Golf carts aren’t just for fairways. They’ve long been popular in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood, where many residents use them to tool around the narrow streets and run quick errands. But in recent years, they’re growing in popularity in other areas as well.
“I’ve definitely noticed over the last 10 years the golf cart movement spreading out into other parts of the city,” St. Louis Alderman Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward, said last Friday evening while attending the neighborhood’s Halloween golf cart parade.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske took a closer look at golf cart trends in the region and heard from local golf cart owners as well as people with questions about the carts. Joining the conversation in studio were St. Louis transportation planner Scott Ogilvie and Midwest Golf Car manager and mechanic Kurt Hagen.
Hagen, who has been involved in the golf cart business for many years, said he’s noticed an uptick in the number of people acquiring the vehicles around the region.
“I’ve definitely noticed a trend,” Hagen said. “A lot of people with property use them for yard work and things like that, but it’s happening more and more in smaller municipalities like Dogtown, Soulard, New Town [in St. Charles]— pretty much all around the metro area.”
Luann Denton, the chair of a Soulard committee tasked with organizing fun things for the neighborhood such as the Halloween golf cart parade, told St. Louis on the Air that golf carts have multi-faceted appeal.
“They are better for the environment, they are easier to park; they’re just a lot of fun,” Denton said. “If you’re driving down the road in a car and you see a friend, you wave, you honk and you keep going. If you’re in a golf cart, you pull over and talk. And I think that that’s one of the things that has been very positive for Soulard and probably other neighborhoods: It’s a social outreach and networking thing, not only energy efficient.”
Ogilvie, who said he’s recently seen people in his neighborhood use golf carts for short trips such as taking their children to school, echoed that appreciation for the friendly interaction.
“It certainly does seem like a more social form of transportation,” the former alderman said. “There’s a lot more interaction going on with golf cart drivers and people on the street and their friends, and so in that sense, anything that builds community and a sense of neighborliness, I think generally we’re all for in the city of St. Louis.”
Ogilvie noted that the city does not have a specific ordinance pertaining to golf carts. State law allows municipalities to regulate them if they choose, and requires golf carts to stay off roads if the speed limit is above 35 miles per hour.
“I mostly see people operating them responsibly — they’re not going particularly fast, so the level of danger is relatively low,” he said. “It’s always good to remind people that automobiles create the vast majority of the havoc and injuries and fatalities on the road, so a slow-moving vehicle is likely to be a lot safer.”
That said, Ogilvie added that there are some behaviors to avoid.
“You want to be driving in the street; you don’t want to be driving on the sidewalk — the sidewalk is a sacred space for people on foot,” he suggested. He also noted that, as with an automobile, driving a golf cart while intoxicated is strictly prohibited.
The differences in regulations among municipalities can be a point of confusion for Hagen’s customers.
“That’s a conversation that I have commonly with customers — they’ll say they want a street-legal kit [turn signals, brake lights and horn] … but that really depends on the municipality,” Hagen said. “And they really set the rules. … New Town’s got a little bit of, I don’t know if I’d call it unrest ... [but] they were adding things like maybe [the golf carts] needed seatbelts … it really just depends on what the municipality passes for their own rules.”
In places like south St. Louis, where Mike Johnson lives with his family, it can be a great way to ditch the car for days at a time.
“I really think it’s great — less cars on the road,” Johnson said during Friday’s golf cart parade in Soulard. “In St. Louis you have some people who don’t stop at every stop sign, and you know, at least in a golf cart I top out at 14 miles an hour. … Pretty much every weekend we park our car on Friday and don’t get in it until Monday morning. We hit the local restaurants and establishments, and we just enjoy, like Sundays, just driving around and even getting over into Cherokee [Street] and all that, just looking at houses that are coming and neat stuff that helps us find out just new things in our community.”
Stacey Whyte and her partner use their cart for their daily commute.
“We both work [for] the Cardinals … so we live in Lafayette Square, and that’s how we travel to work — we get in our [golf cart] and we drive to the stadium, park it, go to work and come home,” Whyte said.
Rasheen Aldridge, who is currently running for state representative in Missouri’s 78th District and lives in north St. Louis, considers the carts a welcome sight on city streets.
“We don’t see too many golf carts on the north side,” Aldridge said while attending last weekend’s golf cart parade. “It would be cool to have more … just like scooters … another form of transportation, especially when our current transportation isn’t the best.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.