My wife says presents should be gifts people would feel guilty buying for themselves – gifts that make them feel appreciated, and better yet spoiled.
The first item in my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, the Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, fits that description to a T as a thoughtful and indulgent gift for a number of worthy golf enthusiasts:
- The first to adopt new technology / the “gadget guy”
- Older players wanting to extend their ability to walk the course
- The player who has everything
- The purist – it’s the closest thing you can get to having a human caddy on the course without one
- Those concerned with social distancing right now
Prior to getting the X4R, I had seen two electric caddies in my life… In thousands of rounds of golf. One was a guy’s I played with at Chambers Bay back in 2012, and the other was one of my playing partners at Kenosha Country Club earlier this season.
It was his first round with it, and he had it imported from China as all manufacturers in the States were stocked out when golf enthusiasts bought up everything that could help them walk the course with less effort while COVID-19 wouldn’t allow the use of riding carts.
All that to say they have not caught on yet here in the Midwest.
I was enamored with the remote control one I saw at Kenosha, though, and had to experience it.
In just four rounds, the Bat-Caddy X4R has become my all-time favorite piece of golf equipment.
A round of golf with an electric caddy is as care-free as it gets. Outside of errant shots and missed putts, there’s no pushing, pulling or lifting. It’s stress-free play where the only thing to carry is a remote control.
Walking the course, in general, changes the rhythm of the game, and not having to shoulder your clubs especially creates an easygoing experience so you can focus on the game in front of you.
Imagine just walking with your hands free (minus a small remote or your drink of choice, which it can also carry), no weight on your back and shoulders, a little extra bounce in your step…
It’s that great.
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My immediate all-time favorite piece of #golf equipment: The @batcaddy X4R electric #golfcaddy. I brought her out on the 6th hole at @nhccwi yesterday for a stroll and… yeah, this thing is AMAZING. Easy to assemble and operate, the X4R makes golf about as leisurely as it can be; plus, the slick white frame makes my white and navy @vesselgolf Player 2.0 bag pop! I cannot wait for our first round together Friday at @nakomagolfclub.. #golfgear #golfequipment #golftrolley #trolley #golfcaddy #electriccaddy #dronepic #northhillscc #golfpics #golfphotos #golfphotography
Why the Bat-Caddy X4R?
Bat-Caddy leads the US market for electric golf caddies with over 60% market share. Chances are you’ve never seen their product here in the Midwest, though, and that’s because they’ve been busy growing their business on the East and West Coasts.
In the marketplace of brands, Bat-Caddy has the best product selection and fits in a space I typically like: Feature-rich at a value price point.
Bat-Caddy’s product line allows golf enthusiasts to get in to advanced technology without breaking the bank. While most brands’ fully electric, remote control option with a lithium ion battery will cost upwards of $2,000, for example, the X4R with lithium ion upgrade hits around $1,500-$1,600 but is available through the Holidays for around $1,100 (current promotional price).
Consumers get a lot for that $1,100, including a long-lasting lithium ion battery (up to 36 holes per charge), lightweight aluminum alloy construction (with stainless steel components) and many standard options that are paid upgrades for their competitors.
A scorecard holder, drink holder, umbrella holder, freestyle mode with timed distance advance and cruise control functions, power and battery charge indicator, USB port, rear anti-tippers, bilateral adjustable-height handlebars, automatic shutoff mode, and ultra-quiet dual direct drive motors all come standard on the X4R.
Performance and operations
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of electric golf caddies and the X4R, specifically, but that’s not to say the experience has been 100% perfect.
There is a learning curve when it comes to operating an electric golf caddy, and some courses are more challenging to use them on than others.
I practiced a bit in my driveway after I got the X4R set up. Feeling pretty good about my ability to control it, I took her out on the 6th hole at North Hills Country Club to take a few photos, capture drone video and give it a trial run in a course setting.
I learned quickly that hills should be traversed straight up and down after I toppled it the first time I tried driving it down an elevated tee box.
While the X4R can handle 30-degree inclines/declines with relative ease, the tripod configuration (which is the industry standard) can get off-balance quickly when the left or right side is lower than the other.
The 30 degrees works up and down very well, though, especially with the standard rear anti-tipper that anchors the caddy going uphill on more extreme terrain.
My first round with the X4R was at Nakoma Country Club in Madison, and looking back was probably the easiest possible course to use it on. It’s a mature course with smooth terrain – plenty of ups and downs but without the “wild” areas and sandy expanses. The tee boxes, especially, are accessible from all angles.
To say it was a perfect golfing experience couldn’t have been more true. The caddy was a breeze to operate, I broke 80 with a great group of friends and when we finished 18 it was hard to believe we weren’t ending the front 9. It was the easiest, most enjoyable walk.
Conversely, my second round with the Bat-Caddy was during our annual Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at the newly renovated Club at Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. The course’s new routing features some very wild/fescue-covered areas, and the cart paths are far from smooth. The edges of the cart paths are extremely canted, which if run up against can push over the Bat-Caddy pretty easily. In addition to that, the tee boxes are oftentimes separated by expanses of fescue and long grasses that can’t be rolled over using a cart.
