"Bye bye buggies?" - How COVID-19 is changing the way America plays golf

Lifstyle 2020 27

“Golf is a good walk spoiled,” goes the quote often attributed to Mark Twain – but, in recent years, the recreational game in the US has strayed a long way from its roots.

The use of buggies, dominates American fairways, with many higher-end courses even having gone so far as to ban the use of push trolleys as they are deemed to reflect badly on the class of the establishment.

With carrying or riding a buggy the only two options, significant numbers of US golfers got hooked on the use of buggies, but now, with 95% of golf courses across the United States open for play, life on the fairways is looking very different in the Covid-19 era.

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“As golf courses have re-opened, we’ve implemented all of the same safety precautions as our European counterparts,” said Rick Oldach, CEO of BIG MAX USA, the US arm of Europe’s No.1 trolley brand BIG MAX. 

“We’ve got raised cups, no rakes, no touching the flag, online bookings, all of the sensible procedures designed to minimise the risk of passing infection. But while these are significant changes, the biggest culture shock for many Americans is having to walk the course.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, US states and their golf courses had varied responses to the crisis. Without a unified approach even at the height of restrictions, 44% of American courses remained open, with nearly every one restricting the use of buggies.

Combined with the remaining US golf community realising that they would have to change their golfing habits when they returned, sales of trolleys exploded, to the extent that the Wall Street Journal even headlined a story: “We’re Out of Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer - and Golf Pushcarts”

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“It’s been such a counterintuitive situation to be in,” added Oldach. “We’ve watched the entire golf industry grind to a halt around us while we’ve been caught in this frenzy of demand. BIG MAX USA saw our year over year sales go up by over 1,200% in April with visits to our website increasing 800% from March. We reached our entire 2020 target for push carts in just six weeks.

“It’s reached the stage where there isn’t any push cart inventory for sale in the US. We are very lucky that, because of our huge global presence, we have a solid manufacturing supply chain that has enabled us to increase production. We have shipments of push carts arriving each week over the next several weeks to help us satisfy the demand we are seeing. In our view, golfers will be walking and distancing for the foreseeable future so we are grateful for the opportunity to help them get back in the game as quickly as possible.”

With this forced change, it’s clear that American golfers’ desire to get back out on the course is driving a return to golf’s roots and they are supporting that with investment in their equipment. Whether it’s a change that will have a lasting effect on the landscape of the game Stateside is yet to be seen but, in some quarters, this is an opportunity to be grasped with both hands.

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Oldach added: “Studies have shown that, on average, you walk 69% further than the scorecard yardage in a single round of golf and that you burn the same calories using a push cart as you do carrying your bag, so new walkers will certainly feel the immediate health benefits. But more than that, golfers that typically ride in a buggy will experience the joy and camaraderie and wonderful pace of play that walking alongside your playing partners brings to the game - keeping proper distancing of course!

“I think this new experience will take many by surprise and hope that it will continue long after we’re through this period.”

For more information on the BIG MAX line visit bigmaxgolf.com

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