A golf cart is as common on the golf course as a nine iron. Like a nine iron, or any other club, a golf cart must be used correctly to make the most of your game. If you misuse a golf cart you risk more than dirty looks. You could be banned from a golf course, fined or injure yourself and others. A few simple rules of golf cart etiquette will ensure that you drive like a pro, at least while on the cart path.
Three types of golf cart usage:
Most golf courses have a set policy for how and where a golf cart can be used. The three main policy types are Cart Paths Only, the 90 Degree Rule and Unrestricted Use (Puett).
- Cart Paths Only means just what it says: you can only drive a golf cart on the designated paths.
- The 90 Degree Rule prevents you from driving down the middle of the fairway after your shots. You must drive along the cart path until you are parallel with your ball, then you can drive out onto the grass, at a 90-degree angle from the cart path. After you hit the ball, you must drive straight back to the path; then you can continue up the path after your ball (Puett).
- Unrestricted Use isn't as straight forward as it might seem. You are allowed to drive on the golf course to chase your shots; however, there are restrictions. You still need to stay on the golf cart paths as much as possible, never drive on greens or their aprons and follow golf cart etiquette.
What to do and what not to do in a golf cart:
If the general golf cart policies seem vague, don't worry. Golf, being the proper and civilized sport that it is, has many rules of etiquette governing how a golf cart should be used. Regardless of the designated golf cart policy, the following rules of golf cart etiquette should be followed, in addition to any posted signs, if you want to stay in good social graces with other golfers.
Anticipate club usage. One of the most frustrating things for golfers is waiting on a slow moving group ahead of them. One way to prevent being that slow moving group is to eliminate return trips to your golf cart by anticipating what clubs you will need for your next shot and even following shots. Grab several extra clubs so that if you change your mind you still have what you need (Schempp).
|This is an example of what not to do when using a golf cart on a golf course. Photo Credit: Christian Weilbell|
- Walk when possible, and let your partner take the cart. Another way to speed up your play is to walk to your next shot rather than ride in the golf cart. For example, if your shot is on the far side of the fairway from the golf cart, take several clubs with you and let your partner take the cart after his or her shot. You can then hit your ball and walk after it, rather than having you and your partner driving the golf cart all over the course chasing one another's balls.
- Don't be a distraction. Disrupting someone in mid swing is a major faux pas in golf. The list of distracting things you can do with a golf cart is too long to write out. However, if you park behind other golfers, out of their lines of vision, and avoid messing around in the golf cart while waiting, you can prevent many mishaps (Schempp). Also, pay special attention to your parking break; accidentally releasing it during someone's backswing is almost unforgivable (Puett).
- Avoid fast starts, sudden stops and sharp turns. A golf cart can easily rip the grass, leaving deep tire marks on the course. Sudden starts or stops as well as sharp turns at high speeds will make your golf cart skid, causing a lot of damage. Not only is it harmful to the well-manicured courses, but also it's dangerous for those in the golf cart (usga.org). Most people have heard at least one story about someone who flipped a golf cart because of reckless driving.
- Don't drive in naturalized areas. Avoid driving your golf cart into tall grasses in the deep rough, reeds near ponds or any other part of a golf course that hasn't been landscaped. Those naturalized areas add beauty to the course and provide habitat for animals. They aren't there to be used as an off-road course (usga.org).
- Don't drive over puddles or soggy areas on the course. A golf cart easily compacts and tears damp ground. If you see standing water or a soggy area on the golf course, drive around it (usga.org). It takes weeks to repair damage caused by driving over such areas (Puett). Not to mention you risk getting your golf cart stuck in the mud.
- Stay away from greens and bunkers. Driving your golf cart onto a green or into a bunker is one of the fastest ways to get banned from a golf course. Always park at least 15 to 30 feet away from greens and bunkers to avoid damaging their aprons and fringes (usga.org). Those areas are especially delicate and require a lot of time and effort to maintain.
A golf cart can make a round more enjoyable and less toilsome when used correctly. If you follow all posted signs and remember the rules of golf cart etiquette, you and other golfers will have a much better time. Help keep golf a civilized sport.