There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried
Sun Mountain’s Boom Golf Bag with built-in Bluetooth speakers
Your Bag Checker
Dave Wolfe – MyGolfSpy writer and putter fanatic. Forum members know I’m also the OG of golf bag and portable audio testing at mygolfspy.com.
Sun Mountain Boom: A Design 40 Years in the Making
In 1980, I witnessed the pinnacle of golf bag design. Al Czervik’s staff bag featured everything anyone could want: remote-control club selection, beer on tap, a TV and a danceable sound system. I wasn’t yet playing golf but I was definitely more enamored of Czervik’s style of play than that of Judge Smails.
Four decades later, music on the course is commonplace. Not everyone sees this as progress. There is still a vocal “that man is a menace!” cohort out there. However, the numbers of foursomes enjoying their round with background music has increased dramatically. This is likely due to the increased availability and affordability of Bluetooth speakers. Speaker penetration into golf is so deep that Bushnell even offers a music-playing speaker with an integrated voice GPS.
Obviously, the merger of Bluetooth speaker and golf bag was destined. The Sun Mountain Boom has accomplished this but have they succeeded in making the next must-have product for the audio-inclined golfer?
Putting the Sun Mountain Boom to the Test
If the Sun Mountain Boom is going to be a hit with golfers, it needs to succeed both as a sound system and as a functional golf bag. Less than stellar performance in either of these categories will reduce the market impact of the Boom significantly.
General Golf Bag Design
It may be silly to say that I love the look of a golf bag but I love the look of the Sun Mountain Boom. I find the visual symmetry very pleasing. Overall, it has an appealing balanced look but is its futuristic design functional during play? Let’s ignore the audio features for now and look a little deeper into the golfability of the Sun Mountain Boom.
A Compact Cart Bag
I would describe the Sun Mountain Boom as a compact cart bag. Yes, that is an oxymoronic “jumbo shrimp” kind of statement but it works for the Boom. Compared to other cart bags I’ve used, the overall profile of the Sun Mountain Boom is slender. This profile definitely helps with ease of loading on the power cart but it comes with tradeoffs. While the Sun Mountain Boom has 13 pockets, some of them are significantly smaller than those on a traditional cart bag. The insulated pocket is nicely sized at four beers plus an ice pack but the “large” storage pocket is just not that “large.”
Obviously, this is a concession to having the speakers at the top of the bag. For me, this moves the bag into more of a fair-weather category. Winter golf for me involves multiple layers of clothing. The Sun Mountain Boom struggled to hold all of the peeled-off layers during the round. Sure, I can toss that vest into the basket in the cart but, after the round, those clothes either get carried or put back on since the bag can’t hold them. Obviously, during warm spring and summer rounds, this will not be an issue. The Sun Mountain Boom will really shine when the sun is shining.
The 14-way top works great on the power cart. Clubs move in and out freely. Clanking together is expected as one drives the course. Pockets face rearward for easy access. It has two deep water-bottle pockets that will hold good-sized insulated bottles. However, I did notice that if I put water bottles into both of the pockets, the clubs were a bit squished together and not as easy to move in and out. These pockets expand internally when a bottle is inserted, competing with the clubs for space.
While unobtrusive on the power cart, the plastic collar at the back of the top interferes with the rear-loaded wedges when you try to use this bag on a push cart. That’s too bad, as this bag secures amazingly well onto the push cart. I attribute this to both the shape of the bag and to the Smart Straps™ on the rear. Had this bag featured the same top as the Sun Mountain Sync, it would be amazing on a push cart. The speakers would even point in a very listening friendly direction. To be fair, the Sun Mountain Boom is intended to be used as a riding cart bag. That said, a more push cart friendly top would increase its versatility and value.
Specifications: Sun Mountain Boom
- Colors: 6
- Top: 10.5
- Dividers: 14 full length (or 5 with 5-way top version)
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Straps: Single strap (under)
- Pockets: 13
- Putter: Integrated putter compartment
- MSRP: $329.99
Audio Quantity and Quality
As mentioned, the Sun Mountain Boom uses Bluetooth to connect to a music-playing device. These days, that device is most likely your phone. The Boom includes a combination battery and Bluetooth unit that easily connects wirelessly to your phone and is directly wired to the speakers. Each speaker is wired independently, giving the Sun Mountain Boom stereo playback. Battery life was right on the expected four hours. Should that not be enough for the round, purchase an additional battery charger on Amazon and connect it to the Boom unit via USB-C input to keep the tunes flowing.
