Learn about different types of golf carts and the history behind them.
Designed in the 1940s to assist golfers with disabilities, golf carts are a staple on golf courses as well as within some retirement communities. Used mainly as a means to expedite travel over a golf course, golf carts have evolved over the years. According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, golfers play about two-thirds of all regulation 18-hole rounds of golf with golf carts.
Until the first golf carts were introduced in the 1940s, players used their shoulders or a three-wheeled buggy to transport clubs to the next hole. As the average player played more golf, the need for a cart increased. By 1951, the first mass-produced gas-powered golf carts rolled off the manufacturing line. Produced by such companies as Harley Davidson and E-Z-Go, these newly constructed carts cost upwards of $1,200. Today's golf carts can average about $4,500, and a fully customized version can cost around $10,000.
Technically, according to the National Golf Car Manufacturers Association, a golf car is not to be called a "golf cart," as carts cannot be self-propelling. But the organization realizes that many people, including those within the golfing industry, insist on calling the cars "carts" and golf car paths "cart" paths.
The size of the golf cart has remained relatively constant over the years. Seating two to four golfers, the average cart is four feet wide, six feet tall, eight feet long and weighs around 900 to 1,000 pounds. A notable change came with the addition of electric golf carts. Developing this option has led to the production of other low-speed vehicles such as indoor power scooters and electric neighborhood vehicles. In addition, certain golf cart manufacturers now refer to their merchandise as electric utility vehicles and suggest uses other than those on the golf course.
One of the two basic types of golf carts available, gas-powered carts can run off diesel or regular unleaded gasoline. Although they are not as quiet as electric-powered carts, gas-powered carts have evolved over the years, with the four-cylinder versions running much quieter than their two-cylinder predecessors.
The luxury of a gas-powered cart is its longevity on an outing. Electric carts have a shorter range and can only carry limited loads; the heavier the cart, the more energy is needed to move it. The best piece of advice for a gas-powered cart user is to keep a gallon of gas nearby in case the tank runs dry. Unlike electric-powered carts, if the gas-powered cart runs out of fuel, the user can simply refuel it with the spare gas. Electric cars need to be towed to an area to recharge the battery.
Electric golf carts are usually charged at night since they require around 10 hours of charging time. Depending upon their size, most electric carts can travel about 25 miles, making them a more energy-efficient and cost-effective option, even if gas prices remain low. These environmentally friendly carts do not emit any pollution and run quieter than the gas-powered version. The downside, however, is that once the carts are weighted down, they may become sluggish and slow to operate. This can also affect the battery's life and may require the carts to be charged more frequently.
Electric carts are as popular on the road as on the course. Many cities and states allow the use of these vehicles for errand-running or other tasks. When gas prices skyrocketed during the summer of 2008, residents searched for transportation alternatives. As a result, some communities passed laws allowing for electric carts to travel on the same roads as cars. Since these vehicles only travel around 20 miles per hour, they must remain on roads with lower speed limits. Referred to as low-speed vehicles, certain states require licensing and registration to operate golf carts outside of a course. Residents should check with their state's department of transportation before driving the cart on a common roadway.
With golf carts increasing in speed and performance, as well as being used off the golf course, golf cart injuries continue to rise. According to a study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, there were roughly 148,000 golf cart-related injuries between the years 1990 and 2006. Back in 1990 there were around 5,772 cases compared to the 13,411 cases in 2006.
Unlike automobiles, carts do not come with seat belts installed. Some vendors sell seat belts for the golf cart owner to install, but it is not a requirement to operate the cart. With proper operation, care and adherence to the course or community's guidelines, a golf cart should last several years.