Golf Car Report: The Big Three continue to vie for Michigan Market
By Dean Holzwarth
For many golfers around the country, walking is a way to enjoy the game of golf and its natural beauties while receiving a moderate workout.
But why walk when you can ride?
Over the past 50 years, three companies have dominated the golf car market and each has placed its stamp on the industry in its own manner. Yamaha, Club Car and E-Z-GO, which are all based in the Augusta, GA area, have welcomed the 21st century with their own distinctive models and new innovations.
While Michigan recently introduced its 1,000th golf course, the battle to gain supremacy in the Michigan market is fierce among the golf car manufacturers. The following is a report of the top three golf car companies efforts in the past 12 months to claim their share of the ever-growing golf market in Michigan.
Initially incorporated in Houston in 1958, Club Car is now a division of Ingersoll-Rand and manufactures over 30 products that are distributed from more than 300 sales points around the world.
Club Car has recently introduced an innovation that it hopes will separate it from the other two golf-car manufacturers.
Club Car will take on a new look with its Integrated Comfort System. The enhanced comfort features include a canopy design which promotes water run-off away from the passenger compartment, a more ergonomically designed canopy head-hold to promote an easier inside-the-car arm position, greater comfort and easier in-out access and higher arm rests/hip restraints will provide added comfort.
In addition, rounded canopy edges provide a smooth, finished look and feel and a thicker; single-piece seat back offers increased comfort with fewer parts to maintain.
According to Kurt Kraly, the Club Car sales manager for Southeast Michigan, the comfort system is just another reason why Club Car has proved to provide a quality product over the years.
I think our popularity is due to the fact that we have the highest quality of cars and components on the market, he said. Were leading the way in product innovation in our gas and electric cars and our 48Volt car is still the most efficient product on the market.
Ed Linebaugh, general manager of Detroit Country Club, has been impressed with the Club Car since obtaining a fleet of 55 two years ago. The technology of the Club Car was more advanced at the time we got them, he said. They have a great ride to them and they have the ability to make 36 holes without a recharge. Those are two of the reasons I was sold on the Club Car.
Since 1954, E-Z-GO Textron, the No. 1 golf car manufacturer in the world, has been at the forefront of golf car innovation, leading the industry to new heights and continually changing the way the world experiences golf.
Last August, E-Z-GO introduced its Precision Drive System golf car, the first golf car ever to feature three distinct performance options, allowing golf courses management to tailor the operating characteristics of its golf cars to the courses individual and unique terrain.
The patented Precision Drive System offers three different factory pre-set performances options all-terrain, steep hill and mild hill that allow golf course management to choose the amount of vehicle top-end speed and pedal-up and pedal-down braking strength necessary to ensure optimal performance.
I think the other two companies produce fine vehicles, but E-Z-GO and Textron have been very serious about innovations and product quality and thats probably why weve gained about 50 courses in the past three years from our competitors, said George Brophy, the Michigan sales representative for E-Z-GO. We out-staff others three to one in terms of service, he added. We take better care of our customers and we take a lot of pride in that.
E-Z-GO also recently announced that the company entered into multi-year agreements for golf cars and utility vehicles with both ClubCorp, the worlds largest owner and operator of private golf clubs and resorts, as well as American Golf, the worlds largest operator of golf facilities.
Away from the golf course, E-Z-GO and Textron have attempted to attract other consumers to a line of utility vehicles that can be used for a variety of purposes such as turf maintenance, commercial, individual and industrial.
In January, Chris Klein, a former golf car sales representative at E-Z-GO, was named a territory manager for speciality vehicles and is optimistic about the growth of the industry outside of the links. The use of speciality vehicles is quickly becoming the largest growing markets in recent years, Klein said. Were going after the property owners, the hunters and the gentleman farmers with a line of vehicles that will better suit them.
Since opening its manufacturing plant in Newnan, GA in 1998, Yamaha has manufactured the industrys highest rated golf car in both reliability and performance.
Yamahas current line of golf cars and utility cars features the Ultima 48V with Pacesetter Two, the Ultima 36V electric and gas cars and the G-11 gas utility vehicle.
The Yamaha Ultima 48V electric car with Pacesetter Two gives more hill-climbing performance than any other car on the market today, and gives a smooth and safe ride, while reducing fleet operating costs. It also draws less energy from its batteries than a typical 36-volt car. In addition, the Ultima 48V takes on the challenges of rugged and varied terrain, while delivering a gentle rid for which Yamaha cars are known.
Steve Hall, manager of Alpine Golf Club in Comstock Park, has a fleet of 71 Yamaha golf cars along with beverage cars and utility cars. He said pricing and comfortability were two main factors in his decision to go with Yamaha.
Weve had good luck with Yamaha in the last 12 years since Ive been here. Theyve proven to be pretty reliable, Hall said. While pricing is also a consideration when choosing between the top three, the quality of the ride seems to be a lot smoother. Because of the suspension system, its a more comfortable ride.
Hall adds that the Yamahas have also lessened the wear and tear on the golf course.
They always seem to have a lighter footprint on the course, he said. I dont know if its because of the composite body or because its lighter, but its better for the condition of the golf course.
Mike Boylan is the Michigan representative for Yamaha. He believes the name of the company and its reputation in manufacturing has helped carry them into the golf industry.
Yamaha is pretty much an engineering and manufacturing-based company and theyve proven to produce top-quality products, he said. The engines are better than the others are and they stand behind their products.
Coming this fall, Yamaha will add a new utility vehicle to its resume. The car will feature a larger engine and will be capable of hauling a heavier payload and can be converted into a larger beverage carts.
As the golf industry heads into the 21 century, it seems clear that the top three golf car companies are striving to produce top products for todays consumer. Whether its service, durability or comfort youre searching for, each will boast its own golf car in an attempt to win over the avid golfer and property manager.
With all of the new innovations on the market, one thing is clear. Why walk when you can ride in comfort and style?
For golfers who like to walk but prefer an easier mode to transport ones clubs than ones own weary shoulders, they should consult the HillBilly Powered Golf Trolley. This British-made product is a well-made and affordable trolley aimed at the walking golfing set. Its many pluses include a modest price ($415-459), a compact and light design and ease of usage. It unfolds quickly and easily in ones boot er...trunk and is ready to go in seconds. Most importantly it is well-powered by the battery and charging unit that come with every purchaseshipped by UPS right to your door step. Call 1-888-682-7757 or check out www.hillbillyusa.com
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