In February, I wrote about how golf is predominantly a game of “No”, with golfers commonly hearing phrases like “No, you can’t wear those types of socks/shoes/shorts/shirts”, “No, women (or juniors) can’t be on the course this day of the week,”, “No, you can’t check email on your phone while in the clubhouse,”, “No, you can’t play unless you have an official handicap” and “No, you can’t use your own buggy, you must hire one from us.”

That last one, referring to bringing your own cart to the course, has been an increasingly contentious point in Australian golf, with some clubs/courses banning the use of personal golf carts/buggies, and thereby forcing golfers to hire the equipment from the club itself.

Recently, this policy at one club resulted in what can only be described as a ludicrous situation.

Last month, Inside Golf reader, Garry Beattie, won a brand-new Yamaha Golf Cart via an Inside Golf competition. Garry, an avid Inside Golf reader, was understandably thrilled to win the massive prize. That is, until he rocked up to his club, Cronulla GC, and was informed that he couldn’t use his own golf cart on the course!  It appears that the board had recently voted to ban the use of personal golf carts at the club (Oh, the irony!)

This policy isn’t unique to Cronulla. Over the last couple of years, I’ve received a heap of emails/letters and phone calls about other clubs putting similar bans in place.

Clubs will often cite “personal liability” concerns in regards to this decision, and how they “aren’t covered if a golfer causes damage via their own cart”. But as we all know, by holding a Golf Australia handicap, golfers ARE COVERED for personal liability and damages – whether carrying their clubs, pushing a motorised buggy or riding in a golf cart (their own or the club’s) .  So this “coverage” argument really only applies to, perhaps, the purely social golfer who doesn’t have a GA handicap. But to be honest, I imagine there aren’t many social golfers out there who own a $10,000 golf cart but won’t fork out $100 per year for a GA-approved social handicap. (But I could be wrong.)

I think the REAL issue here (as it is with most things) is the almighty dollar. Clubs simply don’t want to miss out on pro shop/rental revenue. And I sympathise with them – the club/course IS a business. But in many cases, these same clubs are then offering Groupon/Scoopon deals where the cart (and sometimes lunch and a beer) is all included, free of charge. Go figure!

Now, I understand that clubs have every right to run their operations however they like. But let’s get real here. It’s well documented that the golf industry is under significant pressure. The last thing we need to do is alienate golfers even more than they are already.  Like I said in February…we need less “no” and a whole lot more “yes.”

The alternative, it seems, would drive more golfers away.

For more on this growing issue, see the related story on page 24 this month.

See you on the fairways (or the cart path…),

Richard

About Richard Fellner

Winner of multiple Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism and Best Column, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Writers Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and he is a regular guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora

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12 Responses to "The cart before the course"

  1. Jim Maher  June 1, 2018

    Golf carts use on some golf courses is compulsory, others it is your choice whether to hire a cart or not, as long as you hire the clubs cart,
    So you can bring your own electric buggy, or push buggy, but do not bring your own identical electric cart,because the club wants the hire money,
    Then there are other clubs that do not discriminate and allow you to bring your own golf cart.
    How would it be if we all had to hire a motor car to drive on some of the roads, and leave our registered car at home, then on other roads you are able to drive your own car.

  2. Jaj111  April 9, 2019

    There should be a National policy. That policy should allow personal carts.. To suggest o e must hire a cart is the same as forcing players to hire their clubs and push cart. Ludicrous..

    Sure if the course has stopped all ride on carts because of heavy rain and possible damage then do be it.

    The ride on cart, push cart, electric cart are all part of acceptable golf equipment.

  3. karl carter  August 5, 2019

    Clubs would most likely be in breach of the
    The Disability Discrimination Act 1992
    All Australian states & territories are covered by this act and other discriminatory acts
    If clubs insist that a person must use their internal golf carts and not that persons mobility scooter or cart, they should then also supply that cart at no cost – as charging a fee would also possibly fall within The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 – they are being forced to pay extra to use a facility because they have a disability?

    One would also need to question if a club would also be in breach of any OSH regulations?
    Many disability items such as scooters are personally tailored for the individual and their needs (by using a generic version not suitably adjusted for that persons personal needs) they may be contributing to additional injury or stress to that person.

    The passionate discussion needs to happen
    Clubs need to embrace change to encourage opportunity for all

    Karl

  4. Steve  January 22, 2020

    If you borrow a personal cart. Is the person loaning it covered by public liability. Eg run someone over. Or is the private public liability taken up by the owner of the cart only cover the said person on the insurance. Leaving borrower uncovered.

  5. Russell Spencer  January 28, 2020

    I am looking into this issue now. Just yesterday, I was charged a fee for using my own buggy to play in a club competition. I suffered a stroke 15 months ago and have limited walking ability. The only way I can play golf is to use a buggy so I obtained one about 6 months ago. This is the first time I have been charged a fee to use it at a golf course. I did not say anything at the time as I was unsure what my rights were. After doing some research, I believe under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 it is illegal to charge anybody with a disability to use their own mobility device anywhere. I am going to approach the club pro or the committee about waiving this fee to see what their response is to this. I do have a letter from my own doctor stating I have to use a buggy to get around the golf course and will produce this when making my enquiries. I can understand that clubs do not wish to miss out on revenue from hiring buggies to those who wish to use them, but in my situation, I do not have a choice in the matter. I either use a buggy or I don’t play the game I love. Prior to my stroke I played golf 2-3 times a week and always walked. Now I don’t have that option. The fee is not a great one each time, but over the term of a year, it would add up to a considerable amount of several hundred dollars and that is unacceptable in my opinion.

