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Game Changers in Golf: Evolution of the Motorized Golf Cart

Before the pandemic, nearly 70 percent of rounds were played with a golf cart, according to the National Golf Foundation. That number dropped significantly in 2020 when motorized golf cart use was banned because of strict physical distancing guidelines. Now that we can use carts again, we thought we’d look at the history of the motorized golf cart.

The first attempt to use a motorized cart on the golf course took place in 1932, when John Keener (J.K.) Wadley, a businessman from Arkansas, noticed that three-wheeled electric carts were being used in Los Angeles to transport the elderly to grocery stores. He purchased one and found it didn’t work well on the golf course. Several other electric golf carts were introduced during the next 20 years, but none of them really caught on. They were still being used primarily by elderly or disabled people who could not walk far.

The company that designed the early version of the modern cart is Marketeer, which was founded by Merle Williams in Redlands, California. Williams experimented with electric cars during the gasoline rationing or World War II and produced the first electric golf cart in 1951.

By the late 50’s golf carts became very popular, and several other companies had started building them including E-Z-Go, LEKTRO, Cushman, and Club Car. Taylor-Dunn, Harley Davidson and Yamaha were a few of the companies who also got into the golf cart business over the next couple of decades.

The first golf carts were powered by batteries and featured three wheels and tiller steering. Gas-powered golf carts were introduced in 1971 and immediately became a huge hit. Most golf carts changed to have four tires and a steering wheel. Currently, both gas and electric golf carts are available.

Today, golf carts have become a popular mode of transportation for residents of small communities, campgrounds, businesses, or personal use. If you’ve ever been to the 55+ residential community in The Villages, Florida, you will sometimes see more golf carts driving around than cars. The community is connected via a vast network of golf cart paths and over 60,000 golf carts are used by residents to get around.

The introduction of golf carts allowed people who previously had trouble walking the course to play. This allowed more people to play the game and enjoy it more.

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