PowaKaddy celebrates 40 years at the top of the electric golf trolley industry
PowaKaddy, pioneer of the electric golf trolley industry, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023 having enjoyed four decades of success while continuing to drive golf trolley technology forward.
PowaKaddy’s story started in the late 1970s, when Joe Catford, a Kent-based watchmaker and keen golfer, used his watchmaking experience to design his own electric trolley incorporating a helical reduction gearbox, replacing inefficient chain and belt drives.
Around the turn of the new decade, Joe had honed his design to the point where he began using it while playing around the Sittingbourne area – and his trolley quickly began to turn heads.
Around this time, Joe opened an automotive repair shop in Sittingbourne, which would eventually become PowaKaddy’s first headquarters. Meanwhile, his trolley continued to make waves around the local area, and he soon had a handful of friends asking for their own. He duly obliged, and, over the next few years would continue to hone his design.
In 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 more than 500 orders. These very first official orders began shipping to golf professionals and retail outlets in late 1983.
Over the next few years, the business grew steadily. In 1988, PowaKaddy launched the Rio, which initially was released as a power-assisted pull trolley. The brand accompanied the release with an ad campaign that resulted in a transformative 10,000 orders.
The same year, Joe and John sold the business to Sunleigh PLC, and Joe Catford and John Martin would subsequently exit the business in 1989 and 1990, respectively. In 1991, Sunleigh installed John deGraft-Johnson as managing director, while Joe’s son, David, would remain at the business as the brand’s leading technical and operational head.
The next decade saw the growth of the wider golf trolley industry, which included the inception of Joe Catford’s newest venture – Hill Billy – which would serve as a close competitor to PowaKaddy through the late 1990s. In 1999 came the release of the first iteration of PowaKaddy’s ultra-popular Freeway range, which quickly became the number one trolley range in the UK.
In 2000, PowaKaddy was purchased by a team led by John deGraft-Johnson, and simultaneously purchased the Hill Billy brand from David and his brother Chris, bringing the two companies together under one roof. The brand would win a number of industry awards during this time, and in November 2001, the company introduced the pioneering RoboKaddy – the brand’s first remote-controlled golf trolley.
In 2005, shortly after John deGraft-Johnson had moved on from PowaKaddy, the PowaKaddy Group was formed, under private equity firm Graphite Capital.
Following a turbulent and inconsistent six-year period, in 2012, David Catford and business partner John deGraft-Johnson bought the PowaKaddy brand – in turn sparking PowaKaddy’s return to the forefront of the electric trolley industry.
Under new leadership, PowaKaddy launched the Freeway Family range of electric trolleys in 2013 – incorporating the unique PowaFrame chassis into every new model, and later introduced the revolutionary Plug ‘n’ Play battery connection technology in early 2014.
The next decade would see a seismic shift in the management structure of PowaKaddy, as Catford and deGraft-Johnson looked to futureproof the company – rewarding loyalty to those integral to the initial success of the business primarily, and more recently investing in a number of senior management and engineering staff that have been brought on to take the business to the next level.
PowaKaddy would continue to break new ground in product innovation in the late 2010s with the launch of the ultra-compact C2 trolley in April 2017 – the brand’s smallest folding trolley ever – and the FW7s GPS, the world’s first electric trolley with integrated GPS, in July 2017. This new GPS integration allowed users to incorporate the entire GPS experience into the trolley handle, removing the need for secondary GPS devices or mobile phone apps for the first time.
This decade, PowaKaddy has further cemented its position as the world’s leading trolley brand. The brand launched the FX and CT ranges in March 2020, followed more recently by the release of the flagship CT8 GPS in March 2022, and the ground-breaking RX1 GPS, the world’s first touchscreen remote-controlled GPS trolley, in February 2023.
David Catford, CEO of PowaKaddy, said: “Everyone at PowaKaddy is delighted to be celebrating our 40th anniversary. To still be at the forefront of the golf trolley industry after four decades is a tremendous achievement, and is testament to the hard work and dedication of our fantastic staff over the years. Additionally, we could not have achieved the successes of the last 40 years without the unwavering support of our partners, customers, and of course every single consumer that has bought a PowaKaddy trolley.”
To-date, PowaKaddy has sold more than 1million trolleys worldwide.