Golf carts can come in pretty handy – they hold your bag, they hold any drinks you may be enjoying, and some are even equipped with GPS that provides guidance on yardages. They help players who might have trouble walking and they generate valuable revenue for courses. However, they can also cause serious damage if they’re driven on a golf course at the wrong time. To prevent issues, sometimes it’s necessary to restrict carts to paths, which can be a significant source of golfer frustration. While temporary cart restrictions may be upsetting, some background information can help you understand them better.
So, why is it necessary for carts to stay on paths sometimes? Most often, the cause is weather related. Cart restrictions may be imposed when the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. Under wet conditions, soil is extremely susceptible to compaction from vehicle traffic. Compacted soils make it difficult to grow healthy grass and the problems can be long-lasting and hard to fix. Driving carts through wet areas can also leave deep ruts that are difficult to repair. Carts can also skid and slide on wet grass, which can be damaging to the course and dangerous for golfers.
Driving carts on very dry turf can actually be very damaging as well. Extremely dry grass isn’t growing normally, so it cannot tolerate traffic from golf carts or maintenance vehicles. Grass can wear away quickly during extremely dry weather and you may even see “burned” tire marks where a cart has driven through an area of extremely drought-stressed grass. Sometimes this damage recovers quickly once moisture returns, but other times significant repairs are needed.
When temperatures are cold and grass is growing slowly, if at all, golf carts can quickly wear the grass down. In places where golf is played during cold weather, it’s not uncommon for path restrictions to last for extended periods of time each year. Similarly, in very hot weather, some grasses also stop growing, making them vulnerable to damage. Restrictions due to extreme heat tend to last for a relatively short period of time until slightly cooler weather arrives.
Cart restrictions may also be necessary if courses are overseeding, regrassing or trying to repair large areas of damage. Newly planted seed or sod needs to be firmly rooted before it’s ready for any kind of traffic. Walkers will typically be allowed first on newly established grass, with carts to follow sometime later. How long these restrictions last will depend on the circumstances, but know that the grass will look ready for carts before it actually is.
As golfers, we should be prepared for cart restrictions sometimes, especially during or after extreme weather. While these temporary restrictions may be frustrating, they are necessary to protect the golf course. A little short-term inconvenience offers a great excuse to get some exercise walking and your patience will help to keep the course in good shape for all to enjoy!