A Walking Game with Walker TrolleysBy ED TRAVISThere those of us…

A Walking Game with Walker Trolleys

By ED TRAVIS

There those of us who think of golf is a walking game and shun even the thought of riding the four or more miles of a typical eighteen. There is the question though that without a caddy walking requires carrying a bag of maybe 30 lbs. loaded with clubs, balls, umbrella and all the other paraphernalia we deem necessary.

The obvious solution is a pushcart and there are some good ones but if you are in the market for a pushcart the recently introduced Walker Trolley should be on your short list to check out. It combines the refreshing approach of classic clean lines with advance design features.

Weighing in at 19 lbs. the feature of the Walker Trolley Cape model first catching our attention was the center hub, a patent pending design, allowing the legs to fold on two different axes making pre-round unfolding and post-round folding a breeze. Simple and quick to do the folded Trolley fits in any car trunk.

The body is aluminum with a brightly polished finish framing the wire wheels which boast white sidewall tires. There’s a carryall pocket of waxed canvass attached to the leather wrapped handle for extra golf balls, scorecard, pencil, drinks, etc. while the lower storage area can handle a variety of items including a cooler. And a further example of the thought in the Trolley’s design, engaging and disengaging the parking brake is as simple as stepping on a foot pedal located near the left wheel.

The Walker Trolley price is $399 and all the details plus pre-order information may be found on the Walker Trolley website.

Our interest in the Walker Trolley led us to ask some questions of Brad Payne the Austin-based company’s founder and CEO who has brought a fresh perspective and unique approach to golf pushcarts.

Ed Travis: What was your business background before starting Walker Trolleys?

Brad Payne: I worked on Wall Street doing M&A [Mergers and Acquisitions] after getting my MBA at Northwestern. I spent some time doing corporate development and strategy for a large radio conglomerate in Atlanta, Cumulus Media, which led me to Apple to work in digital advertising. I spent the prior 4 years before Walker Trolleys leading the advertising relationship with NBCU [NBC Universal] for Apple News.

ET: How did you come up with the idea for this type of pushcart?

BP: When I moved to SF, I didn’t know many people so joined a club in the city called Presidio. Most of the members in the Saturday morning games were walkers and were allowed to store their push carts in the bag room. Anyone was able to use one that was not being used, so I sampled about every model in the industry over 4 years. Some were better than others and provided features that were better, but they were all pretty similar. It wasn’t till a trip to Scotland that I realized how these push carts just seemed out of place with the tradition and history of the game. I also had a fond affinity for what Seamus, Jones and MacKenzie were doing in creating products that had some connection to the history of the game while still being modern. I just felt push carts could go that way as well. And I saw what had happened in the baby industry with strollers over the past 20+ years that people were willing to pay for quality and felt that could be applied to golf push carts as well.

ET: Talk a little about the Kickstarter campaign as part of initial funding and how that affected the timing of the startup and moving the company to Austin?

BP: We had always planned to do a Kickstarter in the beginning to introduce the product to the masses. We never expected it to be some groundbreaking fundraising project, but rather a signal to us that there was some market demand for our product and people thought the Walker Trolley was cool. My wife and I had moved to Austin in April of 2019, about 7 months before we launched the Kickstarter. Our move was a combination of professional and personal in order to get out of SF. I decided to add Austin as a part of the logo for our newly adopted city because Austin represents a lot of positive images to people. It’s known as a cool, fun city with great people, nightlife, music, etc. Kind of a rising star in terms of cities in the US…kinda what we want to be in the golf industry. The city is also such a great place for entrepreneurs, especially in CPG…Tito’s, Yeti, Deep Eddy, Kendra Scott…a lot of great brands to come out of Austin.

ET: What are the key features that make it different from other push carts?

BP: I believe the Walker Trolley is different from our competitors because we started from a different place in terms of the product. Our trolley started on the course and we designed for the on-course experience. We wanted to make a trolley that looked cool, with clean sleek lines and classic design features, such as the white-walled tires. And it may sound cliché, but I think creating a great looking product is incredibly important to a lot of people. Maybe some of that is from my time at Apple. It needs to look great and function simply. I believe a lot of other competitors are more focused on creating the smallest folding product and have designed the look and function around these goals and that’s where we are different. I just don’t believe that many people think about how great it is that their trolley fits in a small space in their garage, but rather find a bit more joy about having something really cool in their 3-4 hours out walking the game.

ET: Where is it manufactured?

