America’s traditional 2-person cart isn’t going to be around much longer.
Perhaps that’s a bold proclamation, but two people riding in the same cart, crisscrossing and bumbling all over the course is inherently inefficient. For a game with a pace-of-play problem, a solution can’t come soon enough. This isn’t to suggest some variation of a single-rider vehicle will be a panacea, but speeding up the game won’t happen without literally speeding up the game.
Walking the floor at this year’s PGA Merchandise show, it’s clear companies sense change is coming and see an opportunity to get ahead of the competition. A year ago, one company (Ellwee) had an entire booth dedicated to a single-rider cart. This year, it seemed nearly every electric vehicle company offered a fresh take on something other than the basic 2-person golf cart.
It takes money and resources to develop products to showcase and eventually bring to market. My hunch is this is less a shot-in-the-dark and more a collective admission of where the market is headed.
What’s the ultimate solution?
That depends on how early adopters fare and whether any can catch some sustainable buzz. It also depends on how seamlessly companies can integrate certain solutions into the current environment while still allowing for an authentic golf experience. Some products (Club Car Tempo Walk) look to give walking golfers another pedestrian option, but the bigger challenge is to covert walkers into (at least) part-time riders and twosome cart buddies to more efficient single-riders.
There’s also a financial reality which companies will have to navigate with prospective courses. It’s unlikely the bulk of courses will be eager to purchase a large fleet of single-rider carts outright, but this leaves plenty of room for creative revenue-sharing or leasing models.
With that, here’s a brief look at the single rider options available now.
Sun Mountain Motor Sports Finn Cycle
The MyGolfSpy staff demoed the Finn Cycle. As advertised, two-wheels and decent speed results in plenty of fun, but also some difficulty navigating hills and wet cart paths. Two-wheeled solutions offer a nimbler ride, but the lack of stability is an issue for some – arguably many. There’s also the repetitive nature of using the kickstand every time the player mounts/dismounts the vehicle, which is one more step the golfer needs to complete between shots.
Because there’s no barrier between rider and the elements, popularity will likely be linked to weather conditions. If it’s wet or muddy, your pants don’t stand much of a chance of making it through the round unscathed.
The Finn Cycle comes in six different colors, and Sun Mountain promotes an “attractive revenue sharing model” which should make it easier on courses which might not be ready to go all in on the single-rider revolution.
The Trollhättan Sweeden-based company introduced several prototypes in 2018. What came to market is a 4-wheel, ATV inspired single-rider vehicle. With its Scandinavian design and upscale componentry (Ellwee sources wiring harnesses and electronic parts from the same company which supplies similar parts for Volvo, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz ) Ellwee is more of a trimmed-back automobile than a beefed up bike or skateboard.
As a multi-purpose vehicle, Ellwee has a range of modular components which allow the basic unit to serve as a beverage cart, range-picker or as a multi-purpose vehicle. With top speeds in the 20 MPH range (course operators can dial-it down), Ellwee offers a fun and fast experience, but knowing golfers and our penchant for risky behavior, Ellwee was wise to include safety features like downhill engine breaking and a gyroscope to prevent it from tipping over.
While Ellwee’s offering is the most robust of the current crop, it could be more vehicle than courses actually want, and because it’s not much smaller than a standard 2-person cart, storage space could become an issue. Additionally, though its design may offer better ride quality and safety, some golfers might miss the ease of sliding in and out of a cart rather than mounting a single, raised seat.
Like competitors, Ellwee is available in multiple colors, but the company feels it offers a more robust solution with better design and functionality. As a vote of confidence, Ellwee sold 30 of its 100 available units during the first of the 2019 PGA Merchandise show.
It’s not often we talk about CG locations relative to golf carts, but in the case of the Caruca, it’s a viable talking point. With a wheelbase specifically engineered for stability and a low, centralized weight distribution, Caruca offers riders a safe, if unspectacular, single-rider option.
At a top speed of 10 MPH, it lacks some pizzazz; however, the option to stand or sit is a bonus. It may not be replete with added features, but less of a learning curve means a wider range of golfers can hop on and go without needing to sign any waivers or watch instructional videos.
The Caruca might not win many awards for curb appeal, but intuitive design always has a seat at the table.
Sometimes names can be deceiving. The cheetah is the fastest animal in the world, but it’s also a single-rider cart which looks like it might have more in common with a mall scooter than its feline namesake. That said, it offers riders a simple solution with sufficient storage and an integrated speaker system. An optional chair allows riders to sit or stand and removable Lithium batteries can be charged separately, which limits downtime between rounds.
Phat Golf (headquartered in Tempe, AZ) debuted its Phatty HD scooter at the PGA show in 2018. This model has a top end speed of 20 MPH (though the company recommends 13 MPH for golf) and according to PGA Tour professional Pat Perez, “It’s like riding a couch.” Similar to the Finn Cycle (and most two-wheeled options) it’s best suited for arid climates, and insomuch as vehicles reflect the geography of its origin, the Phat scooter has a decidedly laid-back desert cruiser SoCal vibe.
The 10” wide tires and lower seat height (28”) coupled with independent front and rear suspension give the Phatty HD features designed specifically for comfort and balance. Like other models, it includes requisite golf accessories (beverage cooler and basic storage) and because I have a soft spot for 90s slang, the name gets two bonus points.
In development for the past two years, Ramon Fierro believes he has a solution which will be the first patent-protected two-wheel, single-rider solution. There’s always plenty of nuance with legal conversations and because GolfGlide is still in development (Fierro hopes to have some working prototypes ready in March), we’ll focus on its features and purported benefits.
According to Fierro, GolfGlide is a golf specific design which offers riders all the amenities of a traditional cart (storage, drink holders, USB ports, club cleaner, seed dispenser) in a stable, two-wheeled design which gives golfers the option to stand (glide) or sit (ride). At face value, it doesn’t appear significantly different from other two-wheeled golf-cycles, which may become a problem. Should multiple versions with similar designs hit the market at essentially the same time – with roughly the same list of pros and cons and without a serious spike in demand – it’s unlikely all brands would survive.
RAPTOR/FAIRWAY RIDER G3
DSG Global is a multifaceted organization dedicated to creating fleet management services for commercial, governmental and recreational applications. Its dedicated “Tag Golf” system will likely play a role in any meaningful pace-of-play initiatives moving forward but DGS also offers a single-rider vehicle.
Where the Raptor differs is as a three-wheeled solution, it alleviates any need for kickstands and protects the rider from wet or muddy course conditions. It might not be the sleekest looking option, but this is a battleground where function probably wins out over form. Rather than interchangeable or retractable seats, a single seat gives riders the option to sit, stand or something in between. Basic storage comes via the wire mesh basket attached to the handlebars though there doesn’t appear to be an obvious drink holder/cooler.
WHERE DO WE GO?
It’s a contest without an obvious winner– for now. That said, it’s only a matter of time before one of the major brands (EZGO, Yamaha, Club Car) enters the conversation, which as it evolves will likely call for a composite solution, borrowing technologies from across the industry.
As is often the case, complex problems find clarity in simple solutions and gaining industry-wide acceptance will be a tough ask for any product. What’s given is the standard two-person cart and improving pace of play are incompatible bedfellows.
So why not take the existing two-person cart and just cut it in half? Could it be that simple?
Sound off and let us know what solution you’d propose.