Golf Club Review: Nakoma Golf Club

For three years I’ve been trying to play Nakoma Golf Club in Madison, and every year something’s come up with the kids that’s kept me from keeping the tee time.

2020 was finally the year as my buddies Jeff and Mario and I headed up a couple months back to Nakoma to play with Jeff’s dad, Gary, at his home course on a flawless Fall day.

Nakoma’s practice green, with the state capitol on the horizon

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Designed by Tom Bendelow and debuted in 1925, Nakoma is a classic parkland course with outstanding greens and a fun, sporty layout.

As I’ve come to expect of Bendelow designed courses, Nakoma is an enjoyable walk with convenient routing and short treks from green to tee. It’s a perfect everyday golf course. In fact, I’d put it in the running with spots like Kenosha, Washington County and North Hills as one of the better everyday courses I’ve played.

These are courses you could play day in and day out – walking or riding – and never get tired of them. No annoying holes to “put up with,” a good challenge without being difficult for the point of being difficult, impeccably kept conditions and overall really good, well-designed golf holes.

Tipping out at just under 6,500 yards, Nakoma feels longer as it plays to a par of just 70 (34 on the front, 36 on the back). While the front nine has three par threes (2, 4, 7) and one five (6), the back has a more conventional two of each.

I enjoy an unconventional scorecard. I love a 5-3-5 to end the round at Nakoma, a 5-3-5-3-5-3 mid-round at Lawsonia, back-to-back par fives at Pine Hills (even though the second in the set should probably be a long four) and The Oaks, or back-to-back par threes on 10 and 11 at Pacific Dunes when it means the holes making up those stretches are right for the course. And, in all these cases, they are.

Par doesn’t need to fit a template of 36/36 with two threes and two fives on each nine. Swaying from the standard keeps things interesting, not to mention provides players with good opportunities to score.

Nakoma’s finishing stretch, which ends with the long par five 16th, mid-length par three 17th and short five 18th, is a terrific example of that opportunity to score – it’s a fun, challenging set of holes that left me wishing there were more.

Pace of play for our round at Nakoma was ideal as we finished in under four hours with nobody pressing us and no waiting on tee boxes. The walk wasn’t overly taxing on the legs, it was a perfectly comfortable round of golf, and a ton of fun.

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Nakoma has really good variety to its hole layouts, starting with a soft dogleg left through a chute of trees on one.

It’s immediately evident Nakoma’s membership has invested a lot in their course over recent years, which bears out in conversation with the membership.

As an example, look at the tree lines near the clubhouse. This picture could easily be from Milwaukee CC or Medinah – their tree lines are made up of healthy, mature specimens that provide structure, aesthetics and direction, but don’t lead to lost balls and time spent searching for errant tee shots. Furthermore, the neat clusters allow the turf to thrive and provides a visual appeal that puts their team’s attention to detail front and center.

The other key place where attention to detail is incredibly evident? Nakoma’s greens. They. Are. Perfect.

From the very first hole on, each putt rolled perfectly. Nakoma has some of the best conditioned green complexes I’ve played on.

The dogleg left par 4 opening hole at Nakoma Golf Club

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Our round at Nakoma was the first with my Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, and there couldn’t have been a better course to demo it on. Finishing 18, I barely felt like we started. I would have happily played another 18, and even more happily another 18 after that.

It wasn’t a flawless ride, though. Jeff put the over/under on how many times I dumped it at five. The first time was on the par three 4th, a fun one-shotter with a great risen green complex and a large bunker front-right.

The par 4 3rd at Nakoma

I wanted to put the drone up for a good aerial shot of this hole. So I put up the bird, drove the caddy off the elevated tee boxes and thought I had it stopped in the middle of the fairway. I put my attention, then, on the drone and took a couple shots before hearing my entire bag hit a tree branch just right of the green. It hadn’t occurred to me that I never hit the “Stop” button.

A closer look at the elevated green and massive right-side trap on 4 at NGC

That was embarrassing! It was my first on-course crash with my new electric golf caddy, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

Yard sale on 4

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A dogleg right par four, the fifth is a fun risk/reward hole that begs players to hit driver over the inside tree line. A spattering of fairway bunkers protects long off the tee, while anything coming up short will keep players from having a good look on their approach.

