Bored with golf carts? Try a Golfboard

By Al TaysNovember 6, 2015, 7:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - The contrast couldn't be more striking. Dubsdread Golf Course in Orlando, Fla., dates back to 1924. Its website says it's the "oldest public layout in the central Florida region." Ben Hogan won a Tour event here in 1945. Yet here we are, general manager Rodney Reifsnider and myself, sitting in an empty but soon-to-be-bustling dining room talking about something that's more "Back to the Future" than "Follow the Sun."

We're talking about Golfboards.

Basically, they're motorized skateboards with a handle to which you attach your golf bag. They debuted at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, where they were named Best New Product. They're available as alternatives to traditional riding golf carts at more than 100 courses, including Dubsdread, which has had its fleet since late 2014.

Dubsdread is managed by Billy Casper Golf, which has a partnership with Sol Boards, manufacturer of Golfboards. Late last year, Billy Casper Golf regional managers had a chance to try out Golfboards at Dubsdread.

Reifsnider, 41, admits he was skeptical: "I had zero interest in it, honestly, at the time."

But the Golfboards came, and Reifsnider's preconceived notions about them went.

"It's funny, we really thought this was going to be geared strictly toward the younger demographic," Reifsnider said. And a lot of young players - male and female - do give the Golfboards a try. But the average age of the golfer who returns to use the Golfboard more than once "is definitely over 50.

"A lot of them, they grew up walking, they miss being able to walk but the body just won't let them do it anymore. The Golfboard allows them to stand up, get around quicker than on a golf cart because you can go to your ball; you don't have to go watch Bob hit his shot."

Groups of seniors play at Dubsdread on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Reifsnider said, "and every Tuesday and Thursday, all the boards are gone." Among women players, there is one group where "the average age is definitely in the 60s, we've got a couple of those ladies who like them." Another women's group has an average age in the 40s, Reifsnider said, "and they absolutely love them."

Golfboards are the brainchild of Don Wildman, a West Coast-based entrepreneur and fitness fanatic. An avid surfer and golfer with homes in Hawaii and Malibu, Wildman sought to bring the feel of riding a surfboard to a golf course. He persuaded a buddy, legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, to get involved with the project. They experimented with electric skateboards, eventually coming up with the Golfboard. Early designs did not have a handle - Golfboard calls it a stability bar - to hold on to; riders simply slung their golf bags over their shoulder.

Golfboard president Jeff Dowell's first experience with the product was with the early, handle-less model. "I fell off more than once," he said. "I had a pretty steep learning curve. But I stuck with it and learned to ride well enough not to embarrass myself."

The addition of the stability bar gave more balance-challenged riders something to hold on to and a place to secure the golf bag. It was a game-changer.

"We've had phenomenal success this year," said Dowell, 56, a former assistant pro at famed Oak Hill. "We're in over 100 courses now, throughout the world, mostly in the U.S. but also in the U.K. and Australia and Switzerland. We have over 1,000 boards installed and up and running at courses."

At Dubsdread, the number of Golfboards is flexible and cost $5 above the walking fee. They started out with eight, cut back to four in the summer, when the demand drops off, but are considering going to 12 or 16 during the winter, when they frequently conduct tournaments. The staff would use the Golfboards to roam the course as needed, leaving more conventional carts for players.

And speaking of "roaming the course," Golfboards can operate in a lot of areas where carts can't (or aren't allowed to). "They have very low impact on the turf," Reifsnider said. "When we're moist and cart paths only, the boards usually can still go out in the fairways and even up fairly close to the greens because they don't do that much damage."


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GolfChannel.com's Nick Menta (left) and Jason Crook give Golfboards a try.


What is it like to ride a Golfboard for the first time? "People say two things when they get off a Golfboard for the first time that they've ever ridden it," Dowell said. "'That's the most fun I've ever had on a golf course,' and 'That was a lot easier than I ever could have imagined it was going to be.'"

Three GolfChannel.com staffers gave the boards a try recently at Dubsdread. Jason Crook, 27, and Nick Menta, 26, rode them for most of the round, while the author, older than both of them put together, took turns on a couple of holes. The reviews:

• Dubsdread requires you to watch an instructional video and sign a waiver before taking a Golfboard. The video helped.

• We also were given a few minutes of personal instruction in the practice area before we set out onto the course. Also helpful.

• The author, who has leg and foot issues, was jealous of the Golfboards' ability to drive closer to tees and greens than even his handicapped-flag-equipped cart.

• Standing up through an entire round won't be a problem if you're used to walking 18 holes, but if you regularly ride in a cart, your legs are going to feel it. Reifsnider suggested bringing the kind of fold-out chair you often see spectators using at tournaments. Many models can hang off your golf bag.

• If we had taken three Golfboards and no cart, we wouldn't have had some accessories that cart-riders take for granted, like a small ice-filled cooler to hold drinks, or a sand bottle for divot repair. Reifsnider said those, plus an umbrella holder, are the three suggestions Golfboard renters mention most often. But, he added, "with most groups, there's someone who ends up taking a regular cart."

• Were they fun to ride? Our mutual conclusion was that they probably would be, but it would take a few rounds. Our 20-somethings felt that the concentration required to steer the Golfboard made it more difficult to fully concentrate on their golf games. The author, who has no experience with things like surfboards or skateboards or snowboards that you turn by leaning, was unable to shake a fear of falling flat on his face. In fairness, however, two points should be made: Any activity that involves a learning curve isn't likely to be fun in the beginning, but that doesn't mean it won't be eventually. And the more you do something, the less you have to concentrate on doing it.

So while Golfboards may not be for everyone, they definitely fill a niche. Those who feel comfortable riding them insist they're a blast. The author would like to get beyond the "clenched teeth" stage and prove that "surfing the turf" isn't just kid stuff.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.