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Single-rider golf carts could be the answer to slow play

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Single rider cartOf 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 rider cartSingle 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.

Solo rider cart"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.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Slow Play

    JIMML wrote on: Dec 6, 2004

    In my 45 years of playing golf I have experienced the following.
    Living in South Florida in the late 70s the weekend rounds were starting to take six hours. I found myself playing less and less until I almost quit playing.
    In the early 80s I moved to Colorado and built a house on a course. Three of my buddies and I would get the first tee time on Saturdays and Sundays and each having our own cart could whip through three and a half hour rounds with no problems.
    I now play at public courses and find myself going to one in particular because in nine out of ten rounds I can walk the course in under four hours. This is mostly due to a knowledgeable, hard working ranger staff and their ability to keep them goobers moving.

    Reply

  • slow play not the way

    Eric Neuschwander wrote on: Nov 24, 2004

    Traditionalists (and I consider myself one of them) would argue that golf is meant to be experienced and enjoyed by walking the course. The reality though, is that times have changed. Course designs have grown longer and the popularity of the sport has exploded. Marketing of equipment has led "Joe Duffer" to honestly believe he can hit it like Tiger, and will drop his $60 green fee every single weekend to prove it. More people, bad players, are now gobbling up tee times.
    Slow play characteristically is a result of poor play, to be sure. But "Joe Duffer's" ignorance of the etiquette of golf, has only made matters worse.
    People have to get SMARTER, and drop the 'me first' mentality that is so prevalent in society today.
    However, equally to blame for the problem are indeed the golf courses themselves. Stacking up tee times, and sending groups off 2-4 minutes apart is a major problem. I don't think any number of golf carts on the course is going to help cure that problem.
    In addition, many players would choose to ride to help speed up play, yet face insanely high cart fee rates. Courses be reasonable!
    I have heard of the single cart proposition and I love the idea.
    But I can see it now - double cart riders split the $40 fee. Single cart riders pay $30. The trouble is the golf cart, which was originally intended to help speed up play, has become a 'cash cow' for greedy course managers.
    Courses have to get SMARTER, less greedy and make costumer satisfaction priority one short term, to secure long term profits.
    Finally, I believe the single biggest factor of slow play is the "hit and seek" golfer. Looking for wayward balls is the single most frustrating factor the slows pace of play down. I've often thought, wouldn't it be a great summer job for students to sit on a fairway in the bright sunshine, spotting balls for wayward golfers - perhaps manning a cooler offering cold drinks to offset costs.
    Any course clever enough to consider it, give me a call. I might even be able to get a round in and not be late for work.

    Reply

  • slow play

    JB wrote on: Nov 24, 2004

    single carts, a solution? how about more congestion?
    as someone who routinely walks 18 holes in an easy 3.5 hrs, I have a couple of thoughts. have rangers/starters pass out discounted lesson coupons. slow play is usually the twin of poor play. and lesson one: etiquette!
    lesson two? a pre-shot routine that begins when one gets to the ball, not when its ones turn to stroke the ball! next thought? how about understanding that golf is a paced walking game as it was designed! and as such, come to walk, walk briskly, play your shot, and keep moving.
    for courses where carts are the only means to trek some 7 miles of terrain, improve slow play by esatblishing local rules over waste areas, that quickly keep people moving vs. searching and hitting.
    Or, one can also promote a play/pay by the hour. for those that can get 18 holes in by 4 hrs, fee is X. for those taking longer, they pay X + an penalty fee.
    and for those very slow folks who just refuse to believe they need to maintain speed as courtesy, another rate of a dimension that covers the cost of two rounds!

    Reply

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