The GolfBoard is one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever encountered while playing a round of golf.
There is so much talk these days of growing the game or how to make the game more appealing because it’s obvious to many the state of golf is in peril.
I’ve kept quiet on these issues mainly because I don’t see it the way others do, I’m not one of those whom believes the end is near for golf, but more obviously I really don’t think people care what a 14 HDCP from Vegas has to say about the current makeup of the game.
When events happen that I feel may be a decent reflection that all is not lost I feel a little obligated to share with everyone my experience and hopefully loosen the noose around the neck of golf before the floor gets taken away.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking a spin on a new product that is starting to make its way onto more and more golf courses. The first time I came across this distinctive product was during the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show and even though it was a concept new to the world there was an obvious buzz around the booth. The Golf Channel crew even took them for a spin around the convention center a few times.
While I didn’t “demo” the GolfBoard at the show, even though I was very eager too, it certainly was a product that I thought at the time was refreshing and energizing for a sport that’s in desperate need to attract some new participants. Is the GolfBoard the answer? Probably not, but I seriously doubt the creators of this wildly unique product were not sitting around a table trying to decide how to save the game when they came up with the idea to Surf the Earth.
A little over a year later they have arrived in Las Vegas at one of my favorite courses in town, Las Vegas National. I was invited by Vegas Golf Insider to take the GolfBoard for spin and see what I thought about the product, the concept and enjoy and outstanding February weather here in the valley. Sorry to all the people in the North West but it was 80° all weekend here so the golf was outstanding. After checking in at the pro shop I headed over to the Training Area and listened to short overview of how the GolfBoard operates. It’s very basic. Low Speed, high speed, neutral, forward and reverse is all you need to worry about. There’s a trigger mounted on the handle that incredibly easy to control so the only real learning curve is getting used to starting, stopping and of course making turns. Las Vegas National has an area set up just north of the 10th tee where you can hop on and take the board for a little ride in some rough type grass to get a feel for the movements. The cart barn attendant walked me through the controls and said have at it so off I went. I started in the low speed mode based on the words from the attendant. “Get used to it first, then switch it to high speed and give it a try.” While the difference from Low Speed top High Speed isn’t dramatic there is a notable difference in the take off. With Low Speed you gradually get up to your travel speed, in High Speed mode there is a slight lag then ZOOM! It did catch me a little off guard but it wasn’t anything that was unrecoverable. Once I learned about how the acceleration was in High Speed it was easy to adjust to the rapid accent to full speed. A few things that I noticed while cruising around the practice areas while we waited for out tee time is people can’t keep their eyes off of the GolfBoard. Blank stares where I swear I could hear people thinking out loud “What the…” happened at every place I drove by. “Surf up dude” from a guy on the putting green and “Don’t kill yourself” from a concerned mother. The looks were never ending and the comments were priceless.
About to get my @golfboard on! Too much fun in store. A photo posted by Mathew Wangrycht (@thebreakfastball) on
We tee’d off at noon (there was only two of us for the tee time) and there was a group of three golfers in front of us that were also using the GolfBoards. This group was something I kept a close eye on because the simple fact they were in the late 50’s to early 60’s and from the looks of it they were having more fun than I was.
You may remember early last year I had my first real walking experience when I played Streamsong. I backed that walking round up with another Tom Doak designed gem out at Pacific Dunes when I played at Bandon Dunes last August. Because of those two rounds I have a love for walking a golf course and the down side of that love is living in the Vegas valley. Walking golf courses out here just doesn’t happen as often as it could. The majority of the courses feature some pretty dramatic elevation changes or the distance between tee boxes just doesn’t make walking enjoyable. The Golfboard has significantly changed how a Vegas golf course could be experienced in a way that is as close to walking as it gets.
What I thoroughly enjoyed about walking Streamsong was our group of four made our way around the course in 3 hours, a foursome… in 3 hours! A lot of that had to do with Streamsong not cranking out tee times every 7min like you see here in Vegas but it also had a lot to do with how everyone in the group went to their ball, waited their turn and then hit. There was no back and forth with the cart going from one player’s shot to another player’s ball across the fairway. It truly sped up the game.
