The folks at Bag Boy make some of the most widely used golf carts in the world. Bag Boy led the move from the older pull-cart style to the more popular push cart nearly two decades ago, and golfers who prefer to walk without carrying have showed their gratitude ever since.
Widespread use of the push cart eventually led to the motorized push cart, and eventually someone thought of adding remote control capabilities to the electric cart. A lot of companies make electronic carts, and Bag Boy has jumped into the market with a cart they’ve named the “Navigator.”
Having previously reviewed the remote-less electric cart from Sun Mountain, I was interested to see how much more I might enjoy golf with a remote-controlled mechanical caddy. At $1,499, I knew the Navigator had a lot to live up to!
Setup and Use
Setup is a misnomer: the Navigator requires almost none. Short of sliding each wheel onto the locking axle and inserting the antenna, the Navigator requires little out-of-the-box setup. You plug the battery in, wait 24 hours, and play golf.
Much like the Sun Mountain Speed E Cart, the Navigator is rather compact when folded. With the battery removed, you simply need to depress two buttons and the main support beam folds and locks in two places. The folded beam then makes for an excellent handle, allowing you to carry the cart short distances. Weighing in at about 25 pounds, you won’t want to carry the cart too far, though the high-strength aluminum tubing is rather lightweight. It’s the engines and sturdier parts that add weight.
Once expanded, the battery rests in a tray low to the ground, increasing stability by lowering the center of gravity (CG – and here you thought moving the CG only helped you hit straighter, higher drives!).
Once you’ve attached your bag to the adjustable aluminum brackets with the velcro straps and extended the fourth wheel, you’re ready to roll. Powering on the unit is as simple as pressing a button near the handle bar.
The unit is exceedingly simple to operate. You can walk behind the unit, pushing the up and down arrow buttons to travel forwards or backwards while steering the cart manually. Most people will prefer to use the remote, which features not only up and down arrows but left and right arrows as well.
Unlike most remote-controlled electric carts, the Navigator comes equipped with an on-board compass that helps the cart remain online. If a subtle hill pushes the cart to the left or right, it will automatically adjust itself as soon as it can to get back on the proper course. It’s not called the “Navigator” for nothing.
The twin calibrated 140-watt motors mounted near each wheel independently control the speed of each wheel, making turns sharp and crisp. They’re also rather quiet and won’t disturb the peace you expect to find over 18 holes of golf.
The front wheel features a full 360 degrees of rotation and a mini suspension system that helps it to absorb small bumps and humps on the golf course. The maintenance-free wheels are made of rust-proof aluminum with steel ball bearings. The battery is a 34-amp dry cell with a cover and an included charger.
My First Time Out
Having come to learn the joys of strolling around 200 acres of golf course unencumbered by the weight and bulk of a golf bag on my shoulders, I was looking forward to giving the Navigator a thorough and enjoyable test the first time out.
Unfortunately, my pleasure lasted all of about 560 yards, or the length of the first hole from tee to green. While walking to the green, putter in hand, I attempted to use the remote control to steer the Navigator along a cart path 30 feet away. My driver caught the limbs of a pine tree and the Navigator swung wildly to the left down into a greenside grass bunker. I attempted to steer the Navigator away from the green towards which it was headed, but the 30° slope of of the grass bunker proved too much. The Navigator tipped backwards and sideways.
The Navigator did not survive its very first hole. The handle was held on by only a thin wire – it had snapped clean off from the rest of the unit. A close inspection revealed that the joint is secured only by a very thin piece of aluminum in two spots, and both had easily and cleanly snapped. Given the small size and fragile nature of this mechanism, I found the joint itself rather unguarded against such problems. The least Bag Boy could have done to prevent such a problem would be to secure the handle inside of a U-shaped joint.
I’ve used a lot of pull- and push-carts. They tip over from time to time, and I would posit that a cart controlled via remote is even more likely to tip over than one which requires a hands-on approach. The slope that toppled the Bag Boy was not overly severe, and the fourth wheel – which is supposed to help prevent such problems – was fully extended.
To Bag Boy’s credit, I received a replacement unit within one week and shipped the broken Navigator back free of charge. To their discredit, however, the replacement had mismatched paint in a few places where the unit had previously been scratched or dinged. Had I paid $1500, I would not have been pleased with the replacement unit.
Having already broken the Navigator, I was a bit more careful with the second unit.
