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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.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Nope

    Nov 14, 2020 at 10:01 am

    No offense but you have to be incredibly out of shape for these to leave you physically tired enough to not be able to swing. They are not hard to ride, we had 80 year old golfers riding them! The real problem is with the quality. The local course stopped using them because wheels kept falling off, they hated morning dew and would stop working, etc. The company was no help at all, didn’t even help troubleshoot or repair them. They finally gave up on them.

  2. Joe

    Jan 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Cargo shorts, black socks, brown shoes? Whew…

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Pete

    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:40 am

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?!! 😮

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

GolfWRX Spotlight: Motocaddy M7 Remote and M5 GPS DHC electric cart review

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I have been thinking about electric golf push carts, or trollies, ever since I started playing in my league seven years ago.

Motocaddy has been making high-quality electric, and non-electric, carts since 2004 and has a couple of great options for the golfer who loves to walk. Motocaddy was nice enough to get their M7 Remote and M5 GPS DHC in my hands to try out on the course for a few weeks.

I have had a lot of people stop me to ask about the carts, and the one thing I keep telling them is that these carts are just flat out fun to use on the course.

Motocaddy M7 Remote

The M7 Remote was very easy to get set up right out of the box. All you have to do is charge the battery, install the wheels, and you are pretty much ready to go. The M7 folds up pretty small, just a little larger than the 3-wheel pushcart that I had been using for years. Getting it to the course should be no problem with just about any trunk space. Now, the one downside to an electric cart is the weight when moving it around, and both carts come in at around 35 pounds each. Even with that extra weight, I didn’t have much trouble lifting them in and out of the back of a pickup.

The M7 unfolds quickly with the flick of two levers and extends the front wheels automatically. Once unfolded, you drop in the battery, plug it in, and secure your bag. If you own a Motocaddy bag, they have developed a really nice system called EasiLock that involves two metal studs that fit into the bottom of the cart. This system also includes a molded base that prevents the bag from rotating at all, even on the roughest terrain. You can still use the M7 with almost any other golf bag as it includes elastic straps that wrap around the top and bottom of the bag.

As soon as you plug in the battery the LCD screen comes to life and you are ready to go. You can use the M7 without the remote by using the dial on the handle to control the starting, stopping, and speed. But the M7 has a remote that is activated by a simple press of the power button to get going. The remote is very simple with just five buttons to control where the M7 goes.

Getting a feel for the M7 takes no time at all and by the time you drive it from your car to the 1st tee you will be in complete, and confident, control of the cart. You simply press the “+” button to start moving forward and the cart takes off gently without any rattling of your clubs, and you can press that same button again to increase the speed. The cart will go from a slow crawl, for bumpy or tight areas, too, as fast as I could run with just a few presses of the button. The big red “stop” button in the center stops the cart immediately, and when stopped it is locked in place, even on steep hills. You don’t have to worry about remembering to set the brakes or anything because it is done automatically.

Steering is just as easy: simply press the right or left button to turn the cart. Small, quick presses will just slightly adjust the cart as it moves down the fairway while a long hold of the button can make it turn on a dime to the right or left.

Almost everyone asked me how stable the cart was and if it would tip over. I can proudly say that it has stayed upright even on some unseen bumps at maximum speed. Side hills, ruts, and even curbs are handled with ease with the help of the small rear wheel.

I really enjoy strolling down the fairway with nothing but the M7’s remote in my hand — it just makes golfing more fun!

Motocaddy M5 GPS DHC

After using the M7 and its fancy remote, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t like not having it. But to be honest the M5 was just as fun to use, but for a different reason.

As the name suggests, the M5 has a built-in GPS with 40,000 courses preloaded into it. The screen is a good size, pretty responsive to the touch, and easy to read in direct sunlight. Having the GPS directly on the cart is great, you drive up to your ball and immediately have yardage to the front, back, and center of the green as well as bunkers and hazards. You can easily toggle between screens on the GPS and it offers a couple of different views to help navigate the hole. The M5 can also keep score and let you know shot distances right on the screen. Motocaddy even includes nice little touches like a screen protecter kit to ensure durability.

Driving the M5 is just as easy as the M7 with using the dial on the handle. And speaking of the handle, the grips have a great tacky rubber that grips well even in hot and humid conditions. To start the M5 you just press the dial down and the cart will gently start down the fairway. You can turn the dial to increase or decrease the speed — I found between 5-6 to be the most comfortable for me. But the speed can go up to a very fast pace if you are looking to set a record for fastest round of the day.

