In the beginning, links golf was played on foot. And with the exception of players who physically require a buggy (aka cart), it still is today. If you ask me, it’s one of the things that makes golf in Scotland so appealing. After all, the human body is genetically engineered for walking. Yet most of us don’t do nearly enough of it these days.
As such, a round of golf (a 5.6-mile hike my last time out according to my Garmin S6 watch—stay tuned for the review!) can serve as an antidote to our modern sedentary existence. Walking helps us feel better physically, even if the numbers on our scorecard assail us emotionally. It’s a no-lose proposition.
As long as you’re properly equipped, that is.
That starts with your golf bag. If you want to go all in on Scottish tradition and actually carry your clubs, you’ll want as light and compact a bag as possible to reduce the stress and strain on your body. That’s the kind of bag I currently employ.
Be forewarned, however, that there is a downside to downsizing: It limits the extra gear you can bring with you. Given the unpredictable weather patterns here, that can be problematic. If I pack the waterproofs only when I think it’s going to rain, eventually I will get soaked. But if cram my kit into my carry bag’s limited pockets, the space for the sticks gets squeezed. Rubber grip rubs up against rubber grip, requiring a hefty yank to extricate a club from the bag and, after the shot, a determined push to get it back in. It’s a pain the arse. Over the course of a round, the cumulative effect of all this pushing and pulling can put me in a foul mood…which in turn can impinge on my play.
Thankfully, there is a middle ground between carrying your bag and riding on a purpose-built vehicle that does that for you. Over here, it’s called a trolley. On the other side of the pond, it’s known as the pull cart or, more commonly these days, the push cart. Go with one of these clever devices and you can walk and use a larger golf bag. None of the aforementioned compromises apply.
If you travel to Scotland for a golf holiday, you’ll be able to hire (aka rent) a trolley at most courses. But if you’re able to follow in, ahem, my footsteps and indulge in an extended stay, you might want to invest in a trolley of your own.
I recently did just that, opting for the Stewart Golf R1 Push. Some modern-day trolleys come with electric motors that do most of the work, only requiring you to point them in the right direction. Stewart Golf has one, for a mere £1,500, that will follow you wherever you go. I prefer to keep things simple, not to mention affordable. The R1 seemed like just my speed on both fronts.
What’s so special about this trolley?
Well, for starters, it’s made in the UK. Actually, the way the company puts it, their facility is “nestled in the idyllic Cotswolds in southwest Great Britain, where we lovingly build every one of our trolleys by hand.” The implication is that their products are crafted by skilled artisans who are passionate about what they do and where they live. So we’re talking counterculture business practices in an era of mindless, faceless mass offshore production. I can get behind that.
On the flipside, the manufacture of wheeled-vehicles in the UK also conjures up visions of classic British roadsters broken down by the side of the road. Stewart Golf, though, says it’s a company owned and operated by engineers. “Our instinct is to design, innovate and build.” They claim their sole intention is to produce “the world’s finest golf trolleys.”
Sounds pretty darn special to me.
As for the R1, that first came to market in 2014, its key innovation is a patented rack and pinion mechanism. Most of the cars on the road today employ the same basic technology in their steering systems, converting the turning of a steering wheel into the linear motion of the steering rack. The R1 incorporates four racks and four pinions, for those of you who are scoring at home. If you’re the type who delves into the details, check out the description and video on Stewart Golf’s website. If you’re not, just know there’s a lot more going on inside the R1 than you can see from the outside.
Stewart says it opted for this approach for three primary reasons:
Simplicity—The R1’s main support and three wheels can be folded and unfolded in one seamless motion.
Durability — Unlike other trolleys that rely on external sliding mechanisms, the R1’s core isn’t exposed to the dirt and debris that can gum up the works and/or damage the structure.
Aesthetics—All of the working elements are tucked away within the frame. That allowed Stewart’s designers to keep the R1’s exterior lines sleek and simple.
How does it work?
Like a charm. To press the R1 into service, you start by releasing a white plastic latch and pulling up, relying mostly on gravity to extend the wheels and the main support. Then you turn a white plastic knob to release the handle, turning it again to tighten once the handle is where you want it.
Fully deployed, all that’s left is to load your golf bag into the adjusting jaws (one pair grips the bottom of the bag and another grips the top) and then pull tight on the silicone bag straps to secure the bag to the trolley. Once my small stand bag is in place, it doesn’t budge—not even when traipsing around in heavy rough or when a gust of wind knocks everything, bag and trolley, to the turf. And, yes, I speak from experience. In both circumstances.
Walking and pushing the R1 is also a breeze. To once again borrow on the car analogy, this trolley’s ride quality reminds me of the difference between a budget-minded econobox (say a Hyundai) and a luxurious European import (think BMW). There’s just a substance and gravitas to it that makes you feel like all is right with the world, no matter which way your golf ball might be flying.
Meanwhile, the oversized wheels hold their line and turn silently with minimal resistance. In fact, forget to set the brake and all it takes is a mild zephyr to set the R1 into motion.
Speaking of the brake, this one is activated with the touch of your foot. Other trolley makers use handbrakes which might be a bit more convenient but, Stewart Golf claims, introduce extra moving parts and clutter up the design. I’m prone to agree.
After the round, you simply reverse the above steps to fold the R1 down into a very manageable, though heavy (8.1 kilograms/nearly 18 pounds), bundle that should fit easily into the boot/trunk of most vehicles. I drive a Volvo V50 estate/station wagon, so no worries on that front whatsoever.
Before I made the move to Scotland, I owned and used a Sun Mountain Micro Cart. It’s a very good product. But the time I’ve spent getting acquainted with the R1 has convinced me that it’s the superior trolley. By a significant margin.
How does it look?
Prior to the R1, I couldn’t imagine using the word “fetching” to describe a trolley. But in this instance it definitely applies. Internalizing the racks and pinions is certainly a contributing factor. But so too is Stewart Golf’s “made by hand” approach, which allows you to choose among four configurations: white frame with white wheels; white frame with black wheels; black frame with black wheels; and black frame with white wheels. I went with the latter which, when mated with my red-and-black golf bag, is quite the head-turner—if I do say so myself (see photo at the top of this post).
Where can I buy it?
Though multiple online retailers carry this product, you can buy it direct from Stewart Golf via their website . No matter where you go, you’ll find the same price: £199. Stateside readers can find it by clicking here .
Is it worth the price?
As they say over here, the R1’s tariff is a wee bit dear. Off-brand trolleys can be found for half that amount. Sun Mountain’s more premium offerings, such as the Speed Cart and Micro Cart, will run you about £150. But if you demand the best, look no further than Stewart Golf. Yeah, it costs more. But it’s also worth more.
It’s also inspired me to order a new and larger bag, the Sun Mountain H2NO Lite 14 [https://www.sunmountaingolf.co.uk/carry-bags/117-sun-mountain-h2no-lite-14-way-carry-bag-2016.html], so I can take full advantage of this slick rig. But that’s a review for another day.
Overall Rating (Ace high to Double Bogey low): Ace
For more Golfing blogs by Dan Miller visit www.weeeggmon.com/