Story by Ian Guerin
Want to know how professional golfers feel rolling around a practice round, all the eyes on them? Rent a GolfBoard for your next 18 holes.
The relatively new invention - think of a snowboard on wheels - has added a special touch to three Myrtle Beach-area courses. TPC of Myrtle Beach, True Blue Golf Plantation and World Tour Golf Links now offer the alternative to the traditional golf cart. And it is easy to see why there is an uptick in players taking advantage of the newest craze.
But unlike other inventions that have faded somewhat over time, the limited market along South Carolina’s Grand Strand should keep these around for the foreseeable future.
“I think the potential is there for staying power,” said TPC head golf professional Matt Daly. “It’s definitely a novelty from how you play the game of golf. The guys, the core people who are using them, are really enjoying them. I could see private courses who have a membership jumping on board for something like that, too. Here, being a resort destination, there is a demand for them, as well.”
Between the $6,500 price tag (or the nearly $8,000 cost for the slightly nicer Resort Board) and the inability to travel it from course to course, purchasing your own GolfBoard isn’t realistic for most. Renting one, though, is a different story, in part thanks to the trio of Myrtle Beach courses offering them.
We went to work to make sure you know what to expect before you step on one for the first time to ride the fairways.
During a recent trip to TPC of Myrtle Beach, I was granted access to one for the morning round. After an instructional video and accompanying waiver, my clubs were loaded up and I was sent on my way - well, after a few Scottish tourists took turns snapping a few pictures at the bag drop.
Within minutes, the first true benefit of the Golf Board became apparent. I was asked to join a twosome who had already teed off on No. 1, and I quickly skirted my way up the tree-lined chute to the first fairway, catching up to them within a matter of seconds. At a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour, getting Point A to Point B was as much of a breeze as the head-to-toe air conditioning the board provides.
It gave me time to head back to the tee box, knock the first ball of the day into the fairway (seriously) and re-join my playing partners. This is one of the company’s biggest selling points to courses and individuals: Time.
The GolfBoard Web site (www.golfboard.com) claims that average rounds on their equipment can be played in 2 hours, 37 minutes. That doesn’t take into account a slower group ahead of you or playability conditions, of course, but any delays throughout the round were not going to be because of me or anyone else using a board. The individuality of play - heading straight to your ball without concern for where someone sharing a cart may have landed - frequently had me ready to play my second or third ball on longer holes in advance of my group, etiquette notwithstanding.
The board is not for everyone.
“It’s a demographic thing, when it comes to age,” Daly said. “You’re seeing your millennials, those 20- to 30-somethings who like the golf board. There is some recreation to it. It definitely fits that demographic. Most of the people who are using it are under 50. But we have members who are over 50 who love it.”
It’s not simply about age. Anyone with potential balance issues, or anyone who plays the game with the intentions of having a few drinks, probably needs to stick with the cart. The board, much like a snowboard vs. skis or a motorcycle vs. car, gives you significant less margin for error.
Although steering is easier on the fairway, it can become cumbersome on paved cart paths or in tight spaces or turnarounds. That becomes more of an issue if you tire deeper into your round, as there is little choice but to stand for as long as those 18 holes require and steering has more to do with your legs and feet than your arms
. TPC is gauging the addition of benches alongside tee boxes for that specific reason.
Maybe less important, but still noticeable, is the lack of storage space for your gear. The standard GolfBoard comes only with a single drink holder and nothing else. So anything from head covers to jackets must fit inside a pouch on your bag.
Freedom is the name of the game with the Golf Board.
During the peak seasons, Daly said that the club’s four available boards are being used between 12-20 times per week, and mostly by those who book them as a group.
“I don’t think people would get sick of them (if every course offered boards),” he said. “But being one of three courses that has it, it’s a benefit to us. If everyone had them, it may saturate the market and you may not see the demand we see for it here.”
Part of the appeal is that lack of saturation. Only six total courses in South Carolina currently offer the boards, with two each in neighboring North Carolina and Georgia. Golf traditionalists may curse the novelty, much like they have with big hole greens. What the GolfBoard can do to elevate a round or the talking points it will bring about for weeks or months to come, however, is worth it, if for no other reason that it evolves the game without changing the actual game. Your shots off the tee aren’t going to become magically better, and if you can’t putt, well, you still won’t be able to while using the board.