Golf Carts: Good for the Game?

As we have been on our summer travels, it has been surprising to note the increase in the number of golf carts being used in places that previously had few, if any, available for hire.

I was very disappointed to see young, fit golfers with no apparent need for a cart, driving around the courses in St Andrews, Scotland.

There are some advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of the golf cart.

Probably the greatest advantage of golf cart usage is for those who are aging or disabled and are genuinely unable to walk 18 holes. This alone should warrant the need for a small supply of carts. Also, people located in warmer climates where in the middle of summer, walking a round is a step too far need access to golf carts. Many golf clubs make money from cart rental, so this too helps golf clubs in testing times.

However in my opinion, the introduction of motorized carts, not trolleys, into the game – except for the genuinely needy — has not been an innovation which has enhanced our 500+ year old game.

If we abandoned our carts for a round or two, and walked, we’d find that:

  1. Using caddies, light weight carry bags or pull or powered trolleys — the pace of play would improve
  2. We would be healthier for the exercise and would not require a cart
  3. We could be more sociable with our four-ball rather than spending the round talking mostly to only one of our playing partners
  4. The environment and the game would be less polluted and more attractive. Walking allows us to connect to the environment more readily than driving a cart.
  5. Without the golf cart, golf courses would be designed to be more walkable, in the style of some of the old classic courses, rather than routed with huge distances between holes, which make many golf courses today totally un-walkable
  6. Excessive alcohol consumption on the course would be reduced (ever tried carrying a six pack of beer and ice bucket around in your golf bag?)

I know that cart manufacturers and even some club professionals will not agree with anything I have said.

I would like to hear from you: are golf carts good for the game? Share your thoughts by replying below.


52 thoughts on “Golf Carts: Good for the Game?

  1. 71 and a walking, carrying golfer. Carts, to me, should be restricted to those who have mobility issues or other physical disabilities. They slow up play and encourage really poor behavior, particularly when used by younger golfers. Maybe when I get to 80 or 85, but maybe not even then!

    • I am 75, and a serious walker. I decry seeing young adults (almost any adult at my age) who are obviously fit using a golf cart. But physical ailments are not always obvious, and I tend to give them a pass.

      I walk and carry 18 in moderate weather, and use a battery powered cart in hotter weather. But there are hot days when I am glad to ride a cart on the hilly back nine at Asheville Muni. I try to know my limitations.

  2. I agree with you 100%, Frank. I currently use a battery powered trolley, which is the perfect solution for my almost 70-year-old bad back. I get all the benefits of walking, without having to carry a bag or push a trolley up a steep hill or through thick rough. Was terribly disappointed on recent trip to Ireland to see the number of golf carts. It practically ruined a couple of my rounds (especially at Old Head), as these courses were not designed for cart usage, and it disrupts and delays play.

  3. You have covered most valid points brilliantly, Frank. Here in the Far East, there are many Courses where carts are mandatory – to boost income and, theoretically, to shorten the gap between flights.
    Keeping to cart paths preserves the Course, but wastes time. Straying onto the Course can do a lot of damage.
    One particular Course I have played has considerable distances hole to hole, and carts are the only way to play.
    Best regards, Tony.

  4. I have been forced to use a golf cart for most of this season because on an injury. While it does not spoil the game, it has become less enjoyable. I also believe it has had a negative effect on my game. The only advantage to a cart is it makes it possible for an otherwise walking group is the cart user can act as a fore caddy to locate stray shots and determine where the group ahead is on blind shots. In my experience, it does not speed up the pace of play. Some courses are so badly designed that a cart is necessary to travel the large distance from green to tee.

  5. I played in a group for a few years with some older gentlemen 15+ years older than me, and we walked probably 8 rounds out of 10 we played. The reasons I enjoyed walking have already been stated. I could walk directly to my ball following the direct line of ball flight easier than with a cart, I had a better feel of where to hit the ball to the green, never left a club behind, etc. Pace of play…fastest rounds I have played were with a cart, playing solo, when I was the first or second off in the morning. I could get around a course in 3 hours or less. When I walked I used my 3 wheel speed cart or I carried my bag. Full load of clubs, plus a sandwich for the turn and whatever water, gatorade, snacks, etc that I needed. I didn’t carry a lot of extra junk around with me because it was more weight to have to shlep around. I also like walking because it’s easier on the course.

  6. I seldom use a golf cart. My local Muni does not require a cart and I never use one there. I either carry (cold, cool, mild weather) or use an electric caddy in hot weather.