As you walk down the fairway, or rough, stopping the cart is as simple as pressing he dial again. When stopped the M5 engages a parking brake automatically so you don’t have to worry about it running down a hill without your approval. The M5 has tons of power to go up just about any hill and the Down Hill Control (DHC) keeps the speed consistent even when going down a steep decent.

Since the M5 has so much power, and it is a little heavy, I thought steering would be a little bit of a challenge. It wasn’t, at all. Guiding the M5 took very little effort and slight adjustments going down the fairway were very easy. Really tight turns took a slight bit more effort as the torque can want to go forward a little more than turn. Again, once you get the M5 from the car to the first tee, you will be a master at driving it.

Overall, Motocaddy has created two great carts that provide additional enjoyment to walking your favorite 9 or 18. Having the ability to walk without carrying or pushing your bag, clubs, and whatever else goes with you. I like them so much that it is going to be hard to get the M7’s remote out of my hands when I go play!

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Accessory Reviews

GolfWRX Spotlight: Crossrope weighted jump rope & app

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An 18-hole round of golf averages out to just under five miles of walking, which on its own is a good workout. Once you throw in some potential uphill trekking you get some serious cardio too, but if you all looking for a quick workout between rounds of golf look no further than Crossrope.

Crossrope – The details

Crossrope is a system of the weighted jump rope that allows you to quickly switch the weight of the ropes you are using to boost your workout—they range from 1/4 lbs all the way up to 2 lbs depending on the kit you start out with. There is an accompanying app that helps you go through multiple workout routines and is available free, or you can upgrade to the entire library of workout routines along with more workout tracking options.

This is NOT your middle school jump rope

The handles are heavy duty and feature precision bearings to allow the rope to move smoothly around as you go through a routine. They are also ergonomic and fit into your hand naturally, which making gripping easy, something that is really nice when you’re swinging a 2 lbs coated steel cable around. The handles also come with a fast clip system to make changing cables depending on your selected workout easier too.

The ropes themselves are made from braided steel and are almost impossible to tangle, allowing them to be easily transported and stored when not in use. All in you are getting a premium piece of workout equipment that is effective and easy to store—hard to same the same thing about a treadmill.

When it comes to a workout, skipping rope is one of the most effective cardio workouts you can do, and with Crossrope, you can get both cardio and low impact weight training when using the heaviest ropes, and follow along with the guided workouts.

As someone that hadn’t used a jump rope in over a decade, starting out lighter was a nice way to ease in before moving up, and I was pleasantly surprised how easy and fun some of the workouts in the app were. If you are looking for a fun way to add something to your workouts, or you just want to try something new to get you into golf course walking shape, this could be right up your alley. To learn more check out crossrope.com

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Athalonz EnVe—The best golf shoes you’ve never heard of

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One of the coolest parts of being in this part of the golfing world is being able to shed light on smaller companies that typically get overshadowed by their bigger corporate brothers.

So, this post is about one of those products that is definitely competitive against top golf shoe companies, and it’s made by a company called Athalonz, which is based out west in Arizona. Typically known for its innovative baseball cleats and insole packages, Athlonz newest addition takes the patented design to the world of golf with the EnVe golf shoe.

These have started appearing on the world long drive circuit due to the amount of traction they get, allowing players to swing harder. So for the last few months, I have gotten to wear them and see if they are as good as the company claims.

Athalonz EnVe: Living up to claims

The main selling points of these shoes are focused on two things

  1. Design that delivers more power and stability
  2. Custom comfort that lasts all day

These are somewhat difficult to combine into one shoe, and though they are on the heavier side, Athlonz are completely worth it for the benefits. It is obvious that they made strides to hit each box on the list for a great shoe. The patented design has been adapted from their baseball cleat and introduces a spikeless golf shoe with a circular design that allows the player to gain traction through the golf swing. This gives a player the chance to swing harder and faster without losing their footing. They also offer insole packages that help with correct bodyweight placement to help add an extra layer of consistency.

Secondly, it’s very noticeable that there was plenty of thought given to comfort with a roomy toe and custom insoles to fit your style. Additionally, ankle padding helps to provide more stability and comfort.

On another note, they have a good sense of style with a more classic, casual take. In addition to the pictured white/brown color, there’s a black/grey colorway as well.

After multiple months of wear in all types of conditions, these shoes have performed great for me with all the traction I need and while feeling great throughout the round.

Verdict

I am a person who tends to support smaller companies when I can if they make good products. Any support for them goes a long way—especially in the golf business. Since these shoes will set you back about $150, I wanted to be sure they are worth it for the money and they absolutely are. Seriously, for anyone looking to boost their shoe game and help alleviate aching feet and ankles, give these a shot.

 

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