Golf Carts: Hardly Just for the Golf Course Anymore

  • Share
  • Read Later
Lonnie Duka / Getty Images

A new vehicle costs around $5,000, and a used model runs much less. They get decent gas mileage, and sometimes require no gas at all, with electric models good for around 20 miles per charge. They’re also increasingly OK to operate on town roads around the country. Maybe the perfect car for you isn’t a car at all, but a golf cart.

Look around the country—especially in areas with sizeable retiree populations—and there’s a good chance you’ll find golf carts far away from the links. There is a town in Minnesota that over the summer OK’d golf carts (ATVs too) to be driven on streets, and proposals in small cities in Texas would allow carts on popular hike and bike trails and elsewhere within town borders.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that vendors such as M&M Golf Cars (yes, it’s cars, not carts) now sell a large percentage of their vehicles for non-golf course purposes. M&M, the largest golf cart dealership in Missouri, sells 40% of its inventory for usage somewhere other than the golf course. Roughly 85% of resold golf carts wind up used away from golf courses. Golf carts can be seen cruising around at campgrounds, car dealerships, seminaries, retirement communities, college campuses, and more. Because they’re quiet to operate, and can be customized with pop-up tents and camouflage paint, golf carts are now being used by hunters as well.

(MORE: Video: Your Next Car Could Be a Golf Cart)

Florida, with its abundance of golf courses and retirement communities, may have the most golf carts per capita in the nation. A Orlando Sentinel story notes the spread of golf carts not just in residential villages, but on roads throughout the state, as more and more towns allow it:

“Every community is different,” said Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson Kim Montes. “It does get confusing. We typically don’t get involved in the municipalities.”

But troopers will stop golf-cart drivers for violations such as driving on the sidewalk or driving under the influence. Drivers must obey all state and local traffic laws, she said.

Montes warned that a golf cart is “not a toy.” But that’s not how many golf cart drivers view them. “This is a toy of the Baby Boomer generation,” Robert Edwards, the National Golf Cart Association’s executive director, told the Arizona Republic, which was prompted to do a story in 2011 after an 85-year-old man was killed behind the wheel of his cart when it collided with an SUV.

(MORE: Top New Cars of 2013)

More often, injuries occur due to drivers turning too quickly—even 10 mph is too fast for a sharp turn—which can cause carts to flip or drivers or passengers to fly out of the vehicle. The association has posted tons of golf cart accident videos to demonstrate how not to operate their “toy” carts.

“Toy” or not, driving a golf cart drunk can land you in serious trouble. In one notable incident last summer, Mick Brown, the drummer for Ted Nugent’s band—and a 55-year-old member of the Boomer generation—was arrested for driving a golf cart under the influence of alcohol. Brown allegedly stole the cart after a concert and took a couple of women for a ride around the venue, speeding recklessly on a foot path past police officers. (Note: It is also illegal to steal a golf cart.)

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

5 comments
LuisNLori
LuisNLori

Many golf carts not used for golfing are now custom. You see a lot of them in Florida and California. You see Hummers, Bentleys and even sporty ones like the Cobra golf cart ...

MonicaPalabras
MonicaPalabras

@TIME @TIMEBusiness Considering the average miles per hour in Manhattan traffic is 7 m.p.h., a golf cart may be doable. Worry about safety!

lannoun
lannoun

@Rimrrim i appreciate the motivation! Why dont u get one for urself :p

Rimrrim
Rimrrim

@lannoun I want a Kia. :p

nixawme
nixawme

@Dfrom82 Vespa dijiste? (;