The GolfBoard, an oversized electric skateboard that can carry a golfer and clubs as they “surf the fairways” from hole to hole, was recently demonstrated at a charity event in (where else) California. Paul Hodge, who heads the company that makes the device, says the invention offers golfers a better workout and might help to “attract the younger crowds.”
Skateboarders and golfers may not normally have much in common, but an entrepreneur hopes to appeal to both sporting types with a new device that allows players to “surf” the fairways instead of walking or using a golf cart, the New York Daily News reported.
The GolfBoard, demonstrated at a recent charity event at the Malibu (Calif.) Country Club, looks like a large motorized “mountain-style” skateboard, but can comfortably carry a golfer and clubs around 18 holes, according to its makers.
The innovative device aims to replace the golf cart as the smart way to get around a course, by speeding up the game and offering players a snowboard-style work out in between playing shots, the Daily News reported.
“It will do for golfing what snowboarding did for skiing,” said Don Wildman, the 80-year-old Malibu resident, and founder of the Bally Total Fitness health club chain, who came up with the idea.
“[Golf] is an old man’s sport,” Wildman added. “I know if I had kids, they would really like to come out and play golf if they got to ride around on an electric skateboard.”
Wildman feels that young people need to be lured onto golf courses again. “They’ve got so many distractions, with all the GameBoys and videos and everything else,” he said. “We’ve got to get something exciting for them that will get them away from the television.”
Paul Hodge, who heads the company that makes the device, was even more blunt about how the GolfBoard could add badly needed new appeal to the game.
“If you really want the industry to grow, and to be accepted by the mass market, you need to kill that stodgy conservative attitude,” Hodge said. “You need to make it fun and attract the younger crowds,” he said.
“Forward-thinking people in the golf industry right now realize you can’t focus on what was the game like 100 years ago but instead on, what’s the game going to be like in the future?” Hodge added.
The board, 15 inches wide with 3.5 inch-wide tires, can ride up to 36 holes without a recharge, the Daily News reported.
It is designed so that, even for a heavy golfer weighing more than 250 pounds on a very hilly course, it can go at least 18 holes and reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, roughly the equivalent of a golf cart.
Not everyone is convinced, even though the device has yet to be widely available for people to test out. “This is at best a gimmick, and I can’t think of a single course I play at which would even allow such a thing on the course,” said one user of thesandtrap.com, an online golf forum. “Their liability insurance policies alone would prohibit it.”
Another comment posted on the site said: “I’m not sure where you come from, but in New York most people can barely manage to get on an escalator without killing themselves—and others.”
But Hodge said he already has orders for 2,000 GolfBoards, the Daily News reported, and mass production of the devices—which retail at $3,500 each—will begin in January, with a capacity of 1,000 a month.
“Now we’re moving to mass manufacturing to fill the demand that we’ve created,” he said, noting that the GolfBoard is made entirely in the United States, in New Jersey, apart from a battery cell from South Korea.
The target market is ages 15 to 40, Hodge said. “But we’ve had a surprising interest from golfers much older than that,” he added. “The standup [handle]bar that we’ve added makes it easy for anybody to ride, and that’s really opened up the demographic.
“So you don’t need to have a really strong athletic background to be able to ride it,” he added, while acknowledging: “It’s certainly more challenging when you take the bar off.”
The company was helped with funding and marketing by crowd-source investment website Kickstarter, the Daily News reported, where backers earned the right to get one of the first boards off the production line.
Beyond the market for individuals, Hodge says golf courses are also being targeted to set up leasing arrangements, similar to how many courses obtain their golf carts.
Golf professional Chris van der Velde, who played on the European tour and owns Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Ore. was among the first to lease 20 boards initially for six months, to gauge interest from his club’s golfers.
“I think it makes golf a lot of more fun, a lot more interesting between shots,” van der Velde said. “It will intrigue people who like to surf or snowboard or skateboard. You certainly don’t get bored.”
But van der Velde acknowledged that there could be skepticism from more conservative or older players.
“I’m not sure it’s a traditional game-changer,” he said. “Some people will push back. Some people won’t like it because it’s different. They didn’t like going from wooden clubs to metal heads. So it’ll push people back.
“But it’s pretty cool,” he added.
A similar device recently introduced is the Golf Skate Caddy, which features a mono-handle that users push left or right to navigate the vehicle while shifting their weight accordingly. A hand-held trigger controller dictates forward and reverse movement through a wireless receiver built into the vehicle, and operates the anti-lock braking system. The vehicle weights 66 lbs. and has a battery life of 3.75 hours, a top speed of 12.4 miles per hour, and can carry a maximum of 243 lbs.
A caddy is mounted on the front of the Golf Skate Caddy to carry a golf bag, and it also holders for a sand bucket, drink bottle, umbrella and scorecard, as well as a removable rear seat. An upgrade to a six-pack cooler compartment seat is available as an optional extra. The Golf Skate Caddy will be available in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014, for approximately $4,600.