The revolution has a third wheel.
Until the new millennium, golfers who walked the course had one of three choices for hauling their clubs: (1) hire a caddie; (2) carry their bag over their shoulder(s); or (3) use a two-wheeled pull cart. However, since their introduction several years ago, three-wheeled push carts have steadily gained popularity among walkers because of their abundant convenience features, ease and comfort of navigation, and increased stability over two-wheeled pull carts. The Bag Boy company, which introduced its first pull cart in 1945 and its first push cart in 2002, reports that 80% of the carts it sells today are push carts.
Modern push carts have evolved from simple three-wheeled designs to luxury transportation for a golf bag. The high-end versions feature cushioned handles, beverage holders, parking brakes, storage compartments, umbrella holders, and a variety of other features designed to make life on the course more enjoyable.
The Bag Boy Automatic push cart includes all of the features listed above, as well as a â€œone-stepâ€ fold/unfold mechanism unique to high-end push carts. THP recently took the Automatic out for a stroll to see how it stacked up against competitors and against a demanding course.
HOW WE TESTED IT
We tested the Bag Boy Automatic at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Washington. Chambers Bay is a true links golf course that does not allow power carts. The 7,500+ yard all-fescue (fairways and greens) course offers stunning views, continuous elevation changes, greenside pot bunkers, enormous sand-filled waste areas, and greens that undulate more than a waterbed in an earthquake. And the entire course is reserved solely for walkers.
DETAILED FEATURE ANALYSIS
One-Step Folding: The Automatic features a simple, one-step folding/unfolding design for quick deployment and storage. The design allows the user to open the cart with a single upward pull of the handle. A spring-loaded â€œfolding barâ€ snaps into place once the cart is fully expanded. There are no wheels to fold, no handles to rotate, and no knobs to tighten. Similarly, folding the Automatic for storage requires only that the user squeeze the folding bar to release it, and push down on the handle until the wheels and the handle fully retract.
The folding procedure for the Automatic is very similar to that of a simple folding pull-cart in that the cart folds in half while simultaneously retracting the wheels. Thatâ€™s a good thing. Other push carts usually require several steps, including rotating the front wheel into place, expanding the frame, lifting the handle into place, and then tightening all the respective knobs and levers. And while neither process is overly cumbersome, the Automatic is significantly quicker both to deploy for use, and to close for storage or transport.
Parking Brake: The Automatic utilizes a handle mounted, lever-style parking brake to keep the cart from unintentionally rolling away on inclines. The brake is simple to operate and sufficient to hold the cart in place. However, the brake locks only the right rear wheel, which can occasionally cause the cart to pivot around the single locked wheel if the cart is parked diagonally on steeper inclines. Attaching the parking brake to the front wheel instead would seem to provide a more secure and stable mechanism for keeping the cart immobile.
Adjustability: In order to facilitate a â€œone step fold,â€ the Automatic relies on a telescoping handle rather than a folding handle used by competitors Sun Mountain, Clicgear, and even Bag Boy on its Mini GT push cart. The telescoping handle is easy to adjust and extends far enough for even the tallest golfer. It can be left at the desired height for storage, or can be fully retracted to gain a few extra inches of space savings. One minor complaint is that the telescoping handle occasionally slides out of place when subjected to strenuous or abrupt pushing, such as the type of force that might be exerted on the cart while on a particularly hilly course. The handle is secured by simple friction/compression levers and it does not appear that there is a way to tighten those levers. However, slipping was infrequent and easy to remedy by simply sliding the handle back to the desired length.
The Automatic also has adjustable bag brackets in order to accommodate a variety of bag types and sizes. The upper bracket slides vertically to fit bags of differing heights and utilizes a strap with a Velcro closure, while the lower bracket is stationary and uses a strap with a plastic â€œFastexâ€ type side-release buckle closure. Both upper and lower brackets self adjust for bags of varying diameter.
Wheel alignment is also adjustable, using an included hex wrench, in the event that the Automaticâ€™s wheels become misaligned. The Automatic supplied to us rolled true right out of the box and did not require any adjustment.
Beverage Holster: Included with the Automatic is a removable swivel â€œbeverage holsterâ€ that holds the most common sizes of plastic beverage bottles. Bag Boy recommends removing the holster from its primary mounting position for storage and attaching it to a â€œsecondary mounting locationâ€ for storage. Failing to do so causes the holster to be an obstruction when folding the Automatic for transport or storage. While not particularly burdensome, the requirement that the holster be moved every time the cart is deployed for use or folded for storage detracts slightly from the â€œone-step foldâ€ claims.
Umbrella Holder: Also included with the Automatic is a removable umbrella holder that can be mounted on the handle of the cart using the integrated mounting bracket. The umbrella holder is designed to hold a fully opened golf umbrella over the player while using the cart. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to use the umbrella holder during an actual rain storm (a good thing as far as I am concerned), the prospect of playing in mild or moderate rain without having to worry about holding an umbrella or using a rain hood is one of the most appealing features of a push cart to me.
â€œG-Forceâ€ Wheels: Bag Boy promotes its â€œG-Forceâ€ wheels as low profile, low PSI, center tread wheels that are designed to be easier to push and gentler to the course, and that do not go flat. The Automaticâ€™s wide vinyl foam wheels made the cart easy to push, but it was not possible to objectively determine whether â€œG-Forceâ€ wheels were any less damaging to the course than other styles of solid core, wide wheels. The Automatic rolled easily on fairways and solid cart paths, but hesitated on loose dirt and gravel paths. However, other push carts would likely have yielded similar results under similar conditions.
