From timekeeper to trolley-maker: How a broken trolley sparked the creation of one of the world’s biggest golf companies.
Powakaddy are celebrating 40 years of business this summer. The company has been designing and making golf trolleys in Sittingbourne, Kent, since 1983. But how did the company come to be?
Early History of PowaKaddy
Joe Catford was a Kent-based watchmaker and keen golfer who was introduced to the electric golf world by a friend at the golf club. This member had purchased one of the first-ever electric trolleys on the golf market. The only problem? It kept breaking, and Joe was the only person he knew who had the skills to fix it.
Eventually, Joe got fed up with doing repairs and decided to create a better product that wouldn’t need so much repair work. He used his watchmaking experience to design his own electric trolley incorporating a helical reduction gearbox, replacing inefficient chain and belt-drives.
Initially, he just used this himself, but over time heads began turning, and more and more of his friends were asking for their own. He made a few for his friends, which allowed him to keep honing his trolley skills from home.
Fast forward to 1983, Joe, along with business partner and local entrepreneur John Martin, and son David, went to The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale with a selection of prototypes of the PowaKaddy Classic. This visit to The Open would kickstart the PowaKaddy brand into formal existence, as the team returned from the North-West with over 500 orders. These very first official orders began shipping to golf professionals and retail outlets in late 1983.
How have trolleys changed over the years?
It was really interesting looking through old PowaKaddy models at the Sittingbourne office and seeing just how much things have changed. A big difference is, of course, purely in the visuals. When trolleys first came out, it was all about function rather than form. Nowadays, as with cars, people expect all their products to look just as good as they perform.
Perhaps what was just as surprising to me was seeing the old white and green branding. Turns out PowaKaddy wasn’t always synonymous with yellow. The original green colour was used because ‘green for golf’. It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium the yellow colourway came around.
In 1988, PowaKaddy launched the Rio, which was a power-assisted pull trolley. The brand accompanied the release with a targeted ad campaign that resulted in a transformative 10,000 orders for the new trolley model.
A big key for the brand was creating products that could prolong the golfing lives of older players, and this definitely boosted interest.
The initial big technological advancement in trolleys was when sealed batteries were invented. Before then, trolleys had wet car batteries that leaked.
PowaKaddy’s initial trollies were also three-part designs that had to be built before they could be used. The transition to a one-piece design made ease of use much better and allowed trolleys to be put up and used much quicker.
1999 brought the release of the first iteration of PowaKaddy’s ultra-popular Freeway range, which quickly became the number 1 trolley range in the UK.
In 2005 lithium batteries hit the market. They had become more affordable, so they were viable for use and were more lightweight and powerful for added performance.
Smaller batteries also meant smaller chassis could be developed. PowaKaddy’s CT8 trolley is one of my all-time favourites due to just how compact it folds down, making it perfect for golfers who have lots of kit in their car or not much storage at home.
Nowadays, trolley improvements are mainly based on technological advancements. Golfers want GPS distances to help them get around the golf course, remote control technology, phone notifications on screen, touch screen technology and much more.
PowaKaddy have sold over one million trolleys to date, and it doesn’t look like anything is going to slow them down.
- RELATED: PowaKaddy RX1 GPS Electric Trolley review
- RELATED: PowaKaddy CT8 GPS Electric Trolley review