Review: Sun Mountain 'Speed E Cart'

March 17, 2008 2:04:37 PM PDT
I have a new friend on the golf course--one that follows me around, carries my clubs, my extra sweaters, camera, car keys, food, and beverages. This friend ignores my verbal abuse, never talks during my backswing, disappears when dismissed, does not tire, and never complains, even when relegated to the trunk of my car. Product Review: Sun Mountain 'Speed E Cart' Now the best part. This friend does not expect a tip at the end of a round, either. I plead guilty to tasting and subsequently drinking the motorized cart Kool-Aid. Several companies now market their own versions. Sun Mountain's 'Speed E Cart' earned our first evaluation, mostly because it looks so cool. When Mark Twain described golf as, "a good walk spoiled", he missed the point. Golf is best experienced by the feet. The terrain speaks to us through our feet. A good golf swing balances through the feet. When an able-bodied person chooses to ride when he could walk, he's missing the spirit of the game. But, must carrying a bag also be accompanied by a sore back? Is compromise possible? Can a golfer maintain self-respect AND use a wheeled apparatus? The test unit from Sun Mountain arrived fully assembled. I used a pressure gauge to equalize the three tires at 30 pounds per square inch, and, within minutes, sent the cart on several test runs down the straight, wooden hallway of my home. My dog may never be the same. She growled and barked---issues of alpha dominance, I presume. Figure 2-My dog, Coco, and the folded 'Speed E Cart' --- a moment of uneasy truce. When folded, the aluminum framed, thirty-one pound 'Speed E Cart' fits into the trunk of a 3-Series BMW, leaving enough room for your assorted junk, and a small carry bag. At the golf course, the cart takes no more than two minutes to open, click in the portable 24 volt battery, mount your clubs with the thumb-tightened butterfly brackets, and go. Figure 3- Cart, bag, and assorted golf junk in the trunk of my car. In play, the 'Speed E Cart' requires a learning curve. Do not use it for the first time in a competitive round because the cart will inevitably distract you by going too fast or too slow. Thrice, I chased the thing to save it from plowing into a lake, a tree, and then an occupied relief station. Lesson learned. Read the directions. Unlike me, take advantage of the fact that the 'Speed E Cart' includes a parking brake as standard equipment. Figure 4-The control system is not rocket science, but do read the instructions. Control the cart with a pushbutton system mounted on the back of the handle. Press a button to send the cart 15 yards ahead, or 30 yards, or 60, or 'Go' for 200, before it brakes to a stop. Upon reaching a green, grab what you need, find a straight line to the next rendezvous point, estimate an appropriate distance, hit the button, send the cart on its way, and forget about it. By the eighth hole, I adjusted the cart to move at a speed slightly slower than my regular gait, allowing me to point the cart, and then walk ahead of it. The unit followed me to the ball, faithfully arriving a few seconds later. Once, when a playing partner asked to try one of my clubs, I pressed the 200 yard button, and ferried my bag across the fairway to him. He caught the cart, hit his shot, and then sent the cart back. Very nifty. For all its convenience, the Speed E Cart is not perfect. While other brands use a two-wheel, rear drive, Sun Mountain's model relies on a single, front wheel, with the motor hidden inside. Perhaps they should have made it heavier, because the cart tends to lose traction on wet, steep hills. While the instruction book notes that this is a power aided device, remedy the problem by lifting up a touch on the handle. When you do so, the cart climbs fairly well. Nor does it tilt backwards, as some models by other brands tend to do. Going downhill, the cart works great. It even slows down when going too fast. The battery delivers very good performance. I could have easily played traveled thirty-six holes on one charge. A friend who owns one of these carts advises that, by turning it off between holes, he can stretch endurance to fifty-four. If the battery does run down, the 'Speed E Cart' remains light enough to push. Unlike powered models from other manufacturers, the 'Speed E Cart' has neither a a remote control, nor the ability for you to steer it. As such, it requires less attention. If you want a radio controlled car, go to Radio Shack and buy one. The absence of a steering control also means less that go wrong and need repair, long term. The cart does not go perfectly straight, however. It inevitably drifts with the slopes of golf terrain, sometimes by as much as three or four yards per hundred, but a quick nudge sets it back on line. Should you want to make a more permanent adjustment, loosen a couple of screws on the front fork, and tweak, tweak, tweak. My neighbors thought I was a weirdo when they say me following the cart up and down our street, but that's what it takes. Figure 5-Front wheel adjusting screws Among other features, the 'Speed E Cart' comes with a storage compartment in the handle assembly. It is large enough to hold a sandwich and a range finder. The cart also includes umbrella attachment, and a portable, lightweight tire pump. Figure 6-More storage than you need, with room for drinks, tees, a yardage rangefinder, and sandwich, as well. Summary: Sun Mountain's 'Speed E Cart' is portable, lightweight, quick to set up and eye-catching. It performs like a dream machine on flat terrain, but requires attention on steep hills, due to the single front wheel drive. Push up on the handle for better traction. It has a 'set-and-forget' distance control, allowing a golfer to send it away to future rendezvous points. A player will probably wear out before the battery does, but much later in a day than if he had been carrying clubs on his back. The cart retails at about $700. That's not cheap, but it amortizes well when compared to renting a ride, or paying caddies-with-attitude.