In the world of electric carts, there are many contestants with fine products as we saw in last week’s MyGolfSpy Electric Cart Buyer’s Guide. But, internationally, there are only two major players: PowaKaddy and Motocaddy. They’re the Coke and Pepsi of that market.
But what’s the deal with these things? Are they a fad? Are they pricey toys for folks with too much money? Or are we seeing the beginning of a sea change, perhaps an official Electric Cart Movement?
Motocaddy, whose M7 Remote unit topped the Buyer’s Guide ratings, sees North America – and the U.S. in particular – as a wide-open land of opportunity. And they’re coming to America like John, Paul, George and Ringo with a flotilla of electric carts in tow.
It only took one Ed Sullivan Show for The Beatles to have America wanting to hold their hands. Motocaddy may not have teenaged girls screaming in the streets but the company believes its 15 years of product development and innovation have it ready for a new British Invasion.
The question is: Are you?
Motocaddy Electric Carts: Ticket To … Walk
Let’s say you run a business and want to grow sales. Would you, A: Go to where you already have sales and try harder? Or B: Go to where there’s no real market and try to build one?
Option A is an uphill battle and usually winds up as a price-centric race to the bottom. Option B, however, is a virtual blank slate: A leader can write their own rules.
“It’s the next best thing to having a caddie,” says Neil Parker, Motocaddy’s International Sales Manager. “You’re walking the course, which is more enjoyable. It’s more social because you’re talking to all three playing partners instead of just the person in the cart with you. You’re getting more exercise and you’re playing better because you’re not wasting energy carrying or pushing your clubs.
“We just have to get the American golfer to understand this category does exist.”
Motocaddy has sold more than 500,000 electric carts (or trolleys, if you prefer) since 2005. Along with PowaKaddy, it dominates the U.K. and European markets and has expanded into Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South America and Canada. Its attack plan for the U.S. market? Focus on health, performance and enjoyment.
“You wouldn’t play soccer – football over here – with a 20-kilo weight strapped to your back and expect to perform well,” says Motocaddy CEO John Helas. “There’s a performance aspect for real avid golfers. We’re all trying to get our handicap down and you’re not going to find the Holy Grail driver to give you another 20 yards.
“This is just another tool in the everyday golfer’s armory that can improve performance.”
Carry That Weight
Electric carts have been sold in the U.S. for years. But over four decades, I can count the number I’ve seen on two fingers. However, on a trip to Scotland two years ago, I saw three in my first two rounds. And the users defied stereotyping: a 70-year old grandfather, a 45-year old electrician and a 26-year-old salesman (and defending club champion).
“If you go back 15 years, you’d have only seen the 70-year-old guy with an electric trolley,” says Neil Parker, Motocaddy’s International Sales Manager. “That 26-year-old club champion would never have used an electric cart 10 years ago but now it’s a must-have accessory. The most important thing to him is performance. He’s fresher at the end of a round.”
It’s all about performance, health and enjoyment. A five-mile hike is good for both body and soul. If you’re not carrying or pushing 25-plus pounds, a self-propelled electric cart makes that five-mile hike less tiring and more enjoyable. And if you’re not totally gassed by the 18th tee and are reaching into your opponent’s pocket, well …
“There really isn’t a type of golfer who doesn’t want to use them,” says Helas. “They’re especially popular with women golfers – even more so than with men. There’s no reason why that can’t translate to the U.S. as well.”
“Our research shows 60 percent of the golfers at courses that do allow walking would like the opportunity to walk,” says Motocaddy Marketing Manager Oliver Churcher. “There are some courses with massive distances between tees and greens so the electric trolley isn’t going to be popular there. But there are plenty of other courses where golfers are already walking, and this is definitely the best way for them to get around the golf course.”
You Never Give Me Your Money
Price, of course, is the 500,000-unit question. You can pay four to 10 times more for an electric cart than a standard pushcart.
“In the U.K., they’re generally bought by avid golfers, not by people who play golf twice a year,” says Parker. “That’s a guy or lady who plays maybe 75 to 100 rounds a year and who’ll be using it for at least five years. What does that work out per round?”
The old Cost-Per-Use Scale Close is a legendary sales technique. But there is some validity to the thought process if you can stomach the initial outlay. Motocaddy’s entry-level S1 retails for $899. If you play only 50 rounds a year, that breaks down to $3.60 (plus tax) per round over five years. Motocaddy’s high-end models – the M7 Remote and M5 GPS – retail for $1,499 and $1,299 respectively. Those break down to $5.99 and $5.19 per round.
You’ll pay more for riding a cart.
“It’s really not that much money to basically have a caddie carrying your equipment while you walk the course,” says Parker. “You’ll have more fun, be fresher on the 18th tee and you’ll have fewer aches and pains from carrying or pushing your clubs.”
If you can’t stomach the cash outlay, you can expect rentals fleets of Motocaddy electric carts at various U.S. golf courses.
“If you rent an M5 GPS [a fully functional GPS unit is built into the cart itself], we’re hoping that will sway some golfers,” says Helas. “It won’t sway everyone, we know that.”
“Our surveys show 34 percent of the golfers say they’d be interested in buying an electric trolley,” says Churcher. “Another 41 percent say they’d be interested in renting one. That’s a lot of interest in the product without us having done much education.”
Can’t Buy Me Love
Sure, the price will turn a lot of golfers off. To that end, Motocaddy electric carts are available at several price points. The company offers a selection of standard pushcarts, as well.
