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Clear Creek Golf Car sets its course for success

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by Steve Nix-Ennen

SBJ Contributing Writer

Mark Ringenberg sets the wheels rolling across hundreds of golf courses in the region, but he seldom gets to play a hole.

Ringenberg, a Springfield native, provides much of the transportation that ferries golfers over rough and dale. His company, Clear Creek Golf Car & Equipment Company, which he bought with his wife Mary Ann in 1995, has sped along in growth in the short time he has been at the wheel.

"Actually I play a lot less now than I did before I bought the company," said Ringenberg, who still maintains an artificial putting green in his showroom.

Although the Club Cars appear to be as much a fixture of golf as the clubs, Ringenberg has mounted a concerted effort to drive beyond that market.

"We are not in the golf business, we are in the transportation business," Ringenberg said. He added that the transportation he sells is, indeed, cars and not, as often mislabeled, carts.

"A car is something you drive, a cart is something you pull," Ringenberg said.

As an official distributor of Club Car vehicles, Ringenberg's product line of gas- and electric-powered cars is cruising across golf courses and factories alike. Not only do they shuttle players across nearly every golf course in Springfield and Branson, they are also increasingly used along the pathways of resorts and on the floors of factories. His Club Car distributor region incorporates northwest Arkansas, southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri.

Ringenberg's cars serve as much more than motorized caddies; they also transport materials, heavy loads, foods and beverages. Colleges, including Drury and Southwest Missouri State University, use the small vehicles to navigate the winding campus pathways.

Factories use the cars to shuttle materials from the larger delivery trucks through narrow isles. Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock use them to shuttle maintenance materials and guests across their hilly compounds.

"Club Car is the high-priced, high-value car in the industry," Ringenberg said. "We believe the growth is in the non-golf courses end. There is a lot more opportunity there than just in golf courses."

Club Car and the lower priced EZ-GO have 75 percent of the world's production in the small vehicles. Models accommodate everything from customized golf club holders to individual colors and adaptations.

When looking for a career shift, Ringenberg noticed the versatility and overall service of the transportation industry.

"Before I did this, I was looking at a software package for heavy trucks," he recounted. "The trucking industry offered fleet leasing, rentals, individual sales, fleet sales, service and parts. Those are all of the things that we offer."

He intends to focus on service and custom packages that will answer many of the uncertainties often associated with small transportation vehicles. Rentals can be as low as $25 per day.

"Over the last year we have tried to add on the aspect of the business in which we provide lease programs." Ringenberg said. "We also provide vehicle maintenance. In application, instead of just selling a product, we intend on providing a service."

But there is still the golf end of the business, too. Last year Ringenberg provided 55 cars for the Nike Greater Ozarks Open and he continues to sponsor local PGA events.

This total package offers an easy course for many of the resorts or factories looking to build a small fleet of Club Cars.

"They know exactly what it is going to cost," he said. "It is easier for budget purposes."

It is easier on the environment, as well. Some states are looking to rid the air of such gasoline-powered transportation. Ringenberg said that California has already banned the gasoline-powered engines that run vehicles such as Club Cars. So the Club Car people are making strides to improve their electric-powered vehicles in anticipation of other environmental concerns.

Currently, the electric cars are a bit less expensive. New gas cars run $4,500 to $5,000, with a new electric car running closer to $4,150. Specialty cars, such as beverage cars equipped with thermal insulation for hot and cold drinks or thermal food heaters, may run higher.

"Club Car has been on the leading edge in technology in improving the performance of the electronic car," Ringenberg said. He said that Club Car is making 8-volt batteries to replace the 6-volt batteries, which are currently standard issue. The result is longer life, which, he said, could translate to a lower long-term cost. "We don't really know how long they last because we have just been making them since 1995," he said.

Ringenberg started with a staff of four which has now jumped to seven, including three service personnel. A large fleet of the vehicles insulates his location at 2060 W. Woodland. His current goal is to build on his personal business philosophy.

"It's really all about service to us," he said. "We treat people the way we would expect to be treated. We don't want them to have any unwanted surprises."[[In-content Ad]]

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