The dogleg right par four 5th at Nakoma GC

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A long par five that stretches to almost 600 yards, the tee shot on six is somewhat blind beyond the crest of the hill, and to a fairly narrow fairway running downhill.

The green on six was a lot tougher than it originally looked, especially with the hole cut just past the left-side false front.

Areial view of the long, 592-yard par five 6th at Nakoma (center)

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2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Holderness and Bourne Golf Polos and Outerwear

A really nice golf shirt can be a great holiday present, especially when it’s a shirt that’s made to last.

That’s what I want in golf attire. I want tops that aren’t going to be out-of-fashion in two years. Tiger Woods mock necks? No way. Wild and wacky patterns? I’ve learned that lesson. Too bright colors? They stick out like a sore thumb. Color block? I’ve got 20 combinations in my basement closet that I haven’t been able to rock for several seasons.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the way those shirts look, or even how they look on me, but I know that fashion’s not my world and I’m not interested anymore in spending good money on what’s cool this season.

I’m more about style. I want a well thought-out shirt constructed with top-of-the-line materials that I can buy today and find almost unchanged on the same rack or website ten years down the road. I don’t want it to scream 2014, or even 2020.

Holderness & Bourne blends classic style with modern, tailored fits and great-feeling performance fabrics to appease the golf enthusiast like me: A guy who wants to look great wearing clothes that fit well and don’t get in the way of my swing.

The Perkins shirt, by Holderness & Bourne, is a great performance golf polo

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In just five years, Alex Holderness and John Bourne have taken their anti-fashion brand and created something really special: A premium clothing line that’s highly sought after and doesn’t require constant reinvention.

From a business standpoint, it makes too much sense. Playing the fashion game means retiring clothes every season that’s gone out of style, selling it to the highest bidder to liquidate what’s left on sites like Rock Bottom Golf, Golfetail, Discount Golf and TGW.

This practice erodes both profit margins and brand value. Meanwhile, selling timeless styles that never go out of fashion means updating only when the opportunity arises, continually improving what works without scrapping what’s left.

It also means golf enthusiasts like me can put together a nice wardrobe over time, and even allows for a more versatile product that can be worn outside of golf.

Our family photo shoot this year, for example, featured my favorite piece from H&B: The navy blue Robbins pullover.

Charlie (3), me, Kelly and Quinn (1) – sporting my navy blue Robbins pullover, from Holderness & Bourne

The Robbins pullover, which sells for $125, utilizes a blend of cotton, polyester and elastane that promotes shape retention while providing a really nice, tailored fit. The fabric is comfortable, and after having worn it a dozen times looks as nice and new as the day I got it. Whether for golf or everyday wear, I cannot recommend this top enough.

The Robbins pullover, in navy (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

Holderness & Bourne does outerwear really well, but their bread and butter is golf polos.

Their polos feature a comfortably modern, tailored fit with structured cutaway collars, sewn-in stays and 2- or 3-button set-in plackets.

Their fabrics are top of the line for the industry, including DryLuxe Performance Pique, DryLuxe Performance Interlock, Supima Cotton and Peruvian Pima Cotton, and all their polos are adorned with trocas shell buttons, which have a classy look and sturdy feel.

All these premium materials don’t translate to cheap shirts, but they are well worth the $90-98.

My favorite style so far is The Maxwell short-sleeve, which I’ve gotten in both grey & white (shown below), and cobalt & white.

The Maxwell shirt, in grey and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

The sewn-in collar stays make for a well-designed and consistent appearance from the neck up, because nothing screams lazy more than a droopy collar!

The Maxwell shirt, in cobalt and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Looking for other gift ideas to add to your cart while on the H&B website? Check out their Fischer belts, dopp kits and shoe bags.

I haven’t owned a Fischer belt yet, but I really like the look and style: A premium, Italian stretch fabric with genuine leather and nickel-plated solid brass buckles. I’d go with the amparo and white ribbon design, personally.

