Many golf courses today require that you take a golf cart — especially when you play in a tournament—and it’s important to be aware of the rules and etiquette of driving a cart. When you check in with the golf course staff, they will let you know the basic rules and safety of cart operation. Golf carts are designed for golfer safety as well as to protect the golf course turf (teeing ground, fairway and greens).
The first and most important thing to check before driving a cart is to make sure your golf bag is fastened securely to the cart. (You don’t want it to fall off and hurt someone when you hit the gas.)
When taking a golf cart, the golf staff will let you know if the course is “Cart Path Only” (no carts allowed on the grass at any time—usually due to wet fairway conditions). If the conditions require “Cart Path Only” rules, make sure to bring several clubs (plus an extra ball in case yours is lost or not playable) when you go to your ball from the cart so that you don’t have to run back and forth across the fairway and slow down play. If the course specifies that a “90-Degree Rule” is in place, that means you can drive your cart on the path until you’re parallel with your ball and then make a 90-degree turn onto the course and drive to your ball.
You want to operate a cart with safety in mind. Limit the use to two people per cart—don’t try to fit three passengers in the seat or let someone stand on the back by the golf clubs. Resist the urge to hang legs and feet outside the cart—some golfers have suffered broken ankles and legs from hanging legs and feet outside the cart. Operate the cart safely by observing signs that direct you to stay on the cart paths or away from protected nature areas.
The general rule is to keep 30 yards away from greens, approaches and collars. Many courses will have ropes or signs showing when carts are required to return to paths. Additionally, most courses will ask you to stay on the cart path on par-3 holes. You want to use caution when going up or down hills and avoid sharp turns where the tires could damage the turf. Avoid puddles, water hazards and of course bunkers. Making sharp turns, coming to an abrupt stop or driving too fast can also damage the turf. Cart use could change during the day, depending on weather conditions and may be restricted following a heavy rain.
Many newer carts offer USB outlets to charge a rangefinder or phone. Resist the urge to look at your phone while driving a golf cart – the same “rules of the road” apply to operating a golf cart as when driving a car.
It’s good cart etiquette to park the cart at the back of the green or whatever spot allows you the shortest exit when done putting. Avoid the urge to park with two wheels off the cart path – many people leave two wheels on the path and pull off partially into the grass. A good analogy is, would you park your car in a driveway with two wheels in the driveway and two wheels in your yard? Then don’t do that on the golf course; if another cart approaches (maintenance, ranger or beverage cart) they can pull around your cart.
If your walking and using a push cart, the same rules apply, and you should never walk with your cart across the green. (Some courses with sand greens will allow push carts to be taken across the green, but generally you should not do this, unless told by golf course staff that it’s allowed.) Some facilities also ask that push carts not get used on the collar, the turf between a bunker and green. You also want to leave a push cart at the back of the green as a courtesy to the group behind you to allow for a quick exit.