The Evolving Role of Golf Carts: From Courses to Commercial and Sustainable Mobility

The Evolving Role of Golf Carts: From Courses to Commercial and Sustainable Mobility

The golf carts market has seen a surge in demand across multiple applications worldwide. These compact vehicles are no longer just used to transport players and their equipment across golf courses, but they are now being used for short-distance transportation solutions in various industries, including ranches, hotels, resorts, multi-family housing properties, and industrial sites, among others. As a result, the golf cart industry's application scope has expanded substantially across commercial applications.

Golf cars are built low to the ground to give them a lower center of gravity, which helps prevent spills on uneven terrains. Additionally, their ease of use and convenience have contributed to the burgeoning popularity of modern golf cart technologies.

In planned communities, golf cars are considered an essential part of everyday activities by elderly people living there. For example, Peachtree City, Ga., an Atlanta-based community, has encouraged the use of golf carts among its residents for several years. With over 90 miles of golf cart paths spread across the community, the usage of these vehicles has helped not just to streamline traffic movement in the region but has also earned the community a position on CNN/Money's list of the Best Places to Live.

More recently, in August 2020, the City Council of Clinton approved a new ordinance allowing the use of gas and electric golf carts on city streets, subject to certain regulatory standards and operational parameters. With the presence of these vehicles expanding beyond golf courses into commercial applications, the global golf cart market is poised to surpass USD 2 billion in value by 2027.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the golf industry. At the beginning of 2020, courses were forced to remain closed due to social distancing measures and lockdowns, leading to a sharp decline in the number of rounds played. Later stages of the pandemic, however, sparked hope for a turnaround for the game. With quarantine restrictions and mass closures easing gradually, golf courses emerged as the most ideal socially distant, “safe” space for recreation. This led to a notable surge of interest in the game, with the U.S. NGF (National Golf Foundation) recording 24.8 million golfers in the United States in 2020, indicating a rise of almost 2%, or 500,000 over 2019, the largest net increase recorded in 17 years. 2020 also witnessed the most profound percentage rise in golf beginners and younger millennial golfers.

Although the reemergence of COVID-19 across several nations fueled uncertainty about the near future of the game, industry experts believe that 2021 is a key transition year. They opine that the golf landscape post-pandemic may be stronger with more golfers and better momentum than previous years, thereby expanding the golf cart market size.

Solar-powered golf carts are gaining considerable attention today due to their popularity among owners who need to cover longer distances. End-users of these vehicles include golf course fleets, resort & city transport facilities, utility maintenance workers, and VIP cart drivers on college campuses, among others.

The benefits of transitioning to solar power as a means of vehicle propulsion are supported by many studies and research efforts over the years. For example, a techno-economic study conducted by scientists from the Aarhus University in Denmark suggests that a 50-cart golf buggy fleet could facilitate a reduction in energy consumption from the grid if every unit was equipped with a 250 W panel. The analysis, which examined the use of solar-powered golf carts at the Marbella, Spain-based Los Naranjos Golf Club, claimed that the adoption of these vehicles could be a profitable endeavor, capable of producing annual savings of almost €15,607, considering a €75,000 upfront investment.

In conclusion, the golf cart industry is experiencing a significant rise in demand across various applications worldwide. With the development of solar and electric-powered golf carts, the industry is poised to witness a rapid expansion, with a projected market value of over $2 billion by 2027. Golf carts are not just limited to golf courses but are widely utilized for short-distance transport solutions in commercial settings such as hotels, resorts, industrial sites, and multi-family housing properties.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to the golf industry, including temporary closures of golf courses and a decline in the number of rounds played at the beginning of 2020. However, later stages of the pandemic sparked a renewed interest in golf as a socially distant form of recreation, with the largest net increase in golfers recorded in 17 years in the United States. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the near future of the game, industry experts have opined that the golf landscape post-pandemic may be stronger, leading to an expansion of the golf cart market.

With technological advancements and strategic collaborations among major players in the industry, solar and electric-powered golf carts are gaining traction, particularly with the intensifying focus on zero-carbon emission and pollution mitigation. Electric golf carts have lower operational costs and maintenance, making them an attractive alternative to gas-powered carts. The growing demand for electric and solar-powered golf carts has led to a significant expansion of the industry, with the potential for further growth in the future.

From humble beginnings to modern-day technology-driven models, the golf cart industry has evolved significantly over the years. With their increasing utility both on and off the golf course, golf carts are expected to establish themselves as a key part of sustainable mobility over the foreseeable future.

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