Stewart Golf electric trolleys aren’t the least expensive. But neither are they the most expensive.
But the company’s story—from its conception to three generations of engineers to its “handmade in the UK” ethos—makes it one of the more compelling things you’ll read today.
Unless, of course, Tiger reconsiders and decides to LIV it up with Phil and the gang.
In the electric trolley world, Stewart isn’t what you’d call a big player. Even its CEO doesn’t know the company’s market share. And what’s more, he doesn’t really care.
“We’re not really interested in volume,” says third-generation owner Mark Stewart. “The business case has to stack up but we enjoy doing this. We like designing products and we love playing golf. We make the products we’d like to buy.”
Stewart’s products performed well in last year’s MyGolfSpy’s Electric Cart Buyers Guide, with its two models finishing a close third and fourth. We’ll see how they do in the 2022 testing next week.
Meanwhile. the Stewart family business has, as most family businesses do, a fascinating back story. And it all started in a typical English rain.
Stewart Golf Electric Trolleys: Rainy Beginnings
“My grandfather was a retired engineer,” says Stewart. “He lived in the north of England where it always rains so his clubs and grips were always wet.”
As any retired engineer faced with a vexing problem would do, Stewart’s grandfather made solving it a borderline obsession.
“He didn’t understand why we put our clubs in a bag upside down so he designed a bag where the clubs would be head down,” he says. “The clubs were arranged in a little carousel system. The heads would be in these little cones and the whole thing was enclosed.”
Mark Stewart was 19 at the time and, as a budding engineer, he’d eavesdrop whenever his engineer dad and granddad would discuss their ideas. He eventually joined them in making homemade prototypes.
“This was around the time clubheads were getting bigger and driver shafts were getting longer. As a result, our golf bags had to get bigger, to the point where they wouldn’t fit into a typical European car.”
By that point, the Stewarts had also looked at developing a powered base for their oversized bag. They started working on motors, electronic systems and overall stability. Eventually, the oversized bag was abandoned.
“We said, ‘You know what? Nobody is going to buy this,’” says Stewart. “But by that point, we were already down the road with making our electric trolley look like something different. We didn’t want it to look like a science project. We wanted to make it look cool.”
Breaking Into the Market
Stewart launched its first products in the UK in 2003. And, yes, their first products did look different.
“Although electric trolleys were commonly used in the UK at the time, the demographic was basically older guys,” says Stewart. “People viewed the category as an aid or ‘help’ product for older people or people with injuries because those products looked so horrible. We thought if we could make something that looks cool, people would react differently. Then we’d have a chance to drag the demographic down and bring in a younger audience.”
Stewart’s first product was the X1M, a standard electric trolley.
“The M stood for manual, meaning you had to steer it,” says Stewart Golf Marketing Manager Luke Cummins. “From there, we quickly realized remote control was the way forward. In 2004, we came out with the X1R (R for “remote”). Ever since, we’ve been trying to pioneer remote control and develop it to where it is today.”
And where it is today, for Stewart at least, is the most asked-about feature in any of MyGolfSpy’s articles on electric trolleys: the “follow” function.
The Follow Leader
“Follow is very much the flagship of what we do,” says Cummins. “We very much count ourselves as the leader in follow.”
Wordplay aside, Stewart launched the follow feature in 2014 with its X9 series. The technology is now in its eighth generation.
“It’s a combination of Bluetooth and electro-magnetism,” explains Stewart. “There’s a red enclosure under each rear wheel arch with a ferrite rod with metal windings inside. They emit an egg-shaped electromagnetic field around the trolley.”
The handset has similar but smaller coils. The trolley’s electronics calculate where the handset is within the egg-shaped magnetic field.
“The coils in the handset and the ones in the wheels form a triangle,” says Stewart. “The trolley can work out where the handset is, how far away it is and how fast it’s moving. All the trolley wants to do is get that handset one yard in front of the trolley and in the middle. As you walk away from it, it’s going to react.”
The electromagnetic field actually has two zones. The larger one on the outside is called the reactive zone. That zone looks for the handset and reacts to make the trolley move. But if the handset is inside one yard from the trolley, it’s now in what’s called the neutral zone.
“Once you’re inside the neutral zone, the trolley knows to not do anything,” says Stewart.
To use the follow feature, simply walk down the fairway with the handset in your back pocket or clipped to your belt behind you. The trolley kicks into gear and follows you as you move out of the neutral zone and into the active zone. If you pick up your pace, so will the trolley. If you move to the left or right, so will it.