  6. Mark Lyttle  February 3, 2020

    I too am in a similar position where I live on the central Coast and currently a member of Everglades CC, The Springs GC and the local BWVets and have found it harder to walk around the golf course without pain and therefore less enjoyment of the game. I have purchased my own golf cart for use as a “Mobility Aid” specifically designed for minimal impact or damage to golf courses.
    When I play at the Springs they are more than happy to accept me and my golf cart so I can continue to enjoy my game, but other courses have taken it upon themselves to charge players who use their own carts to bring them on their courses.
    Some argue the extra wear & tear to their course. Maybe somehow personal carts cause more damage than hire ones??
    Some argue reduced revenue from members not hiring one of the club’s carts. They neglect the fact the if the members can’t use their own equipment they won’t play there and so the clubs miss out on green fees, food and drinks after the game etc.
    Past cases of members with medical disabilities taking clubs to task for charging the member extra fees to use their own equipment so they may continue to play have led to authorities such as the Anti Discrimination Board warning clubs that if these cases were presented properly the clubs could find them guilty of direct discrimination.
    Unfortunately some clubs have chosen to ignore these warnings so when someone does succeed to prosecute it will set a precedence and I believe some clubs will face a lot more than just losing their hire cart money or the extra $200 – $300 they charge their members each year to use their own equipment.
    To assist with the longevity of the game and to keep members playing longer into their retired years, I would like to see Golf Australia step in and formulate a policy directing clubs not to discriminate against their members who don’t have a choice to walk and can show that they need their cart or other device to assist them to get around the golf course and continue to enjoy this great game without the added burden of extra costs.

  7. James  February 12, 2020

    Of interest, your magazine/newspaper sells advertising. An industry under pressure just like golf clubs to retain revenue streams. You build the newspaper (much like a club has built a golf course and ancillary facilities), do you then allow others to place free of charge inserts in amongst your paid advertising? I doubt it, why would you expect Clubs who have built and invested in the amenities to act differently.

  8. Richard Fellner  February 13, 2020

    Actually, James, we do. Any club or course can submit club news, junior news, senior news, women’s news, events, people, industry/business, charity and not-for-profit stories, all for free. We could charge for this (like some magazines do), but we choose to forego the potential revenue in favour of promoting golf and the industry.

  9. Jason White  June 26, 2020

    Personal liability, how about club liability, club investment, club and player safety, it is not just related to personal liability.

    Golf clubs invest in Golf carts, they are maintained to a high standard, they have an electronic system installed on them- Visage, which is a service and a safety control measure, it controls speed of the cart, it controls no go zones, isolates the carts from dangerous areas such as water, steep slopes, damage to greens etc,, is the private golf cart owner going to spend the nearly 2-3K to install this safety mechanism. I would say no.

    There is a lot more than just only here, it is player and club safety, club sustainability, the private cart cannot be controlled or monitored on the course, as is our own carts, we cannot send out safety alerts via private carts, our carts we can, we can monitor weather, we can react to an emergency situation via the built in safety systems.

    This article is very single focused the writers point of view and does not deliver the full picture safety is paramount, insurance is purely one element

  10. Richard Fellner  July 20, 2020

    Thanks Jason. Essentially, this article is focussed on the golfer, not the club (we have published many articles and opinion pieces that cover that side of the story)

    Keep in mind, however, that the vast majority of courses do not have electronic systems in their carts. Apart from the larger, Resort-type courses, most clubs have a very small fleet (if any carts at all), with no tracking, safety or messaging systems. In fact, one could argue that a golfer who owns his/her own cart might take BETTER care of the cart (making it safer), and it gets far less usage than a fleet cart which gets 36 holes a day, 5-7 times a week. So if you take out that part of your argument, there isn’t much left.

  11. Mark Lyttle  August 2, 2020

    Yes Richard i agree with your reply to Jason. You could also argue the point about hire carts having systems in place to give weather alerts and warnings, but can’t do that with members in their own carts. It would be no different to golfers who walk with their own push carts or carry clubs they would not get these notifications either.
    I think he also hinted at liability and insurance. I would say most, if not all, private cart owners would be members of a club and pay an insurance premium built into their membership through Golf Australia and Sports Cover which I believe includes liability cover for damage or injury caused by their golf cart use. Social players however would not usually have this insurance cover when they hire one at a golf course. Anyway, more food for thought on this subject.

  12. Thomas  August 21, 2020

    Here’s a question. When the course is wet, is it discriminatory when a club allows walkers with electric buggies to play leaving black lines and evidence of possible damage all over the course whilst barring the use of all golf carts denying play to all users able bodied and disabled when the club can direct carts to pre-determined routes?

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