In this winter of my discontent, I am having a bad case of golf cart envy.

I have driven a thousand of these things, from shiny new ones to tragically underpowered and banged-up veterans of the cart paths that should have been retired at least a decade ago.

I have had one die on me on the 14th fairway, which of course was as far from the clubhouse as was mathematically possible.

Not paying attention, I almost drove one into a pond adjacent to a par 3 green, a near-calamity that would have spelled the end to my golf career. At least at that course.

I have a friend who actually was run over by a cart on a course. He still has the marks on his back to prove it. I am not making this up.

Throughout my somewhat mixed career with these vehicles, I have always associated them with golf courses. They are GOLF carts, for Pete Dye’s sake.

Turns out I’m badly mistaken (this is not a first).

Golf carts are everywhere. Particularly in my neighborhood. They have become a kind of status symbol.

On almost every nice day, here they come, in a sort of disjointed parade. Parents ride their toddlers around the neighborhood in golf carts painted in school colors. Teenagers (and some kids who appear not to have reached that age category) zip around neighborhood streets, rock songs sung by names you wouldn’t recognize blaring from speakers.

These are party vehicles. I see no golf clubs.

The world headquarters for private ownership of golf carts appears to be the Villages, the relatively famous retirement community in central Florida that is home to about 100,000 mostly retired residents. You might have noticed that many retired folks like to play golf, a fact that the developers of the Villages recognized. The place has 54 golf courses.

I have a spy who lives in The Villages, and he reports that it isn’t a requirement to have a golf cart to live there, but he hints that you might be looked down upon if you don’t. The more expensive and oddly decorated cart you have, the better. 

Maybe they race them, I don’t know.

Some actually are used on the golf courses, apparently, but I’m guessing most see duty-carrying folks around the neighborhood and to the various entertainment locations where music is played and adult beverages are consumed. And I have seen photos of Villages golf cart parades.

Since I’m clearly behind the curve in this social movement, I’ve begun the search for my own golf cart. Looks like I can get a Bintelli Beyond Street Legal cart that seats six for only $13,095. This might seem like a high price until you consider it has LED lighting, a Bluetooth sound system, a reserve camera, USB plugs, and – yes! – turn signals.

On the other end of the scale, I can pick up a used 2017 EZ-GO cart for $2,600.

Sadly, it doesn’t come with the guy who hoses it down after a round and removes all the drink cans and candy wrappers.

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Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.