On a recent Sunday morning, Colleen Suozzo, General Manager of Cranbury Golf Club stood, surfer-style, on her latest acquisition, the Golf Board. “You have to have things for all different age groups,” she said in a distinct Jersey accent. “I gotta have it for the brave 60-year-olds.” She laughed, then added, “and for the younger group.”
A foursome of brave 60-year-olds pulled their carts next to the first tee box. Suozzo talked through operation of the board to me, a member of the younger group. She pointed out the thumb throttle, LED lights that show charge levels, and the Hi/Low and Forward/Reverse switches. She recommended Low mode. Cranbury Golf Club doesn’t permit drinking alcohol while riding, and charges $30 to ride the board for a round (carts — which, currently, cost less for a course to purchase — cost $18 per round to rent).
Mike Radenbaugh and Don Wildman (Founder of Bally Total Fitness) cofounded Golf Board in 2013. Story goes, Radenbaugh, who has a background in electric vehicle technologies (he also owns an e-SUP company and e-bike company) was working on e-skateboards when he met Wildman, who’d been using e-skateboards while hitting the links in Hawaii. A Kickstarter campaign soon followed, with initial prototypes imitating existing electronic skateboards, using handheld remotes for acceleration. Golfers wore shoulder bags, essentially e-skating a course rather than walking. The design has since evolved, adding a “Stability Bar” to which the golf bag is strapped, and where the thumb throttle is located (there’s also a drink holder, where an Arnold Palmer fits nicely). The 97-pound machine is powered by lithium ion batteries that can propel it forward up to 10 mph, plenty fast enough to get from tee box to fairway to green; 4 x 11-inch tires allow for romping if one ventures into the rough. Individuals can buy their own boards (pricing starts around $4,000), but most likely courses will make up the bulk of board purchases.
On an 18 that skyrocketed into the triple digits, Golf Board offered welcome sideshow entertainment.
After a safety video and waver, the Golf Board and I had relative free rein across the course (cart rules still applied). The board’s deck, a wide, shaped piece of wood with rubberized grips, offered enough surface area to experiment with maintaining balance and gave good traction to my cleats. The Board was snappy in acceleration, turned sharp and did what it could to keep me vertical. Once off the throttle, the cart automatically braked, and once at a stand-still, it didn’t roll forward, even on declines. Despite Suozzo’s advice, I engaged Hi mode for all 18, powering down cart paths and cutting across undulating fairways. Mastering the handling came quick, and soon every hairpin curve turned to an opportunity for dipping down and carving on edge.
Golf Board also sped up pace, as it split the difference between walking and riding. It’s faster than walking, and it allows each golfer to go pursue their shot without being tied to one cart. As for fitness, it saved some calorie burning compared to walking, but also engaged core strength to stabilize and turn the board (conveniently, the swing muscles).
And, it’s fun. Riding the board added variety to the golf experience, and on an 18 that skyrocketed into the triple digits, it offered welcome sideshow entertainment. The board draws attention on the course, sure, but the novelty engaged other golfers’ curiosity rather than chagrin. The Boards are quiet and unobtrusive, so you’re not just a punk kid with an e-skateboard on the links.
“[Golfers] are going to come to me and have a good experience,” Suozzo said. “They’re going to hack it up and have fun.” Hopefully, that element of fun also draws more golfers to a sport that’s learning to evolve in an era of declining interest. “Because the golf game has changed so much, you have to change it up,” Suozzo added, optimistically. “You have to go with it. I’ve been here 25 years; I welcome change. I’m always willing to try anything.”