like driving a car that has no space in which to rest your left foot. Around town and for short trips you hardly notice but on a long drive or if you're stuck in traffic it becomes increasingly important until eventually you sell the car in exasperation that such a tiny detail can ruin so much other good work.
And so it is with the Roller, a startlingly simple but nevertheless excellent idea - but then, those two things so often go together. The innovation really does make a difference and was particularly liked by a member of the ScottishGolf team who has a bad back and therefore rarely carries his clubs but was press-ganged into service as a tester. Because he no longer had to stoop to slide his arm into the dual-strap system, the task of getting the Lightning on and off his back could be accomplished without him bending his spine, so it not only receives his vote of approval but that of his chiropractor, too.
In other areas the Lightning will be familiar to all of you who have picked up a Sun Mountain or, let's face it, any lightweight stand bag over the last year but here, quickly, are the main salient points:
Easy-to-adjust dual-strap carrying system
Six pockets (one fur-lined for valuables)
Frankly, we could do without the pen-holder but we're difficult to please and regard it as a point of honour to find at least one item to criticise.
The Lightning also comes in an ES (extra space) version but we have only tested the standard model but trust us, it works.
Lightning RRP $170 (approx £107)
$190 (£120) for the Lightning ES.
|| 22 - SEPTEMBER 2003