Playing “ready golf” and subscribing to the tee it forward initiative by checking egos and moving up a tee box can make a difference, but to measuredly speed up golf and alleviate the game’s chronic pace-of-play woes, hole-to-hole transport needs to evolve.
Sun Mountain Sports, the golf innovation lab that pioneered built-in legs on carry bags and invented the pushcart market is at it again with the FinnCycle, a zippy lightweight electric scooter that can shave an hour off a round. Topping out at 15/mph and controlled by a thumb throttle and hand brakes there’s not much of a learning curve on this electric motor and lithium battery powered scooter that’ll hold its charge for 36 holes. It will only take a hole or two for golfers to get the handling down. Riding a FinnCycle is as easy as riding a bike—if not easier since there are no pedals.
Sun Mountain Sports founder, CEO, and chief tinkerer Rick Reimers has been contemplating single rider vehicle ideas since 1986 and for the past five years scooter concepts have taken center stage in the company’s tool room. “We tried a tilting three wheel scooter which is a pretty good concept but it had some shortcomings. It was hard to get a great suspension in it and get it to tilt,” says Reimers. “More recently we developed a four wheel stand-up scooter, not with traditional spindle steering or lean to steer like the GolfBoard.”
“We put it into production, built 100, but I just had a nagging feeling that this might not be the best way to do it. One day I went back to our tool room and we welded up a two-wheel cycle. I didn’t know where to put the bag so I threw it in the center, took it up the golf course and I thought ‘oh my God I’ve wasted so much time and money. This is probably the superior way to do it.’”
“I took ten people out on the golf course. They drove our beautiful four-wheeler and then got on this ugly prototype and they all said the other one is pretty good but the two wheel is unbelievable.”
The Finn is named after Reimers’ fun loving, fluffy white Maltipoo. It’s a fitting name for the nouveau golf transport, a fetching looking scooter with the soul of a motorbike that speeds up play substantially with each golfer driving directly to his/her ball. “We had a more technical name for the product and it just became a mouthful. Sometimes I couldn’t remember what I was calling it and then we realized that we wanted to do an app and its nice to have a four-letter name and its nice to have a symbol. In this case that’s a caricature of Finn’s face. Everybody remembers his name and he’s fun so I thought why not Finn?”
When golf pros and superintendents first lay eyes on a Finn, even before taking it for a spin, past experience tends to put their guard up. Their first reflexive objection is invariably a fear that the FinnCycle will tear up their turf and wreak havoc on fairways.
“It doesn’t do anything to the turf, the PSI or the compaction is a tenth of a 1600lb loaded riding cart. On a couple occasions we’ve asked if we could drive it on a putting green to show them what happens and you can’t see anything. I don’t think it has the impact that you have with your soft spikes walking on the green,” says Reimers.
A FinnCycle tips the scales at 80 lbs and utilize low-pressure tires—a balloon style tire on the front and a turf tread tire on the back originally designed for use on a golf course. The tread pattern provides good traction but doesn’t leave any marks when you make a tight turn.
As far as liability concerns, scooters are covered by the same golf mobile policies that golf courses already have for their carts. Golfers download the Finn app, agree to all the terms and conditions, charge their credit card, and they’re ready to ride.
The revenue share business model Sun Mountain is implementing is pretty unique in the golf biz. “We’re trying to develop a partnership with the golf courses to make golf faster, more fun, and increase their profits. To that end [courses] make a down payment of $600 currently per unit and then we share the revenue.”
It will be roughly a 50/50 split between Sun Mountain and the golf courses. As far as the cost per golfer, every golf course will be unique with rental fees initially falling in the $20-$25 ballpark.
Not including new business from the 2019 PGA Merchandise show which just wrapped last week, Sun Mountain already has received orders (half of those pending final contracts) on 1500 units from a fall sales swing with the average course scooping up a fleet of six scooters.
“From the PGA side and my standpoint we’re always looking for ways to grow the game of golf and something like this is just doing it different and making golf exciting says Jon McAleer, the head professional at Bridger Creek in Bozeman Montana, a club which has ordered eight scooters, with the first four set to arrive in April when FinnCycles make their first delivery.
Single rider alt-carts have been a burgeoning category in the golf mobile market for the past several years with the surfing and skate board inspired GolfBoard and Golf Skate Caddy among the initial entrants to make waves in the still fledgling industry, and the Phat Scooter was introduced at last year’s PGA Show, but there has yet to be a design that resonates with golfers of all stripes. The leaderboard remains wide open and Sun Mountain’s alluring yet practical design may vault the FinnCycle to the top.