The Little Known History of Golf Carts

By: Otto Ruebsamen

Most golf courses are about 7,000 yards in length, which equates to about four miles.That measurement is normally measured in an almost straight line from the tee box to the center of the cup on each hole.

However, most golfers do not hit the ball in a straight line down the course from hole to hole. In fact, for many of us, it seems we spend our entire round zigzagging the course. Until the 1960s, most golf courses were played exclusively on foot. Golfers would carry their own bags, or pull them behind them on a pull cart.

For those who were fortunate enough to play golf at country clubs, caddies were provided to carry the players clubs, but most were still looking at a five-mile walk. Additionally, because walking is such a slow pace, many courses would have to schedule tee times at intervals that would accommodate walking.

This changed in 1962 when Merlin L. Halvorson invented the first self-propelled golf car. A golf cart is something that is pulled and a golf car is something that propels itself.

Somehow, this terminology has become confused and intertwined over the years but when someone says golf cart, the normally think of the vehicle that one rides in on a golf course. In the 1960s, the game and technology evolved with the development of the modern day golf car. These cars were built with gasoline motors to transport two golfers, and their golf clubs, around the course.

The major manufacturers at the time were E-Z-GO, Pargo, Harley Davidson and Cushman. The body frames, the undercarriage and suspensions closely resemble those of modern automobiles. The rubber tires are similar to those on cars, but the treads are designed in a way that the cart may be driving on grass and not damage the turf on a golf course.

Controls include a modern steering wheel, accelerator and brake, where the brake also has a lock, to ensure that the car does not roll freely on inclines. Accessories on the modern golf cart include straps to secure the golf bags, a basket (for towels, balls, coolers, etc), cup holders, ball compartments and holes that golfers can slide a few extra golf tees into.

To be more environmentally friendly, many golf carts are now manufactured with electric, battery powered motors. These batteries are rechargeable, and a charge can normally last through several days and rounds of golf.

However, there is still demand for the gas powered golf cars, especially on golf courses where the rolling terrain may require extra horsepower for the car to climb hills. Todays largest manufacturers of golf cars are Ingersoll Rand (Club Car), E-Z-Go and Yamaha.

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