The Fischer belt, in amparo & white ribbon (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Fashion vs. style. A timeless look vs. dressing up like Tiger, DJ or Rory on a given week. To me, the sophisticated, classic looks, superior performance and dynamite materials will win out every time.

That’s what I love about Holderness & Bourne, and that’s why I recommend their polos and outerwear as another top-notch holiday gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Holderness & Bourne
Product: Golf polos and outerwear
Price range: $90-125

Holderness & Bourne website

2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Golf Club Head Covers

It’s the golfer’s uniform: A collared shirt, hat and shorts or pants, along with a white, black or navy blue stand bag.

It gets worse for professionals, who have even less to choose from since they can’t wear shorts.

Maybe that’s why we golfers love to accessorize the way we do. It’s fun showcasing something that’s a little different in an environment that otherwise keeps us looking pretty similar… Especially when it’s with customized accessories that showcase our personality while providing much needed functionality.

To me, one of the coolest ways to accessorize golf gear is with custom club head covers.

It’s crazy to think Seamus basically started the head cover industry in earnest about ten years ago. Prior to that, the only options were the head covers that came with your clubs, which were fine, a couple generic options at Golf Galaxy or your dad’s old calf-length socks. Not as great.

When it comes to club head covers, there are two companies that stand above the rest: Seamus and Fore Ewe. Both sell super high-quality, durable woolen products, both are based out of Portland, Oregon, and both provide endless ways to customize.

Driver, fairway wood and hybrid cover samples (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Where the two companies differ the most revolves entirely around personal preference: Seamus’s head covers are sewn and more sleek in appearance, and Fore Ewe’s are knit and more “floppy” in appearance.

Club head covers are very personal, and they’re not cheap (nor usually returnable), so you’ll want to make sure you get this one right. A few ideas for ensuring that:

  • Keep it simple – colors and patterns you know they’ll love that work with their current bag setup (link: Fore Ewe standard collections, link: Seamus Golf all head covers)
  • Make it obvious – maybe a club head cover from their alma mater (link: Seamus Collegiate collection)? Or favorite NBA team (link: Seamus NBA collection)?
  • A gift card – expect ~ $75 per cover for drivers, and $55-65 for fairway woods and hybrids
  • Ask them to make their own selection(s)! It takes out the surprise, but gets them exactly what they want while working through the lead time en route to the Holidays

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Seamus Golf

Established in 2011 by Akbar and Megan Chisti and named for their Irish Terrier, Seamus O’Reily, Seamus Golf specializes in unique, one-off golf accessories that started with club head covers and has since expanded to on-course tools (divot repair, bag tags, flasks, alignment sticks, towels, scorecard holders, yardage books and so on), bags and pouches, extremely limited-run Sunday bags and equipment, major golf memorabilia (eg: US Open collectibles), clothing and cool hand-forged collectibles.

The newest of those hand-forged collectibles is the putting cup, for example:

One of Seamus Golf’s new hand-forged putting cups (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)
Seamus Co-Founder Akbar Chisti working the Seamus anvil at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills

While their stable of accessories has expanded significantly over the past 9 years, their bread and butter has always been exquisitely designed and manufactured woolen club head covers.

Seamus Golf has collections that will match every golfer’s personality and interests, whether through classic design like with their tartan wools or through more direct associations like with their new collegiate and NBA collections.

The new Wisconsin Badgers driver head cover (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Looking for a good starting point? Below is a link to Seamus’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide:

Seamus Golf’s Holiday Gift Guide (click for link)

Beyond their amazing golf products, Seamus is a company worth supporting. When the COVID-19 pandemic originally started, for example, they shut down their normal operations for months to instead sew masks to donate to frontline workers. Akbar, Megan and their staff are wonderful people who always go above and beyond, whether that’s for customers or society, in general.

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Seamus Golf
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-75 apiece

Seamus Golf Website

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Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags

Also exceptionally high in quality construction and customizability, Fore Ewe offers a very different head cover product than Seamus in that theirs’ are knit.

Knit head covers have a very old-school look and feel: They’re softer and flowy, with smooth yarn and pom poms.

