The Evolution of the Golf Cart

Did you know that the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company once produced golf carts, or that the first type of cart had no motor at all? We look at the history of the humble golf cart.

While the “art” of using a stick to guide a small ball towards a pre-determined target has likely been around for centuries, the first recorded game of golf where a set of rules was applied was played in 1744 