Of all golf's problems, slow play is the most infuriating. Forget expensive greens fees and longer, more difficult courses - polls show that the No. 1 reason for leaving the game is slow play.
It's a problem no one seems able to solve. But, a handful of people think they have the answer: the golf cart.
How many times have you seen a foursome ahead of you in two carts when this scenarios occurs: After their tee shots, one golfer in a cart walks to the opposite side of the fairway to find his wayward shot while the other sits in the cart.
The golfer hits, strolls back to the cart, then they drive 20 yards and repeat the process.
Why not single carts for single golfers?
"If you put four able-bodied people in these cars, they could finish in under three hours, on any course." said John Hidel, who has a financial interest in single carts because he owns a company, Total Access Golf in New Hampshire, that sells them. "It would be like sprint golf."
Solo carts can be driven from tee to green, and do little turf damage, according to Hidel.
"The battery is in front, you and the (gas) motor are in the back, and they exert about seven pounds a square inch of pressure on the ground, which is less than our footprint," Hidel said. "Golf course owners think, 'oh they're tanks, we don't want that on our greens. But, they don't do any damage. Ours weigh about 800 pounds. Regular ones weigh about twice that."
Hidel said his carts are made of steel tubing and lightweight polyurethane and plastic.
Single carts have been around for a while, mainly for disabled golfers, but Hidel and others say they can also speed up play considerably.
According to Hidel, golf courses could benefit, too.
"If a course had eight of these carts, every day they could get an extra two or three groups out, which would be worth $200-$300," he said.
If the carts were marketed as being capable of speeding up play, courses might take more of an interest. But, courses have resisted the idea for a variety of reasons.
As it stands, only a few courses around the country have solo carts, like Pebble Beach, Doral and the TPC courses, and they are reserved almost exclusively for the use of disabled golfers.
At most other courses, disabled golfers meet resistance.
"Golf course owners have been slow to grasp this," Hidel said. "But, the law says that if you provide access for an able-bodied golfer, you have to provide access to the disabled. Golf courses are aware of this, but they're just waiting. Unfortunately, the only way to enforce (the Americans with Disabilities Act) is through civil action."
There are already precedents. For example, the city of Indianapolis recently settled an ADA lawsuit by promising to provide single-seat carts as one of the settlement conditions.
Hidel said he doesn't want to go the litigation route. He points out that, aside from the disabled, many golfers with mobility problems, such as seniors, would stick with the game longer if they had a viable way to get around the course.
The USGA has "modifications to the rules of golf for golfers with disabilities," but a USGA spokesperson said golf's governing body has no official policy on single-rider carts.
One setback for single-rider carts involved a recall alert by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2001, SoloRider Industries of Englewood, Colo. voluntarily recalled about 200 SoloRider carts.
Those carts were powered by electricity, and it was found that their software coule be corrupted by static electricity, "allowing it to move forward without assistance," according to the recall alert. Although the recall said riders or bystanders could suffer injuries, no injuries were reported.
November 14, 2004
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!