Stewart says the early follow models would get confused if you ran around or tried to do figure-eights. The zones now are bigger and the electronics are much smarter. Smart, however, doesn’t mean the trolley will think for itself.
“One thing we emphasize to people is that it’s not following you, it’s following the handset,” he explains. “People will ask, ‘If I walk into a bunker, will it follow?’ Well, yeah. If the handset is still in your pocket or on your belt, yeah.”
Stewart says golfers will use the follow feature about 40 percent of the time while on the course. You’ll either manually steer the trolley or use remote control around tee boxes, greens and on windy paths. But once you’re on the fairway, it’s follow time.
“As you walk up to your ball, go slightly to one side and then stop. The trolley will stop behind you,” he explains. “Take a step back toward the trolley and you’ll be in the neutral zone. Then you take the handset off your belt and place it on the trolley’s handset cradle. Now you can pull your club and take your shot.”
After that, pick up the handset and start walking. Stewart says it takes maybe two holes to go from full-on conscious incompetence to unconscious competence with the follow function.
“It’s a showstopper and everyone wants to talk about follow,” he says. “When people first try it, they’ll put the handset on their belt and cautiously walk away. And they’ll keep looking over their shoulder. After about 10 yards or so, they get this big smile on their face and are like, ‘this is cool.’”
X10 and Q
No, those aren’t MI6 agents. Those are Stewart Golf’s two electric trolleys—each available as a remote only or with remote and follow.
The X10 is the latest iteration of Stewart’s original cart. It has a distinctive, futuristic look. If George Jetson played golf, this is the trolley he’d use.
You can choose X10 with either a metallic black, metallic silver or pearlescent white finish. The standard X10 follow goes for US $2,599 with an 18-hole battery. An upgraded 36-hole battery is $200 more. A remote-control only (no follow) is $1,999 ($2,199 with 36-hole battery). There’s also a Signature Series X10 available in blue, red or black carbon fiber ($3,499/$3,699). And if you really want to get noticed, there’s a Stars & Stripes model, along with a Signature Tiger model that would make any Cincinnati Bengals fan swoon.
The Q Series was launched in 2020 and is more traditional-looking.
“There are some people who don’t want to be the person everyone is looking at; they just want to go play golf,” says Stewart. “We toned it down a bit with the Q to make it more appealing to those people.”
Functionality is the same as the X10 but the build is a little more high-tech. The Q has “monocoque” construction, meaning the body and chassis are integrated into one unit which reduces overall weight while keeping the unit robust and stable. The Q weighs 31 pounds (the battery is another six pounds) and folds up into a compact 21.5″ x 23.5″ x 12.5″ package.
Q carries a $300 across-the-board premium over the standard X10 units. The Q also features a SmartPower battery app so you can check the power on your battery even if it’s not installed in the trolley.
Stewart Golf: Made in the UK
As mentioned, Stewart hand-builds its products at its 10,000-square-foot factory in Gloucestershire, England.
“We’re not bringing in finished goods from China,” says Cummins. “We try to source most of our materials from the UK.”
“We didn’t want to subcontract out to China and all that comes back in price,” adds Stewart. “But we’re OK with that. People here like the fact it’s made in the UK and we’ve found people in the U.S. like the fact it’s made in the UK.”
Stewart, like Motocaddy, has a dedicated U.S. website (stewartgolfusa.com) along with a fulfillment center in Clearwater, Fla. While Stewart is working with green-grass accounts, you won’t see the product in retail over here.
“We tried it before and we’ve tried to do it in the UK,” says Cummins, “but it’s more beneficial for our time to talk with golfers directly rather than trying to get them into stores. We’ve been selling online since 2008.”
“We’d been building our business in the U.S. quite nicely,” adds Stewart, “and then COVID happened. All of a sudden, electric trolleys became a thing. We’ve been waiting years for this to happen, and all it took was a global pandemic.”
The U.S. represents a gargantuan opportunity for electric trolley manufacturers. And it’s a product category that, in the past two years, has transformed from oddity to curiosity to possibility. But for small companies like Stewart and even larger companies like Motocaddy, the approach is still one golfer at a time.
“The biggest challenge is the sheer scale of the U.S. market. It’s huge,” says Cummins. “For us, it’s about focusing on golfers who really love walking, who believe that’s the main experience of golf. We believe those people, with the education we provide and exposure to the product, will decide to go with it.”
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