TERRE HAUTE —
An online video showing defending Masters golf champion Bubba Watson operating a Terre Haute-made hovercraft has created an avalanche of attention for Neoteric Hovercraft, a usually quiet local business.
In the video, Watson is operating the company’s first-ever golf cart hovercraft, specially designed by Neoteric at the request of Watson and Oakley, a California-based sports equipment company.
“When Watson and Oakley came to us, they were contemplating the concept of using [a hovercraft] as a golf cart replacement,” said Chris Fitzgerald president and founder of Neoteric. “At first, it sounded a little bit wild, but we went along with it.”
In the video, which has been posted on several websites, including YouTube, Watson is piloting his golf cart hovercraft across a Phoenix golf course. The craft can cross putting greens without causing damage and can even zoom over lakes.
All this has focused a lot of attention on the maker of the “golf cart” hovercraft, Neoteric, a company that had about a dozen employees in 2012 and was selling about 60 hovercraft per year as of 2011, according to previous articles published in the Tribune-Star.
“We’re getting people calling from all over the world,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday. “It’s one of those tsunamis.”
Outfitting a hovercraft for use as a golf cart presents special challenges. Neoteric designers worked hard to bring all the standard features of a golf cart to a hovercraft, Fitzgerald said. And they were especially concerned about making the craft as quiet as possible to avoid disturbing highly-focused golfers during their backswings.
“We spent a bit of time messing around with the sound reduction system,” Fitzgerald said. “That was really what took a while.”
Speaking of Watson, Fitzgerald noted the PGA pro, as anyone else, needed training before operating the craft. “He did pretty well,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a flying machine and it requires training.” Neoteric provides training at its Terre Haute facility, which is near Franklin Elementary School.
Neoteric hovercraft can range in price from about $17,000 for recreational models to more than $60,000 for fully outfitted search and rescue models used by the military and first responders. It has customers in 50 countries and is the world’s original and most experienced maker of light hovercraft, according to its website, www.neoterichovercraft.com.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.