Many small towns have led the way for golf carts to travel away from the fairway and onto the highway. Manufacturers are supporting this trend by upgrading traditional carts with safety and traffic-ready equipment, driving local governments to consider street legal golf cart legislation to regulate this increasingly popular form of transportation.
Cart for the course
The golf cart was originally human-powered. Similar to a rickshaw, the first golf cart was invented by Lyman Beecher of Clearwater, Florida, in 1932 and pulled by two caddies. Due to arthritis, Beecher required a cart to help him get around the golf course to give lessons.
While inventors experimented with various three-wheeled, battery-powered carts due to gas rationing during World War II, it took about twenty years before a quiet, efficient cart was developed. Merle Williams of Long Beach, California, was an early innovator of the electric golf cart, and his company, Marketeer, is considered the first to produce one in 1951.
Typically about 8 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 feet high, and weighing approximately 950 pounds on average, most golf carts are powered by battery rather than gas. Despite being able to produce more horsepower, gasoline-powered engines have not gained as much popularity due to the loud noise and emissions they produce. However, stability has improved with the evolution to four-wheeled vehicles from three.
Away from the fairway, onto the highway
It wasn’t long before businesses beyond the golf course began to recognize the usefulness of such a compact, low-speed vehicle. Golf cart manufacturers experienced a massive economic boom in the late 1970s when industries such as security, manufacturing, hospitality, and construction all found value in using golf carts for short distance transportation.
The first move away from the golf course and onto streets began with use in parks, inside malls or airports, and in gated neighborhoods (sometimes referred to as “golf cart communities”). Localities such as Peachtree, Georgia, The Villages, Florida, Santa Catalina Island, California, and Palm Springs, California, have actually been specially designed to include trails or paths to allow golf carts as transportation. In these communities, the carts are generally used more often than cars.
Small, easy to operate, and consuming significantly less power compared to conventional cars, golf carts are considered by many as an ideal choice for short, regular commutes such as neighborhood errands or trips to nearby recreational spots.
Locations that have taken a positive view of golf carts for their ease and simplicity of use as well as their eco-friendly and more sustainable attributes have generally been successful integrating golf carts as a form of transit by updating infrastructure, establishing “street legal” standards for the vehicles, and regulating operation.
Some considerations that local governments should keep in mind when allowing golf carts as a mode of transportation off the golf course include:
- Operator requirements: age restrictions regarding minors, permitting/licensing
- Number of passengers allowed in the vehicle
- Hours of operation
- Restricted streets, lanes, or paths
- Speed limits
- Vehicle equipment and inspections (i.e., headlights, tail lights, rear view mirrors, turn signals, etc.)
- Penalties for infractions
Useful examples of street legal golf carts legislation from the eCode360® Library
If your community is interested in legislating or updating ordinances related to street legal golf carts here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:
Updating your municipal code is vitally important
Submit your code updates as soon as possible to ensure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Make it part of your Board meeting close-out process to send your adopted legislative changes to General Code when everything from that meeting is already right at hand.
General Code clients can easily send legislation to [email protected] (If you’re located in Texas, please submit your legislation to [email protected]) For tips that will allow us to process your code updates most efficiently, click here.
- A History Of Golf Carts – The Men And Their Machines
- Golf Cart (Wikipedia)
- What is the History of the Golf Cart
- Green Technology: Why golf carts—golf carts!—are a transportation mode of the future.
- The surprising reasons that more golf carts are becoming car replacements
- Why Golf Carts Could Quietly Revolutionize Transportation
- Town of Livingston could soon make golf carts street-legal
- Village gets tougher on enforcement of golf carts with upgraded regulations
- Everything you need to know about electric micro-cars, NEVs, LSVs, & golf carts
- New state law toughens regulations on young golf cart drivers to help reduce accidents
- eCode360 Library