My sense is that the surest sign of dysfunction at a golf club or golf course is the prevalence of multiple single motorized carts in a four-ball. That shows complete contempt for the golf course and complete indifference to fellowship. A club that allows it is morally bankrupt.
There, I’ve said it. If I see a group playing golf with more than one cart loaded with a single bag – a group with three or four carts, say – I know the culture of the place is compromised, if not corrupted. The real issue is how to rescue such places and restore a modicum of sensibility.
It’s not easy battling the mentality of a place where pace of play is mistaken for racing all over as fast as possible to get to one’s own golf ball. Bad enough at a place like this that they value cart riding at all. There’s a lot to be said for the virtues of walking, whether by carrying your own golf bag, pulling your bag on a trolley or relying upon a caddie.
Please spare me the nonsense that on a golf course, pull carts somehow look undignified. As if a gas- or electric-powered vehicle conveys elegance and taste? Across all of Europe and Australia and New Zealand, a pull cart is considered standard equipment and it’s the motorized cart that is deemed out of place. Pull carts are also standard at many elite U.S. clubs, from Olympic Club in San Francisco to Hazeltine and on to the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Back to your club, where solo riders run amok. The industry as a whole is plagued by an under-appreciation for the damage wrought by motorized carts – on turfgrass, on tree roots, on the look and feel of the place as beat-up areas widen and deepen.
Yes, I know all of the economic arguments, particularly how profitable carts are to a club’s finances. Interesting how the benefit/cost analysis is so skewed, with the plus side accruing to the golf operations side but the downside borne silently on the maintenance side. If you factor in the true costs of golf cart operations – the extra land needed for cart paths, the building costs for storage and the toll of paving and maintaining those tracts, plus the wear and tear on turf and trees, the actual net cost of golf operations would not be as rosy as most general managers and golf pros claim.
The problem is pronounced at member-owned clubs where some golfers have their own private carts and pay a trail fee for the right to use them. Now you’re really asking for trouble. The advent of cart-borne GPS monitoring/tracking should make enforcement easy. All that’s needed is to require all carts to carry such technology – at the members’ expense, since they are the ones who are seeking the privilege of access.
Even if there are guidelines or rules prohibiting multiple solo carts, it’s often unreasonable to expect a club employee to confront the violator and ask them to pair up. Assistant pros and assistant greenskeepers should never be sticking their necks out – unless they know they have the unconditional backing of their golf pro, superintendent, manager and board.
Rational policy to eliminate the scourge of solo carts in a group has to come from the top. There has to be a commitment at the policy level by the board or the management. Only then can responsible policy filter down and be enforced by club employees; they have to apply the rules equitably to all, the same way they would apply the rules of golf in a club competition.
And there have to be clear sanctions for rules violations, such as a suspension of cart rights, a fine or a reduction in golf privileges.
Changing the culture of a club is very hard. It takes initiative from the top and a core of committed members around them to establish norms that gradually expand to include to recalcitrant ones. That’s not always easy these days in an era when younger members are resistant to rules in general and think they
deserve to have it their way.
The problem is compounded when a cowboy mentality plays into the hands of an older, well-established membership group that resents adapting to group-oriented norms.
The way to start is with recognition that any activity requires some rules and norms. Golf has a lot of them, Banning multiple solo carts in a group is not very complicated or stringent in terms of demands. It simply asks golfers to respect the golf course and each other. Most of all - and this is perhaps the most revealing element of all – it also asks them to respect themselves as citizens of a golf community.