The Etiquetteist: 9 golf-cart driving rules that every golfer should follow

tipped over golf cart

It's not the Indy 500 out there. Be safe!

getty images

In the Etiquetteist’s opinion, the best golf book of all time is not the story of a sweet-swinging Scottish mystic, or an up-from-nothing caddie, or a fabled fourball at Cypress Point.

It’s “Leslie Nielsen’s Stupid Little Golf Book”, a collection of absurdist tips and insights co-authored by the late, great comic actor and Naked Gun star. In addition to wisdom about the grip (“always hold the club at the thin end where that length of rubber stuff is”) and shortcuts for shaving strokes off your score (“skip the last hole”), Nielsen offers guidance on how to drive a cart.

Among his suggestions is a maneuver that he calls the “Quick Start” — a brief, abrupt acceleration of the buggy just as your playing partner is sitting down, the better to impart a mild case of whiplash. He also recommends a tactic known as the “Brusharoo,” which involves piloting the cart so close to trees and hedges that your passenger gets grazed by leaves and limbs.

golf ball in broken windshield
The Etiquetteist: If your golf ball damages personal property, should you confess?
By: Josh Sens

Nielsen is kidding, of course. But even in jest, he points at a truth: There is, indeed, a code of conduct surrounding carts — rules of the road, or rather, the path and fairway, that make the game safer and more enjoyable for all.

With that in mind, here are 9 fundamentals you should follow if you are unable or unwilling to walk.

1. The 90-degree rule

Everything you need to know about the 90-degree rule you learned in 7th-grade geometry. Designed to minimize wear and tear on turf, it calls for you to keep the cart on the path until you can turn at a right angle to your ball. Often, it applies on a few holes only, especially if it’s a wet day, not the entire course. The starter can tell you where it’s in effect, though the info might also be written on the scorecard, so consider this your chance to use your 7th-grade listening and reading skills, too.

2. The do-no-harm rule

This is Sunday at the course. Not SUNDAY! SUNDAY at the demolition derby. Driven recklessly, carts can be damaging to courses and dangerous to people. So, be smart and safe. Resist the urge to plow through ropes and stakes. Avoid sopping turf, bunker edges, water hazards, grassy mounds, tee boxes, run-ups to greens and greens themselves. Do not floor it around curves. Refrain from off-roading. Oh, and the rare appearance of on-coming traffic is not an invitation to a game of chicken.

reckless cart drivers
Don’t be these guys. getty images

3. The Darwin Award rule

This should go without saying but we’ll say it anyway: Keep your cart out of the line of fire, especially when you’re sitting in it.

4. The pace-of-play rule

One of the paradoxes of the game is that riding is often slower than walking. This is annoying and unnecessary. If it’s cart path only, bring a clutch of clubs with you to your ball, instead of making multiple trips. If you’ve got a passenger, don’t be an idle spectator to their play. Drop them off where they need to be, then move on briskly to your ball so you’re ready to play when it’s your turn.

5. The shotgun-etiquette rule

If you’re the passenger, be alert and active. Take the wheel and bring the cart up when it’s called for. And don’t just sit there watching as your partner plays. This, too, will help keep your round moving.

6. The parking rule

When it’s time to putt, park your cart behind the green. It’s the right thing to do for the group behind you, as it keeps play moving. It also keeps you out of harm’s way.

golf cart on path
Find the right spot to park your cart. getty images

7. The parking-lot rule

Carts in parking lots are accidents waiting to happen. Unless you’re physically incapable of carrying your clubs a few hundred paces, don’t rely on your buggy to make the short trip between the bag drop and your car.

8. The cart-in-reverse rule

Before shifting your cart into reverse, take care than no one is playing within earshot, as most buggies backing up make a beeping noise that is even more annoying than hollers of “You da man!”

9. The no-littering rule

A cart is not a dumpster. Or a lost and found. When your day is done, collect all head covers from the rear baskets, and clear the cupholders of beer cans and Snickers wrappers. And don’t forget your phone and sunglasses.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.