LAKE GENEVA – Two GolfBoards were parked side by side in front of the clubhouse at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. They looked like something Tony Hawk might have invented to spice up a round of golf.
My friend, Dave, and I eyed them warily. We’d signed up to play The Brute on these contraptions, which are sort of a cross between a skate board and a kick scooter on steroids.
Advancing the idea that we were about to attempt something foolish, we had to produce our driver’s licenses, watch a video, sign a waiver and take a crash course – bad choice of words – on the GolfBoards before we were turned loose on the course, our golf bags strapped to the front.
Slowly and unsteadily at first, but gaining confidence by the minute, we set out on the 1968 Robert Bruce Harris design on the noiseless electric boards, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries.
By the time we were done with the first hole, I was hooked.
That’s how long it took for me to change my initial impression. I thought GolfBoards would appeal mainly to X Games types and casual young golfers who don’t take the game seriously. Good players and traditionalists in cardigans and pleated slacks, I figured, would turn up their noses.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“We had four gentlemen out on them who were in their 70s,” said Kyle Kunash, the head golf professional at Grand Geneva, “and they’re planning on coming back.
“Obviously, our goal with this was, how do we get some of the younger (hotel) guests out on the course? The feedback on that generation, they’re looking for something different, something fun. Golf gets this buttoned-up image and this is a way for us to break the seal on that and be fun and innovative.
“But I was shocked at the demographic, how wide of a range it is. Twenty-something up to 70s.”
GolfBoards are environmentally friendly, they speed up play, they’re easy to use – even for a 62-year-old, slightly overweight guy with a bad knee – and they’re a blast.
You can zip to your ball at one of two speeds; we started on low, about 7 mph, and by the third hole we’d flipped the switch to high, or 12.5 mph on flat terrain and 14 mph downhill. There’s also a reverse, should you round a corner slightly out of control and nearly run into a curb (ahem).
The GolfBoard is driven by front and back gear boxes providing power to all four turf-friendly tires. Acceleration is silent and fluid and when you remove your thumb from the accelerator the board slows smoothly to a stop within a few feet. There is none of the stop-and-start jerking – or the back-jarring bouncing – that you experience in a traditional cart.
The board is steered intuitively, by shifting your weight left or right, much as you would on a skateboard. You can take a GolfBoard anywhere carts would go and a lot of places they wouldn’t. They handle the steepest uphill grades with ease.
It didn’t take long for us to feel comfortable on the GolfBoards and we loved the fact that we could move quickly and independently to our golf balls, as opposed to driving back and forth in a two-person cart. It is a bit of a workout because you use your legs to steer the boards, but we could have gone 36 holes on them with no problem.
The other benefit is the increased pace of play. With nobody in front of us we would have finished the round in well under three hours. According to the company’s website (www.golfboard.com), the average round on a GolfBoard is 2 hours 37 minutes.
On the 16th hole, as we zipped down the fairway side by side, Dave, a golf purist if ever there was one, said, “I would definitely come back and play on these again.”
The cost to rent a GolfBoard at Grand Geneva is $20 in addition to the green fee.
“It’s not something the traditional golfer is going to do every time, but if you’re looking for a different experience, anybody can do it,” said Kunash, who started at the resort as a snowboarding instructor. “Once you get comfortable it’s fun and it’s easy.”
Grand Geneva got the boards in April on an initial 45-day trial, but the trial was extended and Kunash said the resort likely would enter into a three-year lease agreement.
“It looks good for us to do a lease for at least four of them,” Kunash said. “Everybody loves them. Everybody thinks it is a great new way to enjoy a golf round.
“In my opinion it’s a new way to enjoy the terrain on a golf course. You don’t really think about how undulating it is until you’re on it. You don’t get that in a cart. You’re just driving. You’re more aware of your surroundings on a board.”
Walking is my preferred mode of transportation for a round of golf because that’s the way the game was intended to be played. But if I had a choice between a GolfBoard and a cart, I’d take the GolfBoard every time.