Golf Carts -- A Surprisingly Large Industry

You probably just take them for granted when you play golf, and never think about their origin. I'm talking about golf carts, those miniature vehicles dotting every golf course. However, golf cart production is a multi-million dollar industry and different models abound. They are treated as small cars, and golf-cart companies provide leasing and financing options just as the big car companies do.

Golf originates from a medieval game played on the coast of Scotland during the 15th century. Golfers would hit a pebble instead on a ball around the sand dunes using a stick or club. As time passed, stones were exchanged for man-made balls, the earliest of which were thin leather bags stuffed with feathers. The gutta-percha ball was not invented until 1848 and could be hit a maximum distance of 225 yards. In 1899 rubber balls were invented that could reach distances of 430 yards. Golf sticks evolved into carefully weighted golf clubs, and in the 1880's golf club bags first became fashionable. The caddie, a servant who carted all the player's gear aound the golf course, had his burden lessened by the invention of the golf car in the early 1950's.

The first golf car manufacturers were E-Z-Go, Pargo, Harley Davidson and Cushman. The price was astoundingly high for this era, $1200, but as more manufacturers entered the field it dropped to $600, still high in terms of inflation. E-Z-Go still manufacturs golf cars today. There are hundreds or golf car manufacturers listed on the internet, and most of these companies specialize in these small vehicles, and do not make larger cars.

The first golf cars were gas-powered, but recently the market has shifted to more battery-powered models. Golf carts can be customized just like cars, and lift kits and ATV wheels are sold to golfers who want to stand out on the course. There are companies which specialize in creating entire custom golf cars, or miniaturized versions of full sized cars, such as the Humdinger (Humvee), mini Jeep, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz.

Golf carts come in 3 forms: manual push/pull carts, electric motorized carts, and electric or gas golf cars that hold passengers as well as gear. Push/pull carts have 2 or 3 wheels and a vertical support for a golf bag. They are basically manual dollies with clips and holders especially adapted for golf gear, and sell for $50 to $100. Moving up a level in sophistication, motorized golf caddies cost approximately $500 all the way up to $1000. Golf cars, which resemble dune buggies in size, start at about $1800 for a small basic model.

Ebay has a large selection of both new and used golf carts at low prices but service can be a problem with small vendors.

Manufacturers are also expanding their sales by renaming carts "Electric Utility Vehicles" and suggesting alternate uses for them, such as hauling lawn equipment and travelling around rural properties.

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Frank Vanderlugt

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