The manual makes mention several times of the “Navigator” feature, driven by the on-board compass, that allows the cart to stay on course even if temporarily diverted by small hills, bumps, or sideslopes. Initially, I had a heck of a time getting the cart to maintain any sort of course. Left or right, nearly every side slope threw the cart into a tizzy. Oftentimes, sensing its inability to get back on track against even a subtle slope, the cart would complete a wide 360° turn to attempt to get back on course… only to fail again and attempt yet another 360. Manual intervention (via the remote) was necessary in such cases.
Fortunately, I solved most of the poor navigation issues by slowing the cart down. The fastest speed, it seems, is simply too fast to counter all but the tiniest of side slopes. After realizing this, and cruising along at about 80% the maximum speed, the Navigator suffered little problem staying the course or correcting when it got off-track. In fact, the cart worked as advertised at this speed, and I rarely had to do anything but point the cart in the right direction and send it off.
If you’re like me, you may fear sending the cart right out of range of your remote. The result would be a wildly careening cart dead set on going straight – into a pond, across a green, into the parking lot or a street. Fortunately, the cart and the remote control are synchronized and maintain a “heartbeat” of sorts. When the cart loses contact with the remote – at a range of about 200 yards – the cart shuts down. (If you’re silly enough to send the cart forward and attach the remote to the handy clip on the cart, well, I suppose you deserve what you get.)
Unlike the Sun Mountain Speed E Cart, the Navigator offers nothing in the way of creature comforts. You won’t find a place to store your drinks, you won’t find a scorecard holder, and you won’t find a place to keep a spare golf ball. You can’t use the cart to store your camera or keys, extra tees, or your GPS or laser range finder – not without rigging up something for yourself or buying some extra accessories. Instead, the entire handle is dominated by the simplistic controls offered by the Navigator.
The front wheel’s “suspension” may help quiet clubs from rattling around, but it often managed to spring the cart into the air when powering over even the smallest of obstacles. The solid plastic wheels stop immediately instead of slowing gradually, which causes them to scrape across cartpath and wear quickly. Several times on wet grass and a small 30° hill, the Navigator was unable to get enough traction to continue traveling forward.
I had no problems using the remote, though some of my older friends had trouble differentiating between the circular buttons quickly enough to avoid running the cart into trees, bunkers, or my shin (ouch). One such fellow attributed my own skill at using the remote to my youthful video gaming – a valid point – but Bag Boy could have spent some time differentiating the buttons.
The remote itself seems unnecessarily bulky and the supplied belt clip was not wide enough to secure itself to my favorite belt, which is only two inches wide. I frequently found myself battling with the best place to keep the remote on my belt – far enough behind me to not interfere with my swing, but close enough to be at ready grasp. I never really found a good spot, instead typically opting to set the remote down nearby or on the cart itself.
If the 9-volt battery should die mid-round, the Navigator offers the handy feature of allowing you to disengage the wheels from their motors so that you may push the cart to finish your round, but the cart is nowhere near as easy to push as a standard push-cart or even the Speed E Cart. It also lacks a mechanical brake.
The Navigator fails to impress in less obvious ways as well. The cart cannot remember the speed you last used, requiring you to hold down the up arrow button or tap it several times to accelerate to a speed that fails to resemble that of a snail’s. The small, detachable antenna is easily lost and should have been built in to the cart in some way. The battery lights which indicate their level of charge could have been located on the handle console instead of at the bottom of the cart.
For $1500 – twice the price of the Sun Mountain Speed E Cart – the Navigator offers a remote control and a “navigation” feature that works quite well at speeds of up to 80% full throttle. Unfortunately, you also lose virtually all the nice features found on the Speed E Cart – the center console that holds your drinks, balls, scorecard, wallet, range finder, tees, and more. You lose the rubber wheels that grip. You lose the ability to topple the cart without fear of an obviously weak part snapping clean off. And you lose an extra $700 or $800.
Though I desperately wanted to like the Navigator as the next logical step up from the Speed E Cart, I simply cannot justify spending so much and getting so little.
For $1500, you can buy two Speed E Carts, 50 to 100 rides in an actual golf cart (beverage holders and scorecard holders included!), or even 30 rounds with an actual caddy.
While the ideal cart – one that employs the Navigator’s compass and remote and the Speed E Cart’s creature comforts and durability – has yet to be made, I am certain that the Navigator is about as far from ideal as one can get for the price.
If you are interested in buying a Navigator, at least you have your choice of colors: blue, black, and red. You can find them at various online retailers.