Segways offer golfers turf-friendly green transport

Fri Jan 9, 2009 4:26am EST
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By Hiroyuki Muramoto

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Looking for that stray shot or getting around the course is usually a matter of legwork or the cart, but one club in golf-crazy Japan is giving the chase a modern set of environmentally friendly wheels: Segways.

Tone Park Golf Course, an hour-and-a-half drive away from Tokyo, is renting out the battery-powered vehicles, specially kitted out for the sport, to golfers to hop from link to link and hunt for balls.

Segways resemble pogo-sticks on wheels and their presence on the golf course is new in Japan, where road regulations have made it very difficult to impossible for the personal transporter to be used on public roads.

The Turf Segways PTs are fitted with large, soft wheels to help it maneuver across the course without damaging the turf, a golf bag for the clubs and also a score-card holder.

Tone Park Golf Course general manager Yoshiaki Tomii says he hopes to attract a wider market of first-time and new golfers with these Segways.

"With novices, their balls tend to curve and fly all over the place so with a Segway these balls are easier to reach than with a traditional golf cart. And that makes golf more fun for them," Tomii told Reuters.

A full day's rental is 6,300 yen (about $69) each, including basic driving lessons, but the course only accepts reservations for Segway-powered golf on less crowded weekdays.

"At first I was concentrating more on how to ride this thing and my swing became a mess. And more than usual the ball flew all over the place. But that was fun too in a way," said 40-year old Toshiyuki Hatano, one of four friends who had rented a Segway.

At about 1.125 million yen ($12,350), the golf Segways do not come cheap and Tomii admits the course is unlikely to make much money out of renting out them out, but he hopes they will pull in the curious and gadget-obsessed crowds in Japan.

(Writing by Olivier Fabre, Editing by Miral Fahmy)