BP: We have partnered with one of the largest makers of juvenile products in the world. They’re a global firm that makes some of the best high-end baby strollers. We felt they had the experience in making folding objects with wheels at scale at an incredibly high-quality level and fit what our customers would expect.

ET: Presently pre-orders are being taken on the website, when will units begin shipping and are there any options or accessories offered for the Trolley?

BP: I think like every company in the world, we have all been impacted by COVID-19 and Walker Trolleys is no different. We were hoping to begin production in the beginning of April but delays due to the virus have pushed us back to May. Assuming no major issues or delays, we should have product to the states by the back half of June and will begin shipping to customers. And yes, there are accessory options. We are working with a well-known company here in the US to design an upgradeable line of storage accessories…think Hawaiian, camo, tweed, etc. We are very excited to offer these options to our customers and give them the ability to customize their trolleys. We hope in the future to have a really large selection, much like people own multiple head covers and they can swap them out as they feel.

ET: Your business plan appears to be B2C using e-commerce from your website as the distribution channel. Will you develop green grass and/or big box retail outlets, and do you plan to make use of Amazon or other Internet retailers?

BP: We are going to be B2C through our website for the time being. I don’t want to say never, but unlikely we would ever do big box retail. I just don’t think our product is a fit for that model. And I want to be able to control the customer experience from end-to-end. I don’t want to only know my customers if there is an issue or a warranty claim. I get emails all the time and enjoy interacting with them before, during and after their purchase. I have a lot of standing tee times to go out and play with our customers and creating a community is much higher on my priority list for the company.

ET: Are additional products being developed and what are your plans for the future of Walker Trolleys?

BP: We have a few things in the pipeline. A non-folding version of the trolley, the Eden will be coming out after the Cape. Given that most courses are closed now, we’re going to spend a bit more time on development to get it the way we want. There are a few collaborations we are having early discussions on now. Maybe we’ll have some cool things to announce at the show next year. We are a company that makes equipment for walking golfers, so there’s a lot out there we could do.

Golf’s ComebackBy ED TRAVISOne of the reasonable things to do…

Golf’s Comeback

By ED TRAVIS

One of the reasonable things to do while watching the dog destroy pillows on the couch (he’s bored too) or figuring out how much Worcestershire sauce to put in the pork chop marinade is think about what our game will be like after the stay-at-home and social distancing requirements are over.

First, we must recognize our predictions may seem entirely logical but in fact really are just dressed up speculation since the country, the economy and our culture have never experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. Pundits making comparisons to the 1918 flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War II, September 11 attacks or even the subprime mortgage crisis fail to recognize the immense differences of what is now versus what was then.

However, that won’t hinder you and me in the least so let’s speculate together keeping in mind historically the business of golf mirrors but lags the health of the economy.

How Long

Recreational golf has not gone away just severely curtailed. Charts tracking the progress of COVID-19 are at best uncertain indicators but would seem to point at the earliest date for removing stay-at-home requirements might be Memorial Day. If that’s wishful thinking the worst case might be Labor Day but the Fourth of July seems reasonable. Parts of the country will be somewhat sooner and many longer reaching to the late fall.

Number of Players

The National Golf Foundation (NGF) says the number of U.S. golfers at the end of 2018 was 24.2 million but when stay-at-home transitions to go-out-and-play how many will come back? How many will have gotten out of the golf “habit” from job pressures or simply finding other ways to occupy their time? A reasonable guess is up to 10%.

Rounds Played

Everything in the game from tee times to sales of replacement cleats is tied to how many players and how many rounds. For the first two months of 2020 NGF says rounds played data showed a 15.2% increase over 2019 citing better weather as the reason. Assuming most of the missing 10% could be described as the least avid players, rounds played will possibly contract by 5%.

Course Closings

It’s no secret many golf facilities had financial problems before COVID-19 and logic says the three- or four-month period of lower or no revenue brings the day closer when a significant number will be put to an alternate use. Fewer players mean fewer courses plus increased downward price pressure on greens fees for the those remaining. Using our 5% decrease in rounds played would mean about 800 more courses will convert to housing developments.

Golf OEMs

Again falling back on what seems to be logical, when golfers aren’t playing, they aren’t buying clubs and balls and rain suits or much of anything else in the way of equipment. Though it may take until sometime next year the big five OEMs—Callaway, Titleist, TaylorMade, Cobra and Ping—will come out of this virus-induced sales depression just fine. Smaller makers may not have the capital nor talent to survive. One thing is certain though, right now golfers aren’t buying drivers, irons, etc. and even after the world gets back to “normal” golf consumers will delay club purchases for months. That’s human nature and in an article written for the April/May issue of Golf Oklahoma the guesstimate equipment sales would be down 40% this year and now revise that to 50% adding it will take another year to get sales back to where they were.