This is where using the boards is huge benefit. Much like walking, after our tee shots we each went to our ball, assessed the situation and made our swings. It was quick, real quick in fact. The GolfBoards get up to 12mph in High Speed mode and when compared to a standard walking speed of 2.5-3.5mph you’re seriously making double time getting to your ball.
There are a couple of different ways you can ride the GolfBoard. You can set yourself up just like on a skateboard or Surfboard standing sideways with one foot up front and one in back. Standing this way adds to the experience in my opinion. A slight lean to your left or right and the GolfBoard responses immediately moving in a smooth flowing manner in which ever way you direct it. Even though I’ve never surfed a day in my life it wasn’t hard for me to envision myself riding a wave across the fairway. Gliding across the grass was fun, refreshing and most importantly it was enjoyable.
The other way is standing like you would on a Seqway, with your feet side by side. This greatly changes the “surfing” aspect but I found it very easy to ride this way. Turning using your body was a little easier to manage and maintain a straight path was no problem at all. That came in handy when crossing the multiple bridges as you make your way around LV National. Either way you choose to ride I guarantee you’re going to enjoy. Be sure to give each way a try before you get to involved in the round.
I found that the bad shots I made were so quickly gone from my mind because now it was time to hop on my board and go. I didn’t have time to reflect on my woes of a player because up ahead was a bride I had to navigate and from there a cart path, a fairway and eventually the rough where my ball came to rest. It was a complete mind eraser from my bad swing which was quite revitalizing.
When we came to the tee box at the 9th hole I checked my phone and we had just played 8 holes coming in a little shy of an hour and half. Yes, there were only two of us but we were playing behind a group of three and they were moving just as quick. By the time we reached the 12th tee box we had caught up to all the groups of four that were way ahead of us when we started and of course they were all in carts.
The pace of play is a perk for sure. The cart attendant told me it’s not a problem for him to play nine holes in less than an hour. I thought he might have been fudging the numbers a bit but after rocking through the front in blazing speed I knew he was on point with his claims.
Even though your time on the course can be cut down pretty significantly the speed aspect doesn’t even come close to the fun element.
I had an absolute blast Surfing the Earth on the GolfBoard and will definitely go back and do it again. The few times we met up with the group in front of us they were too excited to talk about how much fun they were having and wanted to know if we felt the same way.
After we wrapped up the round I heard them talking with a few employees from the course about how much fun they had and how they were looking forward to the next time they come back so they could use them again.
You have to keep in mind these were not sneaker wearing teens wearing [insert typical skateboard stereotype here] trying to wreak havoc on the golf course. It was feedback I couldn’t have asked for or made up. Those people had and absolute great time and my opinion mirrored theirs almost word for word.
I’m sure you can tell by now I’m a big fan of the GolfBoard. Retailing at $6,500 though you won’t see one of these in the garage at home anytime soon, pretty sure my wife would be as supportive as she is when it comes to my golfing endeavors. I can only hope articles like this one and the chatter from golfers who have used the Earth surfers can get some of the other courses in town to take a chance and maybe put some in play
For the time being the only course in the Vegas valley that I’m aware of is Las Vegas National and I highly recommend you find the time to go play a round and take one for a spin. Believe me, it’s not a product just aimed at the younger segment of the game, anyone and everyone can enjoy the experience and it’s something you should try at least once.
Is the GolfBoard the saving grace for all of Golf? Of course not, that’s silly to think it would have that big of an effect on the game. It is however and alternative to walking or riding a cart which in my opinion isn’t such a bad thing at all. Like I said, you need to go and give it a try and who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked just like I did!
Schedule your tee time by contacting Las Vegas National Golf Course at 1.866.695.1961 or follow the link to their website.
The cost is $15 for 9 holes or $20 for the full 18.
I would also like to say thanks to Brian from Las Vegas Golf Insider for getting us out. Thank you sir!