Mark Twain famously labeled the game of golf “a good walk spoiled”, but to entrepreneur and avid player Adrian Walton, strolling the links and getting putts to sink go together like a ball and tee.
“I like the walk, and I would never ride in a golf cart,” says the 49-year-old Pickering, Ont. resident. The only negative to the foot-power approach is having to carry or push a hefty sack of golf clubs for 18 holes. “I often thought that if I could walk the game but not have to slug the clubs it would be nice.”
That led Walton to try out various models of remote-controlled push carts. Unsatisfied with the quality of the cheaper offerings, and not big on the thought of shelling out upwards of $2,000 for those at the high end, he hit on an idea: develop and sell his own at a mid-level price point.
Short on engineering knowledge but long on entrepreneurial experience, Walton set about cobbling together his own product. He ordered a few that were on the market, disassembled them, and put the parts he wanted to use together.
The result was the GreenPacer II electronic golf caddy, released earlier this year by his one-man firm, ParMotion. It runs on two motors powered by a battery and houses a waterproof electronic control sensor between two, 3½-wide rear wheels. A remote control device the size of a flip-phone can move the unit in any direction from a distance of about 100 yards. There is also a mounted control panel for steering.
“When you look at these things there isn’t a lot to them,” Walton says. “It’s a traditional golf pull cart with a motor and electronics to drive the motor. So I didn’t see why it had to be up in the range of $2,000 dollars.”
The GreenPacer II comes in at $695, a price at which Walton has managed to sell close to 100. Although sales have leveled off since the spring “golf fever” season ended, Walton says he is already ahead of his target of 60 units sold for the entire year.
Walton is not lacking in entrepreneurial energy. Everything he’s done around the GreenPacer has been carried out in his spare time while he’s not working full-time as a distribution sales director for a cosmetics manufacturer.
“I’ve always been very anxious to get out and earn money. I had to finish my BA in Economics at night school because I was working,” he says with a laugh.
Walton, a former licensed funeral director, had previously started up and sold both a funeral industry supplies business and a management consulting outfit.
“I seem to have to be doing something, and when I get bored with it, I sell it. I then find myself looking for something else to get into.”
He expects to stick with this venture for a long time, though, “because it’s golf and I’m having fun with it.”
The business he’s entered, however, is one that hasn’t exactly taken off, according to Dan Popper, editor-in-chief of Golf News Magazine in Rancho Mirage, Calif. In an area that features 130 golf courses in 150 square miles, Popper says sightings are few and far between.
“They certainly have not become institutionalized in the game. I rarely ever see these carts anywhere¦and they have been on the market for a long time.”
Popper is befuddled why this is the case.
“The question is, what’s stopping them from becoming part of the mainstream, because they make a lot of sense. Generally speaking, [manufacturers] have not done a good job of putting the word out that this is a great compromise that allows you to walk but not lug.”
Aside from the mid-level price point, Walton feels his two-year warranty, double that offered by most of the models he’s seen on the market, will make a difference. He is also looking to sell in bulk to golf courses, but has encountered resistance from club managers fearful of diverting revenue from their lucrative driving cart rentals.
Walton’s feeling is, “If [people are] going to ride, they’re going to ride. Offering [the GreenPacer II] to those who do walk, though, has potential to bring in new revenue.”
Popper believes the key to getting courses to buy the electronic carts lies in seeding interest among the golfing community.
“They have to create in the consumer the motivation, the desire and the need to have these. Then the customer will start to demand it.”
Meanwhile, Walton is planning to mount GPS course-mapping units onto future versions of his carts, allowing golfers to determine exactly how far they are from the pin, among other capabilities. He’s also hoping that the growing interest in healthy lifestyles among his target baby boomer demographic will cause them to start sharing his love of walking the links and thus investing in a GreenPacer II.
“I would expect people…would like to take away the burden of carrying their clubs. I think the growth (of the product) will be moving forward quite quickly.”