If you want something done right, sometimes you just have to do it yourself.
Brad Payne was in San Francisco at the end of the last decade, working for Apple and playing his golf out of Presidio Golf Course, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Playing weekend games with a regular group, Payne often found himself using the push carts of group members who couldn’t make it on a particular day.
“I used every push cart under the sun over the course of four years,” Payne said.
He never found any of them satisfactory. He didn’t like modern carts that focused on folding into compact shapes, cutting weight, using plastic, bemoaning that the designs weren’t “thrilling.” A trip to Scotland in 2018 only further cemented his opinion that push carts, which evolved out of the 1950s and 1960s, didn’t fit smoothly into the history of the game.
Payne talked to his brother-in-law, who works for one of the planet’s largest manufacturers of baby strollers, about the idea of developing a push cart — a trolley — that would align with how he sees and experiences the game. Inspired by retro bicycles and Golden Age vehicles, Payne designed the Walker Trolley Cape.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]
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To call the first prototype a flop is an understatement, and Payne laughs now thinking about it. He took it for a spin at Baylands Golf Links in Palo Alot, Calif., and the cart only last five holes before it completely fell apart. Payne had to tether the heaping prototype to another push cart just to get it to the clubhouse.
“Man, this is not a good start,” Payne thought.
Each iteration got better, though. Payne tested each prototype with friends and family who played, all of various heights and needs. Eventually, the fifth or sixth prototype proved a fit for all kinds of golfers and showed the design refinement Payne wanted in a push cart.
Payne employed his brother-in-law’s stroller company as a manufacturing partner, getting into the weeds and learning the joys of manufacturing. The biggest lesson? How long everything takes. His brother-in-law put it into proper perspective, however.
“He once told me you can have two of three things: speed, quality or price,” Payne explained.
If you want something quickly that’s made well, it’ll cost you. If you you want something quickly that’s cheap, it’ll be of poor quality. Building in extra days to the logistical supply chain was worth it to have the Walker Trolley made right.
So far, the Cape trolley is selling well. Payne sells it at a premium price point, $399, with a design that blends premium materials, like leather and waxed canvas, in a cart that employs enough modern technology to be convenient. The Cape sells with rubber, air-filled tires and waxed-canvas storage accessories.
However, Payne recognized that a push cart is a one-time purchase. Most golfers will purchase one and not need another for five, 10 years — maybe even longer. So, he designed forthcoming storage accessories and new foam-filled tires to give Walker Trolley customers an opportunity to personalize their carts with prints, designs and options that allow golfers to express themselves and prioritize what they need from a cart.
That sounds a little like Payne has drawn upon his Apple experience in building this venture. Apple faced so much pressure to always innovate, come up with something bigger and better every year. Even in off-cycle years, consumers expected Apple to come up with new features. It was the ethos of the company, and that way of thinking pervades not only with Payne by so many of the company’s alums.
“Most people don’t have a great understanding of product development,” Payne said. “Then you go through that cycle with Apple, and that’s what you take from it.”
Think, then, of the cart — this one, or the next one, or the next one — as the hardware. It has to perform, be convenient and create an emotional connection: the “it just works” attitude. The accessories are the software that let a user define and customize their experience. Payne wants to build a loyal base of customers who buy into his vision for what golfers need when they traverse the course.
“We want to be a company for the walking golfer,” Payne said, “not a push-cart company.”
He’s off to a good start.