To keep thriving for 50 years, a golf course must have learned how to ride the wave. Hampton Hills Golf and Country Club, celebrating its golden anniversary this summer, has done that and more. This past month, it has introduced a new way for golfers to travel from one shot to the next: surfing.
The course has purchased four GolfBoards, motorized stand-up carts which each can carry one golfer and one set of clubs. The golfer steers it by doing what surfers do -- shifting his or her weight. It all results in a good core workout and, according to members who have tried it, a heck of a lot of fun.
Don't bother asking if a GolfBoard can keep up with a traditional cart (Hampton Hills has a brand new fleet). "It's really the other way around," said Stanley Pine, one of the owners who ordered the GolfBoards after a member said he wanted to buy a couple of them and asked if he could bring them to Hampton Hills.
"My initial reaction was, 'No, you're out of your mind. You can't do that,'" said Barry Beil, Pine's co-owner. But the two club executives saw GolfBoards at a winter convention and found them, in Beil's word, "fabulous."
Jack McGown, the director of golf at Hampton Hills for the past 32 years, said he was skeptical at first, but liked it the more he saw it. He noticed that the board is wider and more stable than he thought it would be, and it is safe. Considering that the "hills" in the club's name is no exaggeration, representatives for the manufacturer came to the club in Westhampton to see if the boards could handle the terrain. They declared it all good.
The GolfBoard was invented by professional surfer Laird Hamilton and Bally's Total Fitness founder Don Wildman. It runs on an electricity-charged battery and can go up to 12 miles an hour. An on/off switch is controlled with a flick of the thumb. There is a stability bar in front, which is used for balance and a place to attach the golf bag.
Beil said, "My son, who is a techno guy, after his first ride on one of these, said if golf carts are a keyboard, these are a touch screen. Like all good technology, it should stay invisible. It's not about the GolfBoard. It's about playing the game. This adds a dimension to it. It's fun, getting from point to point.
"It doesn't change the traditional nature of what golf is about, at all," Pine said. Beil added, "This is just an added amenity that is available to those who want it. So far, the response has been great."
About 70 members have taken the mandatory training class so far. In fact, no one is allowed on a board until he or she has been trained by a staff member, then signs a liability waiver. The club will invest in more GolfBoards if there is a demand, Beil said.
Management has invested heavily in the condition of the course designed by Frank Duane, an associate of Robert Trent Jones. It is in pristine shape now and still features views of Robins Island, downtown Riverhead and, on a clear day, the South Shore.
Surviving a half-century in a competitive environment has meant withstanding ups and downs. Its name was changed from Northampton and it has had numerous owners (Pine and Beil, developers, bought it from the Teamsters union).
McGown has seen plenty of evolution, including a new pro shop and now, golfers happily surfing on the turf. The pro said, "I wouldn't have guessed that one."
The New York Credit Union Association's Long Island District will hold its outing, benefiting Children's Miracle Network, on Sept. 14 at Bellport Country Club. Call 631-744-0931.