I tipped the cart twice at Nakoma getting used to operating it, and at least a handful of times during our 27 holes at La Belle.
I’ve only tipped it once since then, though, in two rounds at North Hills. I was maneuvering it alongside the 16th green, saw my ball was in the trap behind me and to the right, quickly stopped it and hit reverse, then watched as it plummeted in to the bunker. A lady in the group on the nearby first green thought it was hilarious and laughed really loud, and I’ll admit I was a little embarrassed (not easy to do).
My point is that the more you use it, the more efficient you’ll get at operating the electric caddy and understanding the strategy behind where to and not to drive it, how much speed to add and when, how to get it on a straight line and which angles you should and shouldn’t take.
The X4R is best operated with its remote control. Hitting the up or down directional buttons once will add a slight amount of speed in that direction, while hitting it several times will speed it up significantly up to ~ 5.5 miles per hour.
The caddy can then be shut down by either hitting the middle “Stop” button or by hitting the arrow opposite its current direction to take off some of the speed it was previously given.
The X4R does not always stop completely. There have been several times when I thought it was stopped but it continued to roll, very slowly. In other words, and this seems obvious when it’s written down, there’s not a parking brake that keeps it 100% in place on steep hills after it’s been shut down.
My last time out I had it stopped on the hill that leads to the elevated green on 18 at North Hills, for example, and it never stopped rolling backward down the hill. It wasn’t a big deal in this case because it came to rest on level ground and I hit a really nice chip shot to one foot on a back pin while it was still rolling, but it obviously could have been bad if there was water or a cliff where it was rolling to (and if I didn’t have my eye on it).
The other thing to be cognizant of is that once the cart is set in motion, it’s set in motion [until the 45-second automatic shutoff kicks in]. There are several situations when this is important to keep in mind:
- If you’re multi-tasking
In my first round with the X4R, I sent it heading slowly off the tee box on the par three 4th at Nakoma. I then put my drone up to get some aerial shots. It completely escaped my mind that the cart wasn’t totally turned off, which I realized when I heard a crash and subsequently saw my clubs in a yard sale right of the green.
- If it’s out of the 90- to 120-yard range
If it gets out of the range of the remote control, you will not be able to stop or turn it. Hopefully the automatic shutoff will kick in first, or that the only thing in its way will be a tree branch or shallow sand trap, and not a river!
Don’t even mess with either of those situations. If there’s a question about it getting out of range, shut it down. If you want to post something to your Instagram, stop the cart. Trust me, there’s no point messing with potential disaster.
Electric golf caddies can keep you playing, and walking the course, longer
“That could get me walking the course again!”
Those were the exact words of two different North Hills members [on separate occasions] who approached me after seeing the X4R on the course. Another dozen have asked me about it with interest as a cool toy.
Both sides are true… It’s a really cool toy, but more importantly using the X4R means expending energy only on swinging the club and walking the terrain – no pushing, no pulling and no lifting. Getting up hills can be a breeze again without the added weight of a golf bag, or having to push or pull a standard cart.
If you’re the guy who has to pay to ride his own cart while his buddies walk, maybe an electric caddy is for you. And if you want the exercise that comes with walking the course, but don’t want to carry your own clubs or pay for a pro jock to lug them, you’d for sure love it.
And if you love the caddy experience but are concerned about social distancing during this crazy time of COVID-19, there is no better way to find that than with a remote-controlled trolley like the Bat-Caddy X4R.
Making a financial case for an electric golf caddy
With the average cost of using a golf cart between $20-24 per round, the high price tag of an electric trolley starts making sense. In fact, you can theoretically recover $100-$120 of the product’s cost every five rounds played.
Dollars rarely make sense when it comes to golf, though! In the same way you can’t expect to be happy with your price per round at an exclusive private country club, realize that the “investment” in a golf caddy is primarily one that will enhance your enjoyment of the game of golf (and not as a long-term cost saver).
The Bat-Caddy X4R comes in a single large box with a number of parts, and it’s very easy to install. The frame is pre-assembled, so just the wheels, anti-tipper, battery and accessories need to be put together manually.
The install is simple and well-documented. The wheels snap in to place, the battery (after charging) straps down with Velcro, and installation of most accessories was easy to figure out even for a guy who hates following instructions to put things together.
The one accessory that was a little confusing for me was the phone / GPS device holder. With the accessory holder, drink holder, scorecard holder and umbrella holder all installed, it’s hard to find a place for the phone to go.
I got a little creative and used the three rubber strips that were included to attach it to the screw of the umbrella holder, which looks great but is I’m sure not its intended spot.
After four rounds with the caddy, though, I’ve had no performance issues and it holds my phone up just fine.
While it’s recommended using a cart bag (which does not have tripod legs and has a more stable base) with an electric golf caddy, I’ve been using it with my Vessel Player 2.0 stand bag and have had no issues with weight/stability nor the legs which I keep strapped together. I also remove the straps to streamline the setup.
