SAN FRANCISCO - The anticipation was killing me.
Driving the Q Follow electric trolley by remote control for the first three holes playing at TPC Harding Park was fun and all, but it felt a little like being handed the keys to a Ferrari and asked to stay in first gear.
I was ready for my training wheels to come off and experience the real draw of the Q Follow, the most popular of the assorted electric trolleys and push carts made by Stewart Golf. That's when Mark Stewart, the CEO of Stewart Golf, showed me the magic green button on the remote control.
Pressing it and clipping the remote to my belt, my feeling of euphoria was almost immediate. I was walking - hands free - on a major championship golf course with my clubs on the Q Follow tracing my every step. I couldn't stop smiling. Stewart has seen this look before.
"Every time I demo it to someone for the first time, that first 5 or 10 seconds of follow, every single time, it's the same reaction. I love it," he said. "You press the button, put it (the remote) on your belt and start walking. It's that first realization, 'Oh this is cool. This is what I've been waiting for. This is how everybody should play golf'."
The seventh generation of the Q Follow is the only electronic trolley on the market that offers both a remote control and follow mode. Stewart Golf, a United Kingdom-based company that brought follow technology to market in 2014, is making a push into America by opening a service center in Houston and further spreading its message that walking is the best way to play golf.
You won't get any argument from me. Whenever I can walk, I do. My motivations are probably the same as yours: I like the exercise, seem to play better and if I'm being truly honest, saving the cart fee might be the biggest motivation of them all. I've owned a push cart for most of my golfing life, but many of my generation of walkers are ready for an upgrade. My scores aren't getting any lower as I age, so I have to look for other ways to make the "experience" of playing golf more fun. That's what the Q Follow delivers.
Stewart says he only uses the follow technology when he's earned it. "There's no better feeling than a 150-yard walk with a putter in your hand" after you've hit the green, he said. "It's having that experience and feeling very smug about yourself. Especially off the tee, I tend to use follow when I feel like I deserve it. So if I've hit a good drive, I feel a couple of inches taller, and I'm going to savor the walk."
So how does the Q Follow work?
The Q Follow monitors the movement of the remote control 10,000 times per second. It is recommended to attach the remote to your belt after pushing the follow button. If you're holding the remote in your hand, you're most likely swinging your arms, causing some disruption. When you want to hit a shot, it's best to stop wherever you 'park" the trolley far enough away from the ball to leave room to swing. Hang the remote on the trolley to lock it in neutral. When you're ready to walk, simply grab the remote and go again. To switch back to the remote control, simply hit any of the arrow buttons to activate.
It's probably wise to switch to remote control mode when you're nearing water, a bridge, ditch, cliff or somewhere things could go awry. When walking through tight spaces such as sidewalks or parking lots, I like to hold the handle to safely steer away from obstacles such as curbs or rocks that can tip the trolley. I did put the Q Follow through the ultimate test, though, walking three blocks in a roadside bike lane from my house to my home course without incident.
The Q Follow, which starts at $2,195, is durable, yet portable, weighing in at 39 pounds. It can easily fold up small enough to fit into the trunk of a Porsche 911. When folded, simply tip it up to reveal a carry handle. The look is sleek, which is by design, considering it's such a premium product. It will probably be the most expensive golf purchase of your life, unless you go all in on a high-end personal launch monitor, custom golf cart, backyard putting green or elaborate indoor simulator.
"We want customers to be motivated to buy because of how it makes you feel when you play golf," Stewart said. "When you use it, it's really straight forward. It works and looks great. We definitely put an effort into the aesthetics. We want the wheels to look cool. We want the follow antennas to look like brake calipers from sports cars. They don't need to, but they sit under the wheels like a Ferrari."
For diehard golfers who think walking with a push cart or electric trolley is for wimps, Stewart points to a recent study by Graeme Close, a professor of Human Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University, that found that the difference in energy expended between carrying a bag, pushing a cart or driving a remote control trolley was negligible. It is the simple fact you're walking that provides the exercise benefits.
"What we know now from this study is that we're not losing those (health) benefits by using, let's say, an electric trolley, which may make the round more enjoyable," said Close, who also heads up nutrition for the DP World Tour.
Let me paraphrase what he's trying to say: The Q Follow is the coolest golf thing you'll likely ever own. Your friends might not be jealous of your game, but they'll surely be jealous of how you play golf ... with a Q Follow as your own personal caddy.