There’s a custom-made surfboard sign in front of the Maderas Golf Club pro shop that you’ll see when you play here now. They’ve amassed a small fleet of GolfBoards and are embracing the slogan of “Surf the Earth.”
Are GolfBoards here to stay? It’s hard to say if they’re just a passing novelty or if they could actually change the way golf is played. Either way, GolfBoards are popping up for rent at more and more courses and they are only growing in popularity. They are the next big thing in golf, so we’ll have to see how things progress. It’s amazing what this company has done since looking for crowdfunding just a few years ago to already having so many courses buying and leasing the boards (with plenty more on the horizon).
I was lucky enough to get an invite out to a small media day that Maderas was hosting yesterday. They now have eight GolfBoards in their fleet and have been promoting them really strongly. The GM, Director of Golf, Head Pro and Marketing Director all sat down with the guests in attendance over a nice breakfast spread. The San Diego GolfBoard territory representative was also there to answer questions. It’s clear everyone at Maderas is very excited about the GolfBoards and the response has already been fantastic. In fact, if you are planning to play Maderas soon and want to try the GolfBoard, you’ll want to reserve yours at least 2-3 weeks in advance. They are that popular already.
After breakfast, we headed out to the driving range where all the GolfBoards were lined up for us to get some practice and a brief tutorial. Indeed, there is a little bit of a learning curve. If you’ve ever ridden a skateboard or snowboard, you’ll likely pick it up a little quicker. The handlebar is really just there for stability and to house the controls (a simple thumb throttle and other settings like low/high speed and forward/park/reverse). It is not for steering.
That’s where the GolfBoard takes a little getting used to. You steer by shifting your weight on the board itself. The further you lean, the tighter your turning radius. On the range, I got the hang of my board pretty quickly. Once my bag was strapped on front (thus shifting the weight distribution/balance a bit), I found mine reacted a little differently. Also, when you are out on the course and narrower cart paths, you see how sensitive the steering really is. It’s one thing to be in a flat, wide open space. It’s another to have specific paths to follow and hills/undulations to navigate. It took a few holes on the course to get my bearings, but after that it became pretty much second nature.
We were set up to play nine holes, but we had the option to complete all 18. We started with six players in our group (all on GolfBoards). It must have looked crazy to onlookers and I’m sure the group behind us we bemoaning a sixsome in front of them. However, it actually worked as a proof of concept that GolfBoards can speed up pace of play. We were behind a threesome of players in regular golf carts and we were all over them. With every player moving at the same speed as golf carts, yet able to work individually and go directly to their own balls, it really does make things more efficient on the course. Also, clubs are easy to access right in front of you, so it’s simple to hop off the board, grab a club, hit and get right back on.
Everyone else had to leave after nine holes, but my friend and I continued to finish all 18. The total round probably took about 4.5 hours, but that was because we were behind some slower groups. On GolfBoards as a twosome, we would have finished really quickly if there were no delays.
This was my first time on a GolfBoard and hopefully not my last. I’ve been wanting to try one and actually passed up a couple opportunities last year. The timing didn’t seem right. My first chance was at Chehalem Glenn just outside of Portland. It was early, wet and foggy, so it just didn’t seem like the right conditions for trying one. Then, I had another opportunity when playing Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson last Thanksgiving. However, it was a shotgun outing and it didn’t seem like the right situation for it. Sadly, there was one guy who rented a GolfBoard that day and of course he was in my group. I was jealous of him all day!
GolfBoards can be an efficient mode of transportation on a golf course, if used properly. At the same time, they are really fun. I’m sure if you ride them enough, the novelty might wear off. Then again, the GolfBoard rep was riding his own personal board and didn’t seem like he was tired of it. Of course, it is his job to sell them!
You do need good balance to ride a GolfBoard, so some people may struggle. Also, it gives you a little bit of a lower body workout. My lower back, thighs and calves were definitely tired and sore by the end of the round. Early on, every time I got off the board to hit my ball, I would have “sea legs” for a few seconds. Just a little bit of wobbliness that I would have to walk off before addressing my ball. That feeling subsided as the round went on, though.
Maderas was a heck of a course for my first GolfBoard experience. It’s such a great track to begin with, and it’s definitely fun terrain for “surfing the earth.” It is hilly and the fairways have lots of undulation. GolfBoard riders are allowed to get a little closer to greens and tee boxes than regular carts because they do not put much pressure on the turf. Again, this can help move things along better. Maderas also has a lot of canyons, water hazards and ESAs, so you have to be careful and you don’t want to get too close to any danger zones. The cool thing about a GolfBoard is that if you think you are headed for trouble, it’s easy to jump off and the board will stop pretty much automatically when you release the throttle. They seem almost impossible to tip over, too.
I’ve reviewed Maderas Golf Club before, so you can read a past review here. I really like the course a lot and it is fun, challenging and scenic all the way around. Riding through this course on a GolfBoard made me feel even more connected with all the undulations and scenic qualities. I will post some new pictures of the course below.
A couple of knocks on the GolfBoard would be minor gripes. It was a hot day and we were stuck waiting on the groups ahead a lot. You can sit down on the board itself, though it is rather low to the ground and not particularly comfortable. The sun was beating down, so we definitely missed the comfy seats and roof of a regular cart. There were cupholders attached to the GolfBoards (the ones at Sewailo actually had coolers attached to the front), but I was missing a place to clip my scorecard, pencil and pin sheet. That would have been handy. Some of them had attachments to hold sand bottles. It sounds like there are some different attachments available and more that will ultimately be developed. Things like an umbrella holder, GPS, place to store extra balls/tees and scorecard attachment would be obvious ones that a lot of players would like to have.
Nonetheless, we had a blast trying out the GolfBoards while playing beautiful Maderas Golf Club. I’ll be really curious to see how this trend grows and evolves. There will be some traditionalists who scorn the idea while it may also attract more young players to the game. It’s interesting to me that the first three courses in San Diego County to bring in GolfBoards (Maderas, Rams Hill and Shadowridge Country Club) are nicer clubs with older average players than mid-range courses and muni-level tracks.
Once more courses add GolfBoards to their fleet or competitors start flooding the market with a similar product (or whatever the next next big thing is—Bubba’s hovercraft, perhaps?), the novelty will start to die out. Right now, GolfBoards typically cost an extra $25 to rent compared to regular golf carts that are already be included with green fees at these particular courses. The more prevalent they become, I am sure that price may go down and eventually equal out with a regular cart rental. However, once everyone has tried a GolfBoard, how often will they use it again in the future?
Personally, I really enjoyed it and would love to try it again. At the same time, I am probably not likely to shell out an extra $25 just to rent one. Now that I’ve done it and satisfied my curiosity, I would need that rental price to come down or be the same as a regular cart before I rent one regularly. I consider myself a budget golfer most of the time, so the extra cost definitely factors in.
If you haven’t yet tried a GolfBoard, you owe it to yourself to ride one at least once. After that, you will probably want to do it again. You just have to ask yourself if it’s worth the extra splurge. If GolfBoards do ultimately become one of the “norms” at golf courses, will they still be cool? The cool factor is going a long way right now, so we’ll just have to see how long they can ride the wave of excitement.
Some pictures (and videos) from Maderas Golf Club and GolfBoard (7/7/16):
My friend, Zeb, shows off his newfound GolfBoard skills:
Me in “selfie” mode: