THE E-Z-Go golf cart company has sewn up the Jamaican market with a $55-million deal to supply 100 gas-powered vehicles to Sandals Ocho Rios.
The deal includes two roving bars that will cruise the links dispensing drinks to thirsty players who can't wait to get to the 19th hole.
The vehicles, provided under a four-year lease, also feature windscreens, covers to keep clubs dry in the rain, coolers, called igloos, that hold up to six beers, and a sand bucket for replacing divots, since the Bermuda grass on the greens shreds on impact and can't be replanted.
"I've used both E-Z-Go and Yamaha carts, but I found the E-Z-Go more durable and powerful and more fuel efficient," said Dave Reid, the general manager and head golf professional at the Sandals Golf and Country Club in Ocho Rios.
Sandals, a sister company to the Jamaica Observer, chose the gas-powered vehicle because they are cheaper than the electric versions and are better able to handle the Ocho Rios resort's steep hills, Reid said.
Up to 60 of the carts will be rented to golfers at US$20 ($1,800) a game while the rest will be used in the resort to transport guests, luggage, food, and maintenance crews.
Yamaha, the other major supplier, is believed to remain active in this utility vehicle segment of the market, but could not be reached for comment.
Combined with a contract to provide 20 carts to the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach and Golf Resort, this will leave E-Z-Go supplying all 10 of the island's golf courses.
Sandals resisted the charms of Miami-based Tropicars for a decade until the regional distributor signed up Kingston pro golfer Jason Lopez, a childhood friend of Sandals' CEO Adam Stewart.
"We grew up as neighbours, went to school together, and stayed in contact afterwards," Lopez said.
The big advantage of the deal, said Lopez, is that he can provide parts for broken carts within 24 hours, compared to the several weeks it took before his company, Swing Solutions, partnered with Tropicars.
Lopez, the national junior team coach, played two years on the Tour de las Americas before returning to Jamaica in 2002. He set up Swing in 2006 to run the golf school at the Constant Spring Golf Club.
Swing and Tropicars are hoping that the Ocho Rios deal will be the forerunner of contracts to supply other Sandals properties around the Caribbean.
Lopez said he and Tropicars will be bidding in January on a contract for 50 carts at the Sandals La Toc Golf Resort and Spa in St Lucia and has its eye on the Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club in Bahamas.
Reid said the resort company is also planning to open a new championship course at the Sandals Whitehouse property.
The carts are made in Augusta, Georgia, near the home of the Masters Tournament, by the E-Z-Go-Cushman company, part of the industrial conglomerate Textron.