“We sell a large volume of pushcarts and we have a wide range of golf bags,” says Churcher. “We’ve actually been the U.K.’s top-selling cart bag brand for 10 years now, outselling the likes of Callaway, Titleist, TaylorMade and PING.”
Now, you may think anyone willing to spend $1,200 to $1,500 on an electric cart is a fool on the hill. Motocaddy, however, says its research shows a ripe and ready U.S. market, especially for its new remote-controlled M7.
“More than half the electric carts sold in the U.S. are remote control,” says Parker. “Over here (in the U.K.), it’s nowhere near that.”
“The M7, it won’t tip over,” says Helas, citing a common concern with remote-controlled carts. “Well, it could tip over if you go down the north face of the Eiger. We’ve increased the wheelbase and there’s a wheel in the back called an anti-tip wheel to keep it upright while going uphill.”
Motocaddy also sees big things for the M5 GPS model, with a full-featured GPS built into the handle.
“The feedback we’ve gotten is it’s fantastic to have that level of detail right next to you as you’re ready to hit the ball,” says Helas. “It won’t make you hit the shot any better but you’ll feel better because you’ll know the shot you should have played.”
If you have your own GPS, Motocaddy has an add-on attachment to hold it in place. It also offers other attachments and its own free GPS golf app for both iPhone and Android. All Motocaddy electric carts feature an onboard USB charging port.
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
There are places an electric cart makes no sense. Florida, Texas, or Arizona during the summer, for instance. Ditto for resort-type courses where there’s a mile-and-a-half trek from the green to the next tee.
“There will be courses in the U.S. where it’s not going to be very practical or viable,” says Parker. “But there are a hell of a lot more courses where there’s no reason why you can’t use one. There are lots of people already walking, either carrying or using a pushcart. Those will be easier to convert.”
“We use them on hilly courses and in wet, windy, typical English weather,” adds Helas. “We sell them all over the world with different humidity and temperatures. They’re fully tested and that’s why we’re confident in the product we’re bringing to the U.S.”
The biggest question any consumer would have about an electric cart is, of course, the battery. Motocaddy electric carts use a lithium battery with a five-year warranty. “We’re confident it will last a lot longer than that,” says Helas. “We stand by our products. We believe it’s a quality kit.”
As mentioned earlier, Motocaddy and PowaKaddy are fierce competitors, The rivalry does what you’d expect, pushing both companies to keep raising the bar. If the M5 GPS cart had a rocket launcher, James Bond might use it.
The M5 does feature a high-resolution touch-screen GPS unit built into the handle with 40,000 courses pre-loaded. You get standard front, middle and back distances along with a drag-and-drop pin position feature. You can also sync it to your smartphone for emails, calls, and access to various apps.
The unit also has an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) locator to locate the nearest defibrillator in case of an emergency. It also provides CPR instructions in case the worst happens on the golf course.
Baby, You’re A Rich Man
Card-carrying members of Torch and Pitchfork Nation will no doubt scream over the price of a high-quality electric cart. But as with anything, a product is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. No matter how you slice it, $900 to $1,500 is a lot of cabbage (I’ve bought cars for less) but what’s outrageous to Bill from Bayonne may be what the Brits call a “considered purchase” to Tom from Tuscaloosa.
After using a demo unit on the course, we can share with you some observations that may help you decide yea or nay.
First off – with a remote-controlled unit, practice in the backyard first. Getting the hang of it isn’t hard at all but it’s best to take a dry run before your first solo mission. Also, don’t try it in the hallway between the living room and bedrooms. It tends to test the Significant Other’s sense of humor.
On the open fairway, the M7 Remote is silly easy to operate. The Plus and Minus buttons on the remote tell the cart to speed up or slow down while the Left and Right arrow buttons do what you’d expect. It’s very easy to let it roll out ahead of you and let it get to your ball. At that point, simply hit the stop button and it’ll wait for you. A downside: if your course is a Canada Goose haven, you won’t be able to outmaneuver their leave-behinds. Have a brush or something handy to clean the wheels off before you put the cart back in your car.
If you like a long walk with a short club, you can walk to the green while sending the M7 to the next tee box or at least close to it. Otherwise, you’re better off going manual as you maneuver around greens and tees.
Since the course wasn’t near the north face of the Eiger, we had no tip-overs but the M7 did bounce around over bumps, exposed tree roots, and other obstacles. Overall, however, the little bugger kept right on going in whatever direction you told it to go. It was kind of like having R2D2 as your caddie.
Motocaddy says you can easily get 36 holes on one battery charge. After our round, the battery strength had gone down only slightly so another 18 was certainly doable. The company recommends charging the battery back to full after each use, regardless. As for fatigue, walking without pushing a cart certainly is easier, and if someone said, “Let’s play two,” I would have been up for it.
And not for nothing, it was a hell of a lot of fun to use.
So, what’s the final word on electric carts?
If you’re a walker, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a pushcart. They’re simple, reliable and even a top-of-the-line model is less expensive than a good-quality entry-level electric cart. On the other hand, if you want to stay strong through 18 or 36, and if you want to feel better after, an electric cart is worth considering. And if your course has rentals available, it’s virtually a no-brainer.
“At the end of the day, the trolley has to pull that bag around the golf course in an efficient way,” says Helas. “That’s what the golfer wants.”
For more information on Motocaddy electric carts, visit www.motocaddy.us
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