Selecting the right electric golf caddy / trolley
It took a while for me to figure out all the specifications that are involved with electric golf caddies, so I thought I’d include some of my research on features in case it’s helpful for others, like yourself.
The following are some of the key components you’ll want to consider when researching electric golf caddies. The features of the X4R I’m reviewing are in green.
Control style: Manual vs. remote
A manual control style means you’ll be controlling the steering of the caddy from its handlebar(s). A button, lever or other power source will move the cart move forward, taking just the pushing or pulling off the user’s hands. A remote style, which is wireless, is much more advantageous as it allows you to get the cart away from your body and control its operations using a small remote control.
Battery type: sealed lead acid (SLA) vs. lithium ion (Li-ion)
This part’s big, so pay attention.
Sealed lead acid batteries are less expensive, but they’re heavy. They also get 25% to 50% of the life expectancy of its standard lithium ion counterpart, which for the Bat-Caddy X4R is the 14v-20Ah.
The heaviness factor can be a positive when it comes to electric caddies because the weight adds stability. It can also be a negative since it makes it tougher to pull out of the car trunk. For a relatively young and healthy guy like myself, that’s not a major nuisance, but it could be a deal breaker for others.
The 14v-20Ah lithium ion battery upgrade adds $200 to the cost of the sealed lead acid version. Bat-Caddy also sells a 12v-25Ah LiFePO battery, though, that will last two to four times as long as the standard lithium ion one but adds another $100 to the overall cost.
Here’s a handy chart showing battery options from Bat-Caddy’s website:
Climbing capabilities: 20 to 30-degree hill climbing
Most caddies will climb hills up to 20- or 30-degree angles. The X4R climbs or goes down up to 30 degrees, which is supported by its rear anti-tippers that help keep it upright.
Battery operating range: 18 to 54 holes
The X4R with the 14v-20Ah standard lithium ion battery’s product page gives a range of up to 36 holes per charge, or 36-54 holes with the upgraded 12v-25Ah battery. This can be adversely affected, of course, by the weight of the golf bag it’s carrying, excessively steep hills/uneven terrain, and right-left-right “Army” golf.
Bat-Caddy recommends charging its lithium ion batteries between every use. There is no loss of battery life doing it this way, and it ensures you always have enough juice regardless of where you’re at in your round.
Carrying capacity: 50 to 77 pounds
The X4R’s durable aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction gives it a higher weight capacity than most electric golf caddies. While you probably will not need it to carry 77 pounds of gear, it will keep the cart from bottoming out around the wheels if you’re carrying more weight than usual.
Accessories – all of these are available on the Bat-Caddy X4R, but its standard accessories are shown in green. I’ve ranked the importance of each to me in parentheses:
- Scorecard holder (#1)
- Golf cart drink holder (#2)
- Golf umbrella holder (#4) – do not use an electric golf caddy in the rain!
- Golf trolley carry bag
- Golf bag rain cover (#5)
- Golf trolley seat – sounds nice to have!
- GPS or cell phone holder (#3)
- Sand and seed dispenser
- Remote control clip hanger (#6)
A few other things you might want to consider when buying an electric golf caddy / trolley include (ones that come standard for the X4R are in green):
- Tracking adjustments – if it does not drive perfectly straight, can you straighten it out manually?
- Handle design – left- or right-handed? Is the handle height adjustable for taller people? The X4R has dual handles and is adjustable-height
- Warranty and service – Bat-Caddy has 1-year parts & labor, and 2 years on lithium ion batteries
- Dimensions and foldability – size when folded? The X4R is ~ 31iL x 20iW x 10iH
- Free-wheeling mode – if the battery dies, can you use it as a standard push cart or will you be stuck on the course?
- Wheels – the wider the wheels and the wider the wheel base, the more stable the cart will be (the X4R has a standard width wheel base)
- Tire tread – tire tread helps keep the cart operating consistently on morning dew and loose turf
- Advanced technology:
- Descent control – keeps the speed consistent when going downhill
- Automatic shut-off – prevents runaway carts (the X4R shuts off after 45 seconds if no commands have been given)
- Battery charge indicator – know how much juice you’ve got left in the batteries
- Programmable speed settings
- Electronic (GPS) navigation – set the cart’s direction and allow it to automatically continue on a straight line
- Robotic follow-me mode – on robot caddies; I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this operation style, including that it’ll run in to you a lot when you stop
- Gyroscope – a full 360-degree directional range vs. forward/backward and left/right
Having rarely seen and barely known electric golf caddies existed, I had no idea what I was missing. Now that I’ve got one, I can’t imagine golf without it and wholeheartedly recommend the Bat-Caddy X4R for any golfer, whether it’s the player in your life who’s got everything or maybe even yourself.
Product: X4R Electric Golf Caddy
Price as shown: $1,594 MSRP (current promotional price through the Holidays: $1,099)
Optional accessories shown: Phone/GPS device holder