Equipment Retail

Three points seem reasonable. Dicks (Golf Galaxy), Worldwide Golf Shops and PGA Tour Superstores which account for about half of golf retail doors will reopen with little or no hangover. Small retailers will have more and longer lasting concerns. The major retailers also have an immense advantage in e-commerce due to cutting edge technology, image and visibility. Assuming the country’s number of unemployed falls sharply retail sales will see a sharp rebound. Expect retailers and OEMs to discount prices this summer to bring inventory under control and to further increase current model sales OEMs could delay new product introductions from fall or early winter to spring.

E-commerce

Part of the new normal (whatever that means) will be the more frequent use of the Internet to make purchases hastened by the new 5G technology. Online buying of golf equipment makes sense for balls, shoes and apparel but not for clubs. Hands on testing to match club to golfer is necessary both to justify the purchase price and to rationalization the cost. This club customization will continue to grow with clubfitters such as Club Champion experiencing a greater sales growth percentage than the increase in club sales. Online sales of clubs especially discounted models will increase but, as has always been the case, results on the course will not match that of custom clubs.

Pro Tours

As soon as the risk of COVID-19 infection reaches an acceptable level the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour will restart but if present plans hold it sure will be strange watching the Masters in November.

A Couple of Final Thoughts

Though tempered by years of experience in business and observation of human nature the foregoing obviously are guesstimates piled on top of speculation. Please view them as such with the idea at least some of the points will be proven accurate.

We will get through this just fine without paying attention to the handwringing talking heads or so-called experts predicting everything but the end of the world economy.

Now if could just figure out how to get rid of my hook and add 25 yards to my tee shots while sitting in my living room.

Sun Mountain New H2NO BagsBy ED TRAVISThe new waterproof H2NO…

Sun Mountain New H2NO Bags

By ED TRAVIS

The new waterproof H2NO line from Sun Mountain includes one cart bag and two carry bags.

Fast Facts H2NO Bags

H2NO Staff Cart bag

  • 14-way 9.5” diameter top with putter tube
  • Eight pockets including valuables, two full-length, cooler & range finder
  • Cart strap pass-through
  • Retail $330

H2NO Lite stand bag

  • 14-way 10.5” diameter top
  • Dual strap—two leg stand
  • Six pockets including hydration sleeve, valuables & full-length
  • Retail $300

H2NO Superlight stand bag

  • 4-way 9” diameter top
  • X-strap—two leg stand
  • Six pockets including hydration sleeve, valuables & full-length
  • Weight under five pounds
  • Retail $290

WYNTK

Golf and rain go together, in fact are inseparable. After all, we play outdoors so having the proper gear when the skies do open up is essential. Though we sometimes don’t think of it, rain gear should include our golf bag to keep club grips and anything else inside dry.

Most bags aren’t especially good shielding our stuff from “liquid sunshine” so if it comes down for an extended period of time it’s nice to have a bag made with the same waterproof construction as a well-made rain jacket. That’s what Sun Mountain has done with the three new members of the H2NO line.

Each is made of waterproof fabric and taped seams with waterproof zippers plus the other nice touches for which their bags are known. All three new H2NO bags are in golf shops now or may be purchased on the Sun Mountain web site.

Heppler Solid Face Putters by PingBy ED TRAVISThe nine-model…

Heppler Solid Face Putters by Ping

By ED TRAVIS

The nine-model Ping Heppler putter line rather than grooves or face inserts have solid milled faces plus Ping’s user-adjustable length shafts

Fast Facts Ping Heppler putters

Anser 2 blade – 350g steel head 3° loft – $245

ZB3 blade – 355g steel head 3° loft – $245

Piper C center shaft mid-mallet – 365g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $245

Tyne 3 mallet – 360g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $270

Fetch heel shaft mallet – 365g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $270

Ketsch heel shaft mallet – 370g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Floki heel shaft mallet – 365g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Tomcat 14 heel shaft mallet – 370g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Piper Armlock mid-mallet 41.5” – 355g aluminum/steel face 6° loft – $270

WYNTK

Putter faces with grooves or inserts or even inserts with grooves have become an industry standard, in fact the big four putter makers offer relatively few models without them. So, Ping’s introduction of the Heppler line with have flat milled faces (no insert and no groves) is a little out of the ordinary.

