One of the consequences of the raft of new protocols for running a golf course in the COVID-19 era is the requirement that if a golf course is allowing golfers to use carts, they must ride one to a cart (with some exceptions, like if two people are members of the same household).
While it doesn't seem like such a bad thing to have one's own golf cart on the course, two big problems have arisen. The first is that giving every riding golfer his or her own cart cuts a course's fleet's capacity in half, which drives up wear-and-tear on the carts while driving down cart revenue, which for many courses is a vital source of money.
The second problem is the extra stress that as many as 16 golf cart wheels per foursome can put on the golf course, as opposed to the normal maximum of eight (two golf carts). In his article "Double The Carts Is Not Double The Fun," Adam Moeller of the USGA Green Section runs down the potential damage from increased cart traffic. "In some cases, the grass cannot recover from the chronic wear and tear and bare spots will develop and expand," he writes. "Courses with poor drainage or heavy soils – e.g., clay – are particularly susceptible to cart damage and soil compaction that could limit turf performance for years."
One enterprising company has invented a device that is aimed at allowing golf carts to once again accommodate two golfers. Their solution?
One word: plastics.
Primex Plastics Corporation, based in Indiana, has developed a pair of golf cart dividers made of clear vinyl plastic, under the trademark PrimexProtect. The protective shield is mounted from the roof of the cart and hangs down between golfers seated on the driver's and passenger's side. The main barrier is made of clear vinyl plastic and is able to be fastened in the front and back to prevent flapping. A company brief on the product says cleaning is quite simple: mild soap and water or isopropyl alcohol will disinfect the divider between uses.
There are two models of this product, both manufactured in Indiana. The Birdie version extends the length of a normal golf cart seat, while the Eagle barrier extends all the way to the golf cart's dashboard. They are priced for retail at $29.95 and $49.95, respectively, with the patent-pending Eagle version being the prime focus of the manufacturing effort.
After speaking with members of the local golf industry, Primex Design and Fabrication director Doug Borgsdorf saw an opportunity to help out. "We started working around the clock to develop a divider system that was universal for almost all of the golf carts in the nation," he said. "I wanted something that could install quickly, no screws, would last and that didn’t look like it wasn’t meant to be there. Out of this came the Eagle Divider and the Birdie divider."
Representatives of the health department in the company's home county of Wayne, Indiana, reviewed the devices and "agreed that this would allow for two riders again," Borgsdorf said, "still with the recommendation that face masks should be worn when anyone is out in public. They were pleased at the level of protection we tried to create for the two riders."
Having ordered Primex's dividers for their fleets, area facilities like Winchester Golf Club (#6 on Golf Advisor's Golfers' Choice list for Indiana) are looking to allow golfers to ride two to a cart if desired in the coming weeks, provided they maintain social distancing and other precautions. Returning to more normal cart use may allow group business to start up sooner than anticipated.
In addition to golf cart dividers, Primex has made thousands of face shields and other PPE devices for general use during the coronavirus pandemic from the same Design and Fabrication facility that is also producing their golf cart dividers.
A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that many golfers have embraced the notion of walking during their rounds, both out of necessity and a desire for exercise during a time when everyone is mostly cooped up indoors. But there are several golfers, and courses, that rely on riding, and these plastic golf cart dividers could be an effective solution, at least in the near term.