The American Trolley
29 Dec 2006

By Rex Vanderpool, Staff Writer rex@amateurgolf.com

In life there are certain milestones of aging. As golfers, we have our own. The first time you beat your Dad is a big one. Then there are lesser celebrated ones like, the first time your wife says to you, “you’re playing golf again? That’s the second time this week! I wanted us to go to Bed Bath and Beyond today.” There is also the day when you realize that you haven’t touched your clubs in weeks due in part to a wedding, a dance recital, two birthdays, one soccer game, and a baby with a stomach flu. A few years later there is the time when you are on the losing side of the “beating your Dad for the first time” milestone. And finally, when the time it took to play becomes more important than the score you shot. “Hey Jim how’d it go out there today?” asked a man at the bar. Jim replied, “I played great, two hours and 43 minutes!”

A lesser known and often overlooked milestone happened to me one recent Sunday afternoon. I had just walked my second day of a 36-hole tournament. My back hurt, my feet hurt, and I felt like dog crap standing upright. While having a beer after the round with my friend Ben we discussed how badly we felt and I said in jest, “Screw it! Next time, I’m bringing a pull cart!” A conversation ensued in which we discussed why we didn’t want to use a pull-cart and what advantages a pull-cart could offer. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it was just the medicine our bodies needed.

Long has the pull cart held a stigma amongst golfers, especially those under the age of forty or a handicap under 5. The conventional opinion is that using a pull-cart was right up there with head covers for your irons, clip-on towels, and marking your ball with that little button that comes on your glove. Simply put, REALLY un-cool.

The only person I know who uses a pull-cart is my Grandfather. He is 83 and definitely falls into the “I played great, two hours, 43 minutes” crowd of golfers. Incidentally, he also has covers for his irons and a clip on towel despite my repeated objections. (Disclaimer: My Grandfather is a great man who helped introduce me to the game and has taught me a lot about the game and is worth a column all his own. I say this so my Mom can read this without getting mad at me)

I will say that the pull-cart issue seems to be a uniquely American problem since in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, almost everyone uses a trolley (pull-cart). Maybe if we Yanks started calling them trolleys that might make them more stylish? Frankly, someone who rides in an electric cart should be thought lesser of than his walking counterpart, no matter how that walker is transporting his clubs. Many people question if golf is a sport at all, not being willing to walk from point A to point B does not help our cause. Like the old Ashworth ads say, “It’s all in the walking”.

There is a rhythm to the game that one can only truly appreciate while walking. It is in this sort of meditative state that the true benefits of the game can be found. The inner reflection, the relaxation, the camaraderie of your playing partners all flourish as you peacefully walk the fairways. Also, despite what many people think you CAN get some very good exercise walking eighteen holes of golf. Did you know that on average you burn about 500 calories walking eighteen, the same as a training session of weightlifting? I weighed my bag with a full compliment of tournament gear. It weighed thirty-eight pounds! On average we do almost five miles of walking in an average round of golf. Believe me, forty extra pounds over five miles and four to five hours on your feet makes a difference, a big difference, not just to your game but your body as well. But, like a Jenny Craig success story or Jared from Subway we too can shed those unwanted pounds by embracing the pull-cart.

It cracks me up to see golfers take an electric cart on a day when a course is “on-paths only” and then end up walking just as far as they would have if they left the cart at the clubhouse. Yet they snicker at me for using the golfing equivalent of a cane. Some courses on this side of the pond actually don’t allow pull carts, yet they allow people to walk, furthering the stigma that pulling your bag is unwelcome. I think we just need a poster boy, someone high profile to come out and say they are a pull-cart user. Since I don’t think Tiger or Phil is going to be that guy, we golfers have to go to our next best choice, me.

I am writing this for a reason; I hope to effect a change. I hope that someone, somewhere, will take a pull cart in lieu of the electric cart this weekend and experience the joy of walking eighteen. I hope that same person at some point is complimented by a fellow player for his game or choice to leave the cart at the clubhouse and walk. I hope that all of my fellow pull cart users can take their cart out of the proverbial and literal closet and proudly roll the fairways.

I want to believe that I tee it up in a world that judges me on what I do with my clubs rather than how I transport them. A world where how I get my ball, not my clubs, from tee to green colors how my playing partners view me on the course. In a game that cherishes history and tradition like golf does I hope we don’t lose the magic of just getting out there and walking the course. Try it; I know you’ll enjoy it!

------------------------------------------- If you have any thoughts, comments, or hate mail please send them in, maybe I'll even post your email with my response (if you are funny enough) I can be reached at Rex@amateurgolf.com

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