    If I play higher priced courses (as at Myrtle Beach), they usually require a cart. And many are almost unwalkable due to the vast distance between holes.

    What I especially hate are courses that require you to ride a cart and are cart path only!

    I am 69 years old and play 18-36 holes, 3-4 times a week. I am discouraged when I see much younger healthy golfers riding. Golf is walking sport.

    Courses should be designed as walkable, and carts should be limited to those who are unable to walk the course. I played Bandon Dunes in 2006 and saw almost no carts. They had plenty of golfers and the pace was brisk. They have the right idea.

  7. It pains me to see so many young and fit players utillizing a golf cart but I’m not sure if there is a reasonable answer to whether or not motorized carts are good for the game.
    The good argument is that they have enabled people to extend their enjoyment of golf far beyond the time they could have by walking.
    If some way oif restricting the use of carts to those truly in need of them could be devised that would seem to be an ideal situation but I cannot visualize how this could put into practice.
    Incidentally I am 94 years of age, play 18 holes regularly and thanks to the USGA handicap system can be reasonably competitive in our men’s golf association tournaments. The availablilty of carts has extended my ability to participate in this game by many years so I can only say, yes, they have cetainly been good for my game.

  8. Personally, there are two main reasons I prefer walking over a cart, where I am able:
    1. It’s a lot easier to find my ball! Walking I can go directly to where I think it is. Sharing a cart I might well go to my partner’s ball first, totally losing the line of my ball and finding the trees look different from a new angle. The 90 degree rule makes this even worse.
    2. Whilst I’m walking up to my ball I can assess my next shot so that when my turn comes I am fully ready to play, club in hand. In a cart I”m not necessarily approaching the ball from the best line plus I’m chatting with my partner / watching where I’m driving etc. – all adding to the time I take playing.

  9. How I miss the day’s back in Edinburgh , carrying your clubs and a Medal round of golf for four guy’s was 2 hours and 15 mins .
    I’ m shocked to hear of carts around St Andrews .

  10. Young people have no excuse to use carts their texting phones, smoking, drinking beer and at some courses hard liquor. Better to stay off the course and attend to their social contacts and let the real golfers play the game. Nothing beats walking unless you are crippled, in pain, or have some disease that makes it impossible to walk . As for courses that encourage carts, than don’t expect income from walkers.

  11. Golf carts are here to stay for all reasons stated, and inportantly have become essential to Golf Couse revenue and profit structure. However, there is room for significant improvement in ways golfers manage their on course Cart techniques that would result in considerbly improved pace of play. It would be helpful if the USGA or other authority develop simple and logical pointers that could be provided golfers for implementation at the course level. These could have have further postive inpact if then couses were to re-assess and improve cart rules ie: 90 degree, cart exit from fairway, cart path only,etc,

    Done well, 3.5 hour rounds or better should become acceptable norm.

  12. I walk 99% of the time whether its 9 or 18 but when its really hot out I generally ride. It goes back to when I was younger riding was only with my dad and even then I generally walked while he drove the cart and that was not that often. Reason was that riding was a luxury when I was growing up. I also played on the golf team in high school. I am now nearing 50 and I still walk the 99 % and that is with two bad knees and will need surgery on the left one the right one has already been done. I also have arthritis in both knees so it can be painful at times.
    I will agree that the younger generation needs to get off their butts and walk its good for them and it does make you play better. I do I get a better feel for the shot and how the green is sloping while walking up to my putt. I enjoy the game more and my best friend who has MS walks too because he wants to keep moving as long as he can. So if you are able to walk and the course allows it I say walk and save some money too for the drink at the end of the round.

    • Bravo! I’ve been stunned for years how and why so many golfers are using power carts. With the obesity problem in this country combined with a need for daily exercise such a prevalent theme in our society, what better chance do we have to enjoy the game we love and get some decent exercise. Not aerobic mind you, but quite a calorie burn so to justify that extra beer at the 19th hole… And, then to see the food cars out on the course pushing more unhealthy eating is, in my humble opinion, both embarrassing and a nuisance… except for the cute cart girl, of course… Carts should be reserved for those with medical or mobility issues. Bandon Dunes has had that policy in the past and hope they have maintained it. I love this writing and its about time sensible minded golfers speak up and deflect this trend. I’m 63 and a die hard walk and carry golfer… Come on guys …. walking shouldn’t be reserved only for the young… How lazy and fat are we in this country, anyway….

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