Grooves and inserts are meant to create better contact with the ball for a better roll with some groove patterns milled to sort of “grip” the ball’s cover, but grooves and face inserts also soften impact. When designing the Hepplers Ping resurrected the flat milled face which gives a much stronger impact and crisper sound.

“With the Heppler series, we’re providing golfers a firmer-feeling putter in highly forgiving models to ensure a choice that fits their stroke and eye,” said John K. Solheim, Ping President. “We’ve chosen a very precise manufacturing process that’s significantly advanced our ability to create high-MOI mid-mallets and mallets by combining aerospace-grade aluminum with steel. The contrasting copper and black finish provides alignment cues and a visually appealing, premium look that’s attracting a lot of interest on tour.”

Depending on the Heppler model the face may be steel or aluminum but all provide a stronger “hit.” This was evident at once with practice green trials of the Heppler Anser 2 and confirmed on the course. There is a distinct feeling the ball comes off the face very quickly, almost a “pop,” and for those of us who tend to decelerate at impact this is a nice benefit. After the initial skid the roll goes quickly to end-over-end on the intended line which is a real confidence-builder and means your attention is no longer on “where” but “how far”. In other words, distance not line.

Though having a few minor differences in look to the 1979 Ping Anser 2 the Heppler Anser 2 shares the “modern blade” shape and flat face. The two-tone black and copper head provides lots of alignment help and we were especially impressed with the head’s stability due to weight placement but also the lower amount of flex of the black chrome shaft. In addition to being stiffer, the shaft offers Ping’s unique user adjustability of the length (32 to 36 inches) accomplished simply by a wrench inserted through the grip end.

Heppler Solid Face Putters by PingBy ED TRAVISThe nine-model…

Heppler Solid Face Putters by Ping

By ED TRAVIS

The nine-model Ping Heppler putter line rather than grooves or face inserts have solid milled faces plus Ping’s user-adjustable length shafts

Fast Facts Ping Heppler putters

Anser 2 blade – 350g steel head 3° loft – $245

ZB3 blade – 355g steel head 3° loft – $245

Piper C center shaft mid-mallet – 365g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $245

Tyne 3 mallet – 360g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $270

Fetch heel shaft mallet – 365g aluminum/steel face 3° loft – $270

Ketsch heel shaft mallet – 370g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Floki heel shaft mallet – 365g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Tomcat 14 heel shaft mallet – 370g steel/aluminum face 3° loft – $270

Piper Armlock mid-mallet 41.5” – 355g aluminum/steel face 6° loft – $270

WYNTK

Putter faces with grooves or inserts or even inserts with grooves have become an industry standard, in fact the big four putter makers offer relatively few models without them. So, Ping’s introduction of the Heppler line with have flat milled faces (no insert and no groves) is a little out of the ordinary.

Grooves and inserts are meant to create better contact with the ball for a better roll with some groove patterns milled to sort of “grip” the ball’s cover, but grooves and face inserts also soften impact. When designing the Hepplers Ping resurrected the flat milled face which gives a much stronger impact and crisper sound.

“With the Heppler series, we’re providing golfers a firmer-feeling putter in highly forgiving models to ensure a choice that fits their stroke and eye,” said John K. Solheim, Ping President. “We’ve chosen a very precise manufacturing process that’s significantly advanced our ability to create high-MOI mid-mallets and mallets by combining aerospace-grade aluminum with steel. The contrasting copper and black finish provides alignment cues and a visually appealing, premium look that’s attracting a lot of interest on tour.”

Depending on the Heppler model the face may be steel or aluminum but all provide a stronger “hit.” This was evident at once with practice green trials of the Heppler Anser 2 and confirmed on the course. There is a distinct feeling the ball comes off the face very quickly, almost a “pop,” and for those of us who tend to decelerate at impact this is a nice benefit. After the initial skid the roll goes quickly to end-over-end on the intended line which is a real confidence-builder and means your attention is no longer on “where” but “how far”. In other words, distance not line.

Though having a few minor differences in look to the 1979 Ping Anser 2 the Heppler Anser 2 shares the “modern blade” shape and flat face. The two-tone black and copper head provides lots of alignment help and we were especially impressed with the head’s stability due to weight placement but also the lower amount of flex of the black chrome shaft. In addition to being stiffer, the shaft offers Ping’s unique user adjustability of the length (32 to 36 inches) accomplished simply by a wrench inserted through the grip end.