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I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went

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Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.

Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.

It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.

The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.

But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.

Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.

“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.

On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.

The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.

We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.

Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)

Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.

Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.

But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.

Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.

Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.

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Matt is a freelance writer, communications consultant, sports junkie and remedial athlete. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two girls.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Joe

    Jan 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Cargo shorts, black socks, brown shoes? Whew…

  2. Dan

    Apr 25, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    To clarify, Golfboard was created by the guy that owns Rad Power Bikes, an electric bike company in Seattle. Good interview with him here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mnewlands/2016/11/15/is-there-an-electric-bike-revolution-seattles-rad-power-bikes-thinks-so/#1a654e3a3746
    He talks about why he came up with Golfboard…he’s also got a kit to electrify a paddleboard. He grew up in Northern California and was a good high school golfer. I haven’t tried Golfboarding yet and being a surfer, I would, I just haven’t been anywhere that had ’em. Probably wouldn’t be a regular thing for me though, as long as I can still walk.

  3. CONI

    Apr 25, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Tried it once and just looking forward to play with it again! that’s a great way to play fast and have fun. I grew up on snowboard and skate, the drive was quite natural and very relaxing.

  4. Nigel

    Apr 25, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    I’m a 1 index but on a golfboard I’m a 20+! I shot 97 on a course that I’m familiar with. I agree, mixing two sports not such a good idea. Although, I’m sure like anything else, you’d get used to it.

    I didn’t like having to strap the clubs down so tightly that I couldn’t get them in or out of the bag.

  5. Pete

    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:40 am

    These things are a blast, quickest way to play a round of golf.

  6. JJVas

    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Took one at the Club at Savannah Harbor. For the first 6 holes it was really cool, interesting and fun. After that, I wished I had a cart for all of the reasons the author stated. It’s a fun thing to try, but I really don’t see this idea ever being more that a niche thing.

  7. Paul

    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:33 am

    My score will suck anyway, riding the golf board might make me more likely to come out and … suck.

  8. Ell

    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:26 am

    This method is only feasible in dry states. Not very feasible in states where rain storms can pop up in minutes. I wonder how it does on wet fairways? Dangerous on hilly fairways, you lose your center of gravity for just an instance and you are on the ground. Another thing, the tops on golf carts do provide protection from the sun and everybody is concerned these days with the effect the sun has on your health.

  9. slinger

    Apr 24, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Can you imagine a big fat bellied bozo perched on that golfboard and trying to negotiate the course… along with his full WITB set of silly clubs?!! 😮

  10. TigerJr

    Apr 24, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Ride one every chance I get….super easy to ride. If you snow board youll love it. You can take these right up to the edge of the green as well. Anyone who cant stay on one, probably shouldnt be on one lol.

  11. DaveyD

    Apr 24, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Cool, but I wonder if you can get snow tires for it (it’s been a long, snowy winter here in the North). Seriously, I’d give it a try if any course here offered them.

  12. DB

    Apr 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Cool idea, but personally I would rather just have the option to rent a fancy motorized caddy to follow me along with my clubs (and beer cooler) while I walk.

  13. sirparalot

    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I ride one every week instead of sitting in a cart at my home course. I absolutely love it. I grew up surfing so this is a piece of cake. I truly enjoy the solitude of riding to my ball and getting to focus on my game without all the distraction of criss crossing the course having to find your cart mates shots. I can still be quite social on tees and greens as well as when we have to wait on other groups if pace is a bit slow.

  14. Patrick

    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Rode one in Vegas and really didn’t like it. I consider myself pretty coordinated, but found the steering to be unintuitive. It was pretty easy to control at high speed, but at low speed I found it impossible, and constantly had to bail.

  15. JasonHolmes

    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    The only reason I’ve never tried one is the course near me that has them charges an additional fee above and beyond the cart fee. I dont mind paying a fee for the golfboard but I’m not going to pay the riding/cart fee *plus* an additional fee on top of that.