Erin Hills hybrid head covers, by Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Knit head covers are typically skein dyed, which involves loose lengths of yarn being immersed in receptacles full of pigment. This is the most costly method of dyeing yarn, but leads to a superior product with color that’s fade-resistant.

As is the case with their hand-made MacKenzie Golf Bags, everything is handmade with incredible attention to detail.


An example of a MacKenzie Golf Bag, made for Mammoth Dunes (photo courtesy MacKenzie Golf Bags)

Included in that detail is a whole lot of potential customization. For “standard” options, the order placer only needs to make a couple of decisions, like what type of top feature to use (fat tassel, tassel, large pom), the club it’s for (driver, fairway wood, hybrid, putter), and standard vs. long length. Chances are it’ll always be standard-length, and if they don’t already have custom head covers then you’ll want to go with the driver option. It’ll be $10 more than the others, but it’s the most popular option by far.

For custom orders, there is a whole lot more personalization available, including:

  • Club type (driver, fairway wood, hybrid)
  • Head color (40 color options)
  • Head design (solid, small checks, larger checks, vertical stripes, horizontal stripe, diagonal dot and what color(s)?)
  • Head cap (yes or no)
  • Neck stripes (none, thick, thin and what color(s)?)
  • Top treatment (none, tassel, fat tassel, mini tassel, large pom, small pom, loop and what color(s)?)
  • Neck length (almost always standard)
  • Top stitch text (eg: Initials)

Double-waxed and spun, Fore Ewe’s wool is exceptionally durable and smooth. Elastic promotes a snug fit.

Numerous light blue options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)
Numerous standard knit options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-80 apiece

Fore Ewe Website

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Whether you go with sewn Seamus head covers or knit covers from Fore Ewe, the important thing is that they protect your club heads.

Both companies’ products will do that beautifully, protecting club faces from dings and scratches during your round or in storage, and worse from snaps while in transit or when that immature buddy of yours’ unstraps your bag on a cart path.

Which style best fits the golfer in your life?

2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Course Maps

Generally speaking, golf enthusiasts tend to be collectors. Myself included, we’re lovers of anything and everything that brings back memories of the best times on our favorite courses.

Options abound when those favorite courses are Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Augusta National, but what about when it’s somewhere less known and more personal?

Options are few and far between, then, and are typically limited to the clothing and gear for sale in their pro shop.

So, rather than spending $95 on a golf polo with a logo on the sleeve, this year go the extra mile for something that’ll blow them away.

Course Maps Founder Severiano Saiz (“Sev,” as named after Seve Ballesteros whose family lineage traces back to the same village of Pedrena, Spain) launched Course Maps this past March, realized quickly he had a winner and left his real world job in August to work full-time on the golf start-up.

“Golf course layouts present a neat intersection of a couple of things I’ve always loved:,” said Sev, “golf/golf architecture, maps and graphic design. It’s all come together very naturally for me and I really enjoy putting together each map.”

Sev’s maps feature beautiful architectural hole layouts with the course’s scorecard and key information in white ink set against a solid-colored background of green, grey, navy blue or slate. Key features of each hole are called out in contrast and include fairways and greens, teeing areas and bunkers; ideal lines of play are shown as dotted lines.

Course Map of Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC (green with white frame) – their best seller

The printing process utilizes giclee ink on high-quality, museum-grade paper. The standard for art prints, giclee features a 12-color combination that results in vivid colors, especially when compared to the standard 4-color inkjet printer. The chemical makeup of giclee keeps prints from fading over time due to sun exposure and age, ensuring Course Maps should look beautiful for generations to come.

While framing is not required, it is available through Course Maps in black or white. Their frames are 3/4″ thick Alder semi-hardwood and include hanging hardware. Adding the frame (which ships complete) to an 18×24, for example, adds $49 to the cost.

Course Map of Chambers Bay in University Place, WA (navy blue with black frame)

I went with a green background and black frame for my Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia. The hunter green works beautifully with the rest of the golf art in my basement and bar area, and as Sev described it: The green over black “screams ‘classic golf clubhouse.'” I couldn’t agree more.

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Customer Service

When it arrived, I was so enamored with the aesthetics of my first Course Map that I didn’t realize the scorecard had mislabeled the par five 11th hole as a par four.

