Most people know a factoid or two about the history of the automobile (you know-the vehicle that gets you to the links so you can jump on your real favorite vehicle). The first automobile was basically a horse-drawn carriage kitted out with an engine, then the Ford Model T started catching everyone’s eye in 1908, and the rest is history. But what about the golf cart? This machine touts a fascinating history of its own.
Though the terms are used interchangeable in most circles, a golf cart is technically a golf car (since “carts” cannot be self-propelled) and in the early days they were all powered via electricity. In time, gasoline models were also introduced. E-golf cars are still used in a some regions where consumers prefer a vehicle with no pollutants or noise. JK Wadley, a Texarkana resident who spotted the popular three-wheeled variety used in Los Angeles to take the elderly on errands, owned the very first golf car.
A Bright Idea
Custom built in 1932, Wadley may have been an innovator, but it took awhile for the idea to catch on in the golfing community. From 1932-1950, “golf cars” were most popular with those who had disabilities or trouble walking. However, the mid 1950s saw a surge in the number of golfers who wanted a touch of luxury and comfort during their game. A plethora of electronic models flooded the market, compliments of manufacturers such as Sears and Roebuck, and Victor Adding.
Considered the father of golf carts, Long Beach resident Merle Williams took his knowledge of producing electric cars during World War II (when gasoline rationing made it a necessity) and started the Marketeer Company in Redlands, California in 1951. His was the first company whose sole purpose was to manufacture and sell golf cars to golfers. Following in his footsteps were EZGO (1954), Cushman (1955), Club Car (1958), Taylor-Dunn (1961), Harley Davidson (1963), Yamaha Golf Car (1979) and CT&T (2002).
As the worries over gas rationing subsided, Max Walker stepped up to the plate and designed the first gas-powered cart, The Walker Executive, in 1957. With lines similar to a Vespa in the front and shaped like a trike, it was perfect for carting around two golfers and their bags. Of course, gas-powered technology is far from high-tech nowadays, but golf cart technology has done a phenomenal job of keeping up with the times-and consumer demands.
The latest generation of golf carts, “adaptive golf carts,” use the latest technological advances. Products like the SoloRider are designed for one user and gives those with disabilities full access to the most tempting of golf courses-and of course the game of golf itself. Swiveling seats and 100 percent support in an upright position allow even more golfers to enjoy their game.
Club Car is one brand that features a huge selection of cars for the course and a variety of other uses. A number of accessories and customizations are also available.
Extreme golf carts are another recent development, oftentimes modified from original designs. Favorite customizations include suspension upgrades, but complete redesigns are pet projects for many. Solar-powered carts are also making impressive inroads as more golfers are marrying their love of the links with their green-mindedness. Golf cars, much like your game, have come a long way-and there’s no telling what’s right around the hazard.