Audio playback is the most important feature of the Sun Mountain Boom. The music coming out of the bag needs to sounds great.
Since the Sun Mountain Boom is intended to play music outside, I thought it important to quantify its volume output. Decibel output was recorded at half and full volumes from the front, back, left and right sides. For comparison, I used the same parameters to measure the output from a UE BOOM 3 speaker. All readings were recorded at the same time in the same song.
At half volume, the Sun Mountain Boom’s front and rear measurements were about 5 dB lower than the side measurements. At max volume, the difference rose slightly to 7dB. This result was expected based upon speaker orientation on the bag. Max volumes were similar when comparing the side readings of the Sun Mountain Boom (82 dB) to the UE BOOM 3 (84 dB). This is not surprising as most speakers are designed to peak at about 80-85 dB. Based on volume, the Sun Mountain Boom bag and the UE BOOM 3 are very similar.
Unfortunately, the sound quality of the Sun Mountain Boom does not compare as well. The speakers really suffer from small speaker syndrome, characterized by a deep lack of bass. Altering the EQ settings on your phone will improve sound quality. According to my ear, the R&B setting produced the best low-tone correction. Even then, the bass is lacking. I didn’t expect the Sun Mountain Boom to have trunk-rattling bass. However, I did expect it to produce the low-frequency tones as well as speakers of similar size.
You could write this off as something like “well, that is just how small speakers sound.” There is some truth to that but there are also a bunch of small speakers that have excellent broad frequency sound. The UE Wonderboom 2, our 2020 Most Wanted Wireless speaker, has amazing sound in a small package. Though it placed slightly behind its kin, the aforementioned UE BOOM 3 is my benchmark speaker for portable audio quality. Side by side, the sound produced from the Sun Mountain Boom doesn’t match the quality produced from the UE BOOM 3.
On The Course
On the course, the side-facing orientation of the speakers works well as you park and play. As expected from the decibel readings, the volume is a bit higher to the edge of the cart as opposed to the cockpit or rear. Moving the speakers a bit more toward the strap side of the bag would improve playback volume while driving.
While using the bag, I did identify one design flaw. The window in the pocket for accessing your phone is, for the most part, non-functional and probably not needed. Even with the clear window, unlocking your phone with face or finger is awkward when the phone is in the front pocket. Almost immediately, I took my phone out and put it in the cart. The clear pocket that shows the phone works with the visuals of the bag but not with the actual on-course functionality. Needing to walk to the bag to change the volume, pause or skip a song is just not how anyone will control the sound during play. Bluetooth range is ample so your phone will stay connected to the speakers when you have it with you. Operation frustration dropped exponentially once I took the phone out of the bag.
Final Take on the Sun Mountain Boom
While I really dig what Sun Mountain has done with the Boom, I can’t give it a “no reservations” recommendation. This bag is so close to being amazing but it just misses on some key metrics. The low-frequency sound quality needs improve to be more competitive with other wireless speakers. The bag geometry could use a second look through a functionality lens. The Sun Mountain Boom is perhaps the most visually attractive bag I have ever used but it needs to match that with functionality. Changing the top arrangement to match the Sync and expanding pocket volume would really boost the on-course usage.
The audio side could be reimagined as well. What if the speakers were detachable? Make the speakers charge and play in the bag but make them removable from the bag for play in the front of the cart or at a backyard BBQ. You could then compete with other wireless speaker options. Sun Mountain could also take advantage of the bag size to make the battery larger and even add a subwoofer. The bag is already on the heavy side so adding a pound to improve the sound quality and play duration would likely be unnoticed.
The Sun Mountain Boom is a solid incarnation of the “bag plus speaker” design but it is not yet the “killer app” design. To be competitive in the bag marketplace, the Sun Mountain Boom needs to be more than a Caddyshack-esq novelty. It needs to work as well as, or better than, your current bag and wireless speaker. Even if you need a new bag and don’t own a speaker, it is going to be tough to make the case to go this route as opposed to a traditional cart bag and a more versatile separate Bluetooth speaker. Unlike other bags, this one needs to be competitive in two separate markets.
There is a ton of possibility here. With some tweaks, the Sun Mountain Boom could really live up to its name.
Find out more about the Sun Mountain Boom at: sunmountain.com.