Outdoors

Golfers ‘surf the earth’ at course in Caldwell with GolfBoard rentals

Here's how the GolfBoard works

Kelly Christensen of TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, Idaho, demonstrates the GolfBoard.
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Kelly Christensen of TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, Idaho, demonstrates the GolfBoard.

Anyone who has played golf has hit an errant tee shot.

The routine that follows might include a little swearing and perhaps a club getting pounded into the ground as the golfer trudges up the fairway, head hanging.

Unless that golfer has a GolfBoard waiting on the side of the tee box. In that case, the golfer might put that bad tee shot in the past and enjoy a fun ride up the fairway on a motorized surfboard of sorts.

That desired change in attitude is why Kelly Christensen decided to make TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell the first public course in Idaho to offer GolfBoards available for rentals.

“People want to have fun when they spend their extra money,” said Christensen, who is a co-owner and head pro at TimberStone. “So, let’s bring in some fun. … People come off the course and just rave about them.”

GolfBoard was named the best new product at the PGA Merchandise Show in 2014. The company’s website says that more than 250 courses worldwide offer the chance to “Surf the Earth” while playing a round of golf.

“It’s just such a unique way to play,” Christensen said.

Christensen started renting GolfBoards in July 2016. Since then, GolfBoards have won over a variety of golfers, including Caldwell business owner Jason B. Miller.

“You hop on it and go out and play and it really changes your whole perspective from shot to shot,” Miller says. “No longer is it kind of mundane. It’s actually fun. Depending on how much you lean, you can really get that thing to turn pretty tight, and you can go up and down hills. It’s a little bit of a workout.”

Miller said he’s seen a lot of golfers ages 45 and up become GolfBoard fans. But the added element the board provides also appeals to the younger generation of golfers.

“I tried it at the beginning of the summer, and I absolutely loved it,” said Damian Reynolds, a 25-year-old from Meridian. “It was a pretty neat experience, honestly. It was like riding a skateboard and a snowboard.”

Reynolds has convinced some of his friends to give the GolfBoard a whirl.

“It adds a little more excitement to the game,” he said. “A lot of people think that golf is boring, and they don’t necessarily understand the game. … I’ve told all my friends about the GolfBoard. I’m kind of spreading the word without even working there or owning one.”

QUESTIONS … AND ANSWERS

Scott Syms, who sells GolfBoards in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, tells people that the golf cart wasn’t an overnight success.

“I have to remind people, and even myself sometimes, that when golf carts were introduced into the golf industry the attitude was: ‘That’s not golf. Golf is walking,’ ” said Syms, who is based out of Sun Valley and has been a PGA member for more than 25 years (he played at Boise State in the 1980s).

Similarly, Syms has found that he must help golfers overcome some apprehension when he introduces them to the GolfBoard.

“The perception is, ‘Oh, that would be scary and difficult,’ ” Syms said. “But it’s not that hard to ride.”

Even so, Christensen has people watch a 6-minute instructional video on TimberStone’s website and sign a waiver before riding a GolfBoard for the first time.

“That way, when you come in all we have to do is show you a few things and you’re good to go,” Christensen said. Rental cost is $25, about $10 more than a regular golf cart.

Christensen said the biggest obstacle for most people is just getting on a GolfBoard the first time.

“I think most people’s initial fear is the fear of the unknown,” Christensen said. “But they’re safe and they’re extremely easy to ride. Because of the four wheels underneath them, they’re very stable. My 88-year-old grandmother got on one and rode around, and she weighs maybe 90 pounds when she’s soaking wet.”

Another question Christensen gets asked is whether the GolfBoards tear up his course. The answer: No.

“There’s a lot less damage to the course (than a regular golf cart),” he said. “It doesn’t have the amount of weight where you’re going to do any damage.”

As for pace of play, the GolfBoard website says that the average round on a GolfBoard is 2 hours, 37 minutes.

“If you had a whole fleet of GolfBoards, you could really get people zipping around,” Christensen said.

For now, though, TimberStone has four GolfBoards. On a busy day, each of the GolfBoards will go out twice (their lithium batteries require a two-hour charge in between rounds).

Christensen said pace of play isn’t a problem when a golfer riding a GolfBoard gets paired up with someone walking or riding in a cart.

“When somebody hits a shot they might want to go up on a hill or make some extra turns on their way to their ball,” Christensen said. “It’s a way to have a little fun on your way to your next shot. And they have time to do it.”

CATCHING ON

Syms believes more courses are going to follow TimberStone’s lead and offer GolfBoard rentals.

“GolfBoard, by far, is the coolest thing and the most uplifting thing I’ve done in the world of golf,” he said. “It’s really been a fun product. And we’re catching on. … I believe it will be mainstream here in the next five years.”

In the meantime, Christensen’s business model seems to be working for TimberStone. He said about 65 percent of people who rent his GolfBoards are playing TimberStone for the first time or seldom play at his course.

“So, I’m pulling in a whole new group of people,” he said.

Reynolds said he plays courses all over the Treasure Valley, but he went back to TimberStone more often this summer because of the GolfBoard experience.

“It’s the best thing,” he said. “I love it. It adds a different element to the game. I already love the game, as is, so it just makes it that much more enjoyable.”

‘You have to come back and try it.’

Kelly Christensen, the head pro at TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, didn’t think I should write about the GolfBoards available for rental at his course without taking one out for a round of golf.

It was a valid point.

So, I made a tee time and returned the next day.

I had already been given a brief tutorial, so I was ready to roll. I hopped on and carefully thought about my stance — left foot in front, right in back, both at about a 45-degree angle.

Cruising in the lower gear across the parking lot, I immediately felt comfortable on the GolfBoard. But as I approached the tee box, there was a bumpy, tight turn on a gravel path. I tried to maneuver the turn with a little too much confidence, sensed things weren’t going well … and immediately stepped off.

Just as Christensen had demonstrated, the board came to a gradual stop. It was a quick reminder that I still had a bit of a learning curve ahead of me.

That lesson proved invaluable, and I managed to not be too aggressive for the rest of the day. As I made the turn after nine holes, I was completely comfortable and making my way up and down hillsides and carving turns through the fairways. I would sometimes go from low to high gear, but my early lesson reminded me that low gear was probably going to be more appropriate for a first-time rider when I was encountering bumpy or uneven terrain. Still, I found myself making a shot and hopping on the board without even thinking of my stance. It was becoming second nature for me to adjust my feet depending on which way I was turning.

I only stepped off the board one more time during my 18-hole round (again, while I was on a gravel surface and not grass).

I have to say, by the end of the day, I was sold.

My time on skis, motorcycles and paddleboards helped me enjoy my first day on a GolfBoard, but most people would pick up the nuances of leaning and turning relatively easily (the handlebars definitely help).

It’s not entirely a coincidence that I finished with one of my lower 18-hole scores of the summer. The GolfBoard helped put me in the proper frame of mind: “Hey, I’m supposed to be having fun out here!”

A few days later, I took my paddleboard to Quinn’s Pond. I had two immediate realizations: My shoulders were a little sore from my day on the GolfBoard, and the paddleboard felt a little shaky after my time on a board with wheels.

— Chris Langrill

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