Scorecard Holder/Storage: The Automatic includes scorecard and pencil clips mounted on handle platform. Each securely held its respective cargo. The handle platform also includes a small storage compartment which can hold small items. Unfortunately, the compartment is too small to hold most (if any) GPS or laser rangefinders.
Underneath the scorecard/storage platform are two simple ball holders. Although the ball holders worked well, the plastic felt somewhat flimsy. If any plastic on the Automatic was going to break first, we would lay odds on it being the ball holders.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Assembly: Assembly out of the box was simple and quick â€“ snap the rear wheels onto the frame and lock them in place, then attach the bottle holster to the frame. The entire process takes only a few seconds
Performance: Bag Boy markets the Automatic as â€œThe Only One Step Fold in Golf.â€ While most other high end push carts on the market require three or more steps to fold or unfold (the Clicgear website lists six steps for its Clicgear 2.0), the Automatic expands and collapses with a simple push/pull operation that folds the cart in half and retracts the wheels and legs. Both folding and unfolding are virtually instantaneous.
The convenience of rapid deployment, however, comes at the expense of a potentially smaller footprint when folded and, to a lesser extent, ergonomic comfort. With respect to size, the Automatic (31â€ x 12″ x 16â€ folded size) is not as compact as some of its competitors.
For some, the slightly larger size can be a problem. For example, the Automatic consumed the majority of space in the trunk of my car, leaving little room for golf bags. Additionally, I was unable to fit the Automatic in my Thule Evolution roof box because the width of the cart prevented me from closing the box (just barely). Consequently, golfers with limited storage or trunk space may find the Automatic less convenient than push carts specifically designed with smaller folded footprints in mind, such as the Clicgear 2.0 (24″ x 13″ x 15″ folded size), the Sun Mountain Micro (24″ x 16″ x 12″ folded size), or the Bag Boy Mini GT (14″ x 18″ x 22″ folded size)
With respect to ergonomic comfort, the Automaticâ€™s telescoping handle is slightly less comfortable than carts with folding handles because of the angle of the handle. However, the difference in comfort is minimal and likely unnoticeable to most users.
Price: At around $200, the retail price of the Automatic is comparable to most other high-end, full-featured, push carts. However, the Automatic is considerably more expensive than simple, two-wheeled pull carts, which can be had for as little as $30. While push carts have more features and are easier to maneuver; whether that added comfort and convenience is worth the additional cost is ultimately a personal decision. For that reason, the comparative cost of the Automatic, relative to less expensive two-wheeled pull carts, was not factored into the final rating for the Automatic.
Quality: The Automatic was sturdy and appears well designed and built. However, the thinner tubing didnâ€™t feel quite as â€œbeefyâ€ as competitor Clicgearâ€™s â€œ2.0â€ offering, which is uses thick round tubing throughout its frame. Of course, the Clicgear 2.0 (18 lbs.) is heavier than the Automatic (15.6 lbs.) as a result. Despite the abundance of plastic, the Automatic felt as though it could withstand routine use without any significant damage.
Appearance: The Automatic is available in four colors. The Automatic provided to THP for review was the relatively conservative â€œTitaniumâ€ (silver) with black and blue highlights. Also available are red/silver, black/red, and arctic blue/silver color combinations.
Summary: If folding/unfolding convenience, rather than a tiny footprint, is at the top of your requirement list for a high end push cart, the Bag Boy Automatic is a solid choice.
JUST THE FACTS
WHO (is it for?): Walkers who donâ€™t want to carry.
WHAT (can it do for you?): Allow you to reap the benefits of walking the course without the additional strain on your back of carrying.
WHERE (should you use it?): Any course that allows walking.
WHEN (can you use it?): Whenever you walk the course.
WHY (would you want to use it?): Because walking is healthier, because it holds everything you need, and because it reduces back strain.
HOW (does it work): With a simple, one-step folding mechanism that means less time fiddling.
LONGSHANKS RATING: Birdie
Price (MSRP): $199.99
Price (Street): $199.99
â€¢ 3-Wheel Design
â€¢ â€œG-Forceâ€ Wheels
â€¢ Aluminum Tubing
â€¢ High Strength Support Cable w/Metal Fittings
â€¢ One-Step Folding Mechanism
â€¢ Handle-Mounted Parking Brake
â€¢ Telescoping Handle
â€¢ Front Wheel Alignment Adjustment Mechanism
â€¢ Fully Adjustable Bag Brackets
â€¢ Detachable Swivel Beverage Holster
â€¢ Scorecard Holder w/Storage Compartment
â€¢ External Golf Ball Storage Space
Manufacturerâ€™s Stated Weight: 15.6 lbs.
Folded Size: 12″ x 16″ x 31″
Color Options: Black/Red, Blue/Silver, Red/Silver, Titanium/Blue
The Bag Boy Company
8575 Magellan Parkway, Suite 1000
Richmond, Virginia 23227
Phone: 800-955-2269 (8:30am-6pm ET Mon. â€“ Fri.)
Fax: 888-822-4269 (24 hours a day)
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