Mark Twain said golf was a walk spoiled.
If he were alive today on St. Simons, he’d say a golf cart spoils the drive. Not for the cart drivers, though. Just the 15 or so cars stacked up behind them.
The County Commission, some of whom had been stuck behind golf carts themselves, sought to remedy this by regulating the vehicles, some of which have trouble keeping pace with the growth rate of yellow pines. By the way, the M in the 25 mph speed limit signs refers to miles per hour not meters per hour.
OK. OK. So I exaggerate.
The new ordinance that the commissioners adopted last month requires all cart owners to carry liability insurance, to register them with the county at the outrageous rate of $15 every five years. They must have seat belts for each seat, child safety seats when needed and, among other things, working headlights, turn signals and brake lights. The drivers must be at least 16 and licensed, although that is no guarantee of good driving practices.
It’s amazing that on this opulent island golf carts coexist on the narrow roads with Suburbans, sometimes driven by texting 16-year-olds, and pickup trucks so big they must influence the tides.
A week ago, I saw a golf cart with a young girl driving and two women passengers easing along behind a couple of bicyclists. Why didn’t she pass, you ask. Because they were on the bike lane on Demere Road, that’s why.
One evening, I saw a woman teaching her middle school daughter to drive a golf cart. The girl was steering with wide eyes and both white-knuckled hands on the wheel.
One fine summer morning, four girls in a cart came by our house and did what you can’t do with a car: They ran over a squirrel.
So what did they do? They jumped out screaming and ran toward the four points of the compass, leaving the golf cart in the middle of the road.
State Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons, says he attempted to regulate golf carts on roadways on the state level.
“Those people from Peachtree City got all over me,’’ he said.
Peachtree City is a municipality replete with cart lanes and full of people who won’t part with their carts. It would be a good place for a Seinfeld episode. Any attempt to pass state law was going nowhere fast. In other words, about the speed on electric golf cart going uphill with a quarter charge. Hogan told our county commissioners it had to be handled locally and couldn’t exceed the limits already imposed in state law.
That’s why the county adopted an ordinance that could impede those who impede traffic.
The golf cart, as defined in miles per hour in the ordinance, falls in the same category as personal transportation vehicles, or PTVs. Those vehicles are capable of speeds of less than 20 mph and are prohibited on roads where the speed limit is 25 but on no state highways.
The other category is the low speed vehicles, or LSVs, which can go 20 mph but less than 25 mph. I guess those are the three-seat electric vehicles. My experience tells me that 15-year-old Cadillacs and Buicks can qualify as LSVs depending on the age of the driver.
LSVs will be allowed on Frederica Road on the island but not on the section west of the airport where the limit is 40 mph.
So the days of rolling speed inhibitors is nearly over on some roads, but we’ll still have to creep around the south end because golf carts will still be allowed there.
I don’t understand any of it. Golf carts, as the name suggests, are made for golf courses where they go short distances carrying people as they play their leisurely game.
Take me for instance. I hit my drive from the tee, hop in the cart, drive about 170 yards — if I catch it flush — and hit my second shot. I repeat the exercise until I get onto the green where I putt at least twice. I repeat the exercise for about 114 more shots, and I’m done.
One resident complained by letter that he had just spent $8,000 on a cart and afterward the county had limited his enjoyment of it. I’ve got news for this guy. There are people who spent $30,000 and up — often way up — for vehicles that they can’t enjoy because they get behind golf carts. Here you are with more horses under the hood than 10 Kentucky Derbys, and you have to drive 12 mph in a 25 mph zone because some guy wants to putter to the beach.
Often, you see people in golf carts who could benefit greatly from walking. I understand there are people with mobility problems who don’t want to go everywhere in a car, and I fully understand why they rely on golf carts. Most of those people would walk if they could.
A county commissioner told me he once got behind one of those big carts with seven or eight women aboard going about 10 mph on the East Beach causeway.
There were places to pull over and let cars pass, but they went along on the road unconcerned about the people behind them.
“I set down on the horn,’’ he said. As he passed, all of them were yelling at him like he had increased their property taxes.
God bless those women. They may have influenced his vote.
Golf cart drivers brought this ordinance on themselves. A lot of cartists let cars stack up behind them and don’t seem to care. It’s a shame the county couldn’t include a provision compelling cart drivers to pull over and let cars pass.
I once counted 15 behind a cart on Demere Road, and a friend of mine was among 17 motorists stacked up behind a cart in the same area. Maybe they thought it was an asphalt par 5.
I think the ordinance is fine the way it is. I just wish the speed limit on all island roads was 36 mph. That would solve the problem.