A coworker of mine noticed it in my Instagram post, though, and mentioned it as a comment. Within a week, Course Maps had sent me a new one with an updated scorecard.

I would have noticed the error at some point – it’s part of my favorite stretch of holes on the Links course where the 9th thru 15th holes go par 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3. It’s a really unique stretch of holes with lots of good birdie opportunities. I never even mentioned it to Course Maps, though, and so for them to see it and remedy the issue so quickly was really impressive. I like to support companies who understand the importance of customer service and doing the right thing, and I feel great about backing Course Maps.

My Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia

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Custom orders

Fortunately for golf enthusiasts in Wisconsin, Course Maps has several in-state options already available without requiring a custom order. These standard options include the Links course at Lawsonia, Erin Hills and Sand Valley.

If you or the person you’re shopping for has a love affair with one of those or another already on their site, you’re in luck!

But, for the everyday golfer who hasn’t traveled to Cruden Bay, Pinehurst or the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, and hasn’t found their way [yet] on to Oakmont, Inverness or Pine Valley, then custom prints from Course Maps will allow golf enthusiasts to enjoy and relive the cadence of holes from their favorite property – whatever property that is.

“The majority of golf art, memorabilia, etc. is built around the famous courses that everyone knows — Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews and so on. But the reality is most people will never get to play those courses.

The courses that people love and have created the most memories at are the local muni courses, the small country clubs, or the hidden gems that are off the beaten path. There’s not really much in the way of giftable items related to those courses and I think that’s what we really cater to with Course Maps.

We’ve seen a huge demand for our custom orders and I think it’s such an awesome thing. Our maps are really something that encapsulates all of the memories that have been created on that course. I’ll always remember watching my dad open that first map and it makes me really happy that I’m able to share that feeling with others through Course Maps.”

— Sev Saiz, Founder of Course Maps

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Course Maps with all 4 background colors shown

Custom ordering creates the opportunity for a truly unique gift, especially for private club players who love and have tremendous pride in their home course.

As you’d guess, it is more expensive to buy a custom Course Map than it is one of the ones that’s already available. The reason for this, of course, is that it requires the upfront artistic work to make it printable.

As a one-off product, Course Maps will sell custom prints for $120 (12×16) to $150 (24×36). As an order of five or more, though, the per unit cost comes all the way down to $45 (12×16) to $60 (24×36), without framing.

Especially at a private golf club, it’s really easy to find four friends to go in on a custom order. I sent an email to 19 friends from North Hills Country Club, for example, and in three days 12 have responded they’re in.

For golf courses and pro shops, orders of 25+ can be tremendously lucrative, bringing the price for 12×16’s all the way down to $36 apiece, or $48 apiece for 24×36 prints.

Like with standard, non-custom prints, framing is available on custom product and will add $55 (one-off price) to 12×16’s, $70 to 18×24’s or $140 to 24×36 prints. Those costs can be reduced by volume ordering, as well.

If this is an avenue you’re interested in pursuing for a Christmas / Holiday gift for a golf enthusiast in your life, make sure you get going on the order soon. Course Maps has a 2-3 week lead time (followed by time in transit), so we’ve got a 1-2 week time frame to place an order and expect delivery before December 25.

If you’re concerned whether he or she will like it, don’t be. Trust me, they’ll love it.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Course Maps
Product: Golf course architectural prints
Price (as shown): $94

Course Maps Website

2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Bat-Caddy X4R Electric Golf Caddy

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.

Bat-Caddy X4R waiting on the 7th tee at North Hills CC

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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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.

A leisurely walk in the park with the Bat-Caddy X4R on the 6th fairway at North Hills CC

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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.

The Bat-Caddy X4R ready for its first round at Nakoma CC in Madison, WI

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.

My electric golf caddy ready to go from the 1st tee at Nakoma

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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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.

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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).

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Setup

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.

My current electric golf caddy and bag setup

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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:

Bat-Caddy Battery Info & Comparison

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

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Summary

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.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Bat-Caddy
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

Bat-Caddy X4R Line Product Page

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