Golfers who walk are a funny bunch.
They're a tight-knit fraternity who loathe riding in golf carts and probably act a bit snobbish toward those who do. But there are also three warring factions within golf's walking kingdom: those who carry, those who push/pull and those who splurge on electronic trolleys with remote controls. (I'm not counting the fourth estate: Pros who walk with caddies, although you can do that more and more on the world's most famous courses).
Each of these three types of walker battles a stereotype. The carriers are the elitists who frown upon the others because they're working the hardest, the pushers/pullers are too lazy to carry and the electronic trolley golfers are just rich, old golfers looking to show off. None of this is true, of course; how you choose to walk is purely personal choice.
I've always thought of how a golfer chooses to walk as an age and fitness thing. When you're young, you hoof it and carry anything. As your back gets a little balky and the dad-bod kicks in, it's probably time for a lighter-weight Sunday carry bag and fewer clubs. Me? I skipped both those stages and went straight for the pull/push cart. Those were useful for two decades. Now, fully embroiled in the mid-life crisis realization that my golf game is in decline, I've upgraded to the remote-controlled electronic trolley. It's a great toy that makes golf more fun.
What stage of the walking golfer life-cycle are you in? Let's look at the pros and cons of all of them.
Carrying your own golf bag
When I started playing golf in the mid-1990s, carrying your golf bag wasn't all that fun. Most golf bags were bulky and the straps always seemed to be out of place or uncomfortable. Today's golfer is so spoiled. There are so many choices now.
A handful of companies - Jones Sports Co., MacKenzie Golf, Stitch and Seamus Golf - have perfected the lightweight 'Sunday' carry bag. The downside for going this route is the lack of stand legs, limited room for clubs and small pocket spaces. Golfers who want a more traditional (although slightly heavier) stand bag can choose between established brands such as Ping, Titleist and Sun Mountain or an up-and-comer like MNML Golf, which produces a lightweight bag infused with cool features like a speaker and lined pocket that keeps drinks cold.
Carriers: you need to realize, first and foremost, that you're not any stronger, fitter or better than any other walking golfer. Even though you're lugging extra weight around, you're not necessarily getting more exercise than the other two groups, according to a recent study by Graeme Close, a professor of Human Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University. Close found that the difference in energy expended between carrying a bag, pushing a cart or driving a remote control trolley was negligible.
Walking with a push or pull cart
Breaking my back at age 13 pretty much ruined my chances of ever carrying my golf bag. That's okay because the push cart mafia has gained more acceptance over the years as golf continues its march toward being more casual. I started my walking career with a cheap pull cart - you know the one, those $100 fold-up models with two wheels at a sporting goods store. They do the job but they're not glamorous.
As your age and income (hopefully) go up, it's wise to invest in a dependable push cart. They've got three wheels instead of two, so they're more stable and easier to push up hills than to pull. I've tested three different models in recent years - the Sun Mountain V1R Speed Cart, Bag Boy Nitron and Omada Golf TriLite. They all cost less than $300 and easily fold up to transport from course to course in the trunk of your car. Accessories such as cellphone, drink and umbrella holders make the walking life pretty comfortable. I've got nothing bad to say about going this fairly economical route.
Splurging on an electric trolley
I'm in the middle of testing my first Motocaddy, and it's also quite the exotic machine. The Motocaddy M7 REMOTE features a GPS screen to make getting yardages easier than ever.
Buying an electronic trolley isn't cheap - costing roughly $750 for the most affordable Batcaddy to $2,500 for a high-end Q Follow. Like the other items in the story, though, you probably have to factor in what you're saving in cart fees into the equation. Plus, there's the hassle of making sure the batteries for your remote control and your trolley are charged at all times.
The reward for these minor issues is a better overall walking experience. You can go look for your ball or your partner's ball without worrying about where your trolley is. You can always summon it with the remote control.
The follow technology brought to market by Stewart Golf in 2014 is pretty incredible. You truly feel like you've got your own caddie walking behind you, ready to hand over a club when you're ready to hit. You'll attract plenty of jealous onlookers, too.
Just like regular push carts, these trolleys fold up easily after the round to be transported.
I have one friend in my foursome who loves his Batcaddy and another who wants no part of worrying about potentially driving an electric trolley into a bunker or ditch. He's perfectly happy with his manual push cart.
Golf has always been a deeply personal game, from how you swing to what equipment you use. Walking the course is no different ... to each his own.
What kind of walking golfer are you? Let us know in the comments below.