  16. Bruce Ferguson

    Apr 24, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I think these are a good idea and would appeal especially to younger players. Might even help grow the game. I don’t see them totally replacing the traditional riding carts, though. My only concern are the small tires . . . that they might leave tracks on rain saturated fairways, unlike the larger carts with the large flotation tires.

  17. bonifacj

    Apr 24, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Imagining how fast a foursome could play if each player could go directly to their own ball makes this idea so enticing. I sincerely hope golfboarding catches on.

    • Philip

      Apr 24, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Isn’t that called walking … lol … but I understand, I would rather people not pair up in carts as many (though not all) cannot understand the concept of letting one walk to their ball while the other goes to their ball. The worst is when both carts never separate and go to each ball … talk about wear and tear on a fairway.

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Swag ball markers and divot tool

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Product: Swag ball markers and divot tool

Pitch:  From Swag: “Swag is the brand that isn’t scared to push the limits in a conservative sport that isn’t evolving to meet changing styles. We like to listen to music on the course, we want to be bold, we love having fun, we love golf, and we’re going to express that both on and off the course. We aren’t going to try to sell you on how great our proprietary materials are and we don’t need to rely on clever marketing to sell more. We’re a no BS company. What matters is that our putters feel good and in turn make you feel good when putting. We have some crazy ideas, we love to tinker, and we experiment on how to perfect everything we do.”

Our take on Swag’s ball markers and divot tool

Swag Golf is creating some of the most sought after products on the market right now, with their funky headcovers and putters all being in high demand. Well, the companies ball markers and divot tool are no different, both of which are easily identifiable as coming from this emerging company who create high-quality products.

The Skull is the companies flagship symbol, and their Stainless Steel Skull Marker their most recognizable marker. The skull marker features black and fluorescent paint, with the bright sunglasses on the marker giving it a vibrant look. 100% CNC milled, the tool contains the companies name engraved on the back of the marker.

A variation on the Skull Marker is the companies Rainbow Skull Marker. Just in case the black and fluorescent paint job on the former wasn’t flashy enough for you, Swag’s Rainbow Skull Marker will make sure to get you noticed, containing the same features as their Skull Marker with a Rainbow PVD finish.

Moving away from their Skull Marker’s, Swag’s St Paddy’s Day Cap Marker is more than worthy of a mention. Identical in size to a bottle cap, the St Paddy’s Day inspired marker features a hand polished golden finish, with the word Swag in green written on the front, while on the back the words “Swag Golf Co.” as well as the company’s philosophy “Don’t give a putt” featured.

The company describe their bottle cap/marker as not being the first bottle cap/marker on the market but “the best one” out there. While I can’t confirm how true that statement is, I can certainly say it is an excellent one.

Swag’s first divot tool is the DTF Divot Tool. Get your head out of the gutter, that stands for “Down To Fix”. The device comes in a black and lime paint job, and an impressive weight of 49 Grams which should ensure that it doesn’t go missing on you.

The divot tool, like their ball markers, is 100% CNC milled and made from 303 Stainless Steel. For a Swag product, the writing and branding on the tool is quite minimalist, and it is as clean and sharp looking a divot tool as I’ve seen from the 2019 releases.

As always with Swag products, the only issue is the limited releases and how quickly the items go, which is no surprise considering the unique products as well as the quality provided. They are, however, continuing to create and release more and more products and their website, as well as their social media sites, are all well worth keeping a close eye on if you’re looking to snag some of the companies top gear in the future.

 

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Swag putter covers

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Product: Swag putter covers

Pitch: From Swag: “Swag is the brand that isn’t scared to push the limits in a conservative sport that isn’t evolving to meet changing styles. We like to listen to music on the course, we want to be bold, we love having fun, we love golf, and we’re going to express that both on and off the course. We aren’t going to try to sell you on how great our proprietary materials are and we don’t need to rely on clever marketing to sell more. We’re a no BS company. What matters is that our putters feel good and in turn make you feel good when putting. We have some crazy ideas, we love to tinker, and we experiment on how to perfect everything we do.”

Our take on Swag putter covers

When it comes to loud, inventive, standout putter covers, Swag never disappoints. Their new series of covers are certainly out there, and the contrast of their range, attention to detail, and excellent all-around quality make these putter covers a must have — if you can get your hands on them.

To start with, Swag’s Lincoln cover is a a real standout. The cover features a bright green background with President Lincoln looking the part in dark shades in the company’s own version of the $5 bill. The detail of the blade putter cover is excellent, with the bright green being the eye catcher and the unmistakable figure of Abraham Lincoln as the centerpiece.

The company also seem very proud of their creation, letting folks clearly know in their description of the cover that it is “not legal tender.” (Just in case you found yourself confused)

The company’s pink Flamingo cover is also a personal favorite, featuring bright colors and cool summer breeze feel. The great detail on the bird with its dark shades, vibrant colors and background of the palm trees make it an ideal cover as we head into the summer months. But it isn’t just the designs. The quality of the fabric and stitching lends for a durable and plush feeling cover too.

It’s worth noting that Swag enthusiast and team member Kevin Streelman is rocking one of the latest Swag putter covers. The American is currently gaming a Swag 2019 Handsome Too Tour with a double fly milled face, and the 40-year-old rocks the Chicago style deep-dish pizza cover to accompany the flat-stick.

Swag is without a doubt a no BS company, and in their putter covers, they have certainly delivered in their aim to be bold and experimental. Perhaps the only disappointment is that all their limited edition putter covers are already sold out, which is an ode to how clever and engaging their designs are. The covers range in price from around $75-$125, and as the company continues to push the boundaries, here’s hoping for more releases in the near future.

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Garmin Approach Z80 laser rangefinder

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Product: Garmin Approach Z80

Pitch: From Garmin: “See the game differently with the Approach Z80 laser range finder with GPS. Laser ranges are accurate to within 10,” so you can take dead aim at the flag. See a full-color CourseView and Green View overlay in 2-D, showing distances to the front and back of the green, plus hazards on more than 41,000 courses worldwide.”

Our take on the Garmin Approach Z80 Laser Rangefinder

In terms of laser rangefinders, the Garmin Approach Z80 does all the little things well and then packs on a bundle of additional features, which makes the product unique.

For starters, one of the coolest features of the Garmin Approach Z80 is the 2D hole layout that appears on the left-hand side of the screen. The image serves as a virtual map of the hole, and offers you a great view of what’s in store next should you either pull or push your shot, making it one of the best rangefinders on the market for use on your tee shots. The rangefinder also allows you to enter your average driving distance, which will automatically suggest where your tee shot should land.

For approach shots, this rangefinder gives you the distance to the front, back and flag which shows up at the bottom of the screen. The Z80 can also provide distances to hazards and bunkers which is very useful for tight pin locations. When locking onto the flag, the rangefinder provides a yellow arc which once more presents you with a view of where you could end up if you hit your number but miss your target.

The rangefinder goes into standby mode after it hasn’t been used for five seconds, a feature which is extremely good for battery life. Once fully charged the ApproachZ80 will easily last you from 3-4 rounds. However, the standby mode does cause it to take slightly more time to load up when using, but we’re only talking 10-20 seconds.

The PinPointer feature which the Approach Z80 features is also very beneficial in that an arrow on the screen will direct you to the hole, whether you’re facing a blind shot, or are out of position. It’s worth noting that the PinPointer feature is also advantageous in that it gives you the yardage to the hole and not just a guide, despite you being unable to see the flag.

All in all, the Garmin Approach Z80 is a top rangefinder with an innovative 2D map of the hole which gives you a tremendous amount of power in that you can not just visualize the hole quickly but also possess a powerful tool for shots off the tee. The small size of the rangefinder is also a major plus, as is its light weight of just 8oz. At $600, it wouldn’t be considered an economical purchase, but in terms of the innovative technologies and benefits, it could still be considered value.

 

 

 

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