ORLANDO, Florida – Sun Mountain Sports introduced the first carry golf bag with a built-in stand in 1986. A couple years later, the company introduced the first three-wheel push cart.
“I should be retired,” said company founder and CEO Rick Reimers, “but I’d like to change the game one more time.”
Whether the Finn Scooter is a game-changer remains to be seen. Golf can be resistant to change and when you start talking about trading the iconic motorized cart for a two-wheeled scooter and zipping around the course like Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider,” well, that’s an optic that doesn’t quite square with decades of tradition.
But would you trade tradition for a two-hour round and loads of fun?
Sign me up.
If the smiles from people who test drove the Finn at the PGA Merchandise Show’s annual Demo Day at Orange County National on Wednesday were any indication, Sun Mountain is on to something big. There is competition in this category – Golfboard and Phat Golf Scooters, to name two – but one of them eventually is going to rise to the top.
My money is on Finn Scooter to be the VHS to everybody else’s Betamax.
The Finn looks like a motorcycle, rides like a bicycle – minus the pedals – and takes all of one minute to master. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a Finn. Powered by a lithium ion battery that holds a charge for 36 holes and charges in five hours, the Scooter has a thumb accelerator and hand-grip brakes. The golf bag lays between your legs in the frame, with easy access to clubs.
You can’t get on the thing and not smile.
“The reaction has been off the charts,” said Sun Mountain president Ed Kowachek. “Probably one of the best comments I had, Matt (Ginella) from the Golf Channel came over to do a segment and he’s been in the industry a long time, has been golfing for 25 years, working at the Golf Channel most of that time – he said he had a crush on it. He said it’s the coolest product he’s ever seen.”
The Finn has a couple of significant benefits over conventional carts. No. 1, a foursome can play 18 holes in less than half the time it takes in a cart. No. 2, given the dramatic improvement in pace of play, course owners and operators can add tee times, with the additional revenue going straight to the bottom line.
“We’re losing people in golf,” Kowachek said. “It takes too long to play. Well, there’s no excuse now. They can get to the course at 7 a.m. for the first tee time, get on a Finn, get done before 9 and get to work. They can go after work and play 18 holes.”
The rider assumes liability when he or she rents a Finn and gets a brief tutorial on the operation. I tested one at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club on Monday and felt comfortable within seconds.
Anything with two wheels and a motor, however, has the potential to wind up on the ground.
“That question has been asked numerous times,” Kowachek said. “From what our understanding is, there’s 17,000 accidents on riding carts every year. There will be some (spills) but that’s why on the app we’re going to have people look at a conceptual video of the safe operation of it. We want to give them pointers and tips.
“Quite honestly, it’s no more dangerous than riding a bicycle.”
Sun Mountain started selling the Finn in late September and already has taken orders from 100 courses, Kowachek said, with an additional 80 to 100 courses on a wait list. Demand already is outstripping supply, which is a good problem to have.
OK, but what about the name? What does Finn mean?
“The first word I think of is fun,” Reimers said. “And my dog’s name is Finn.”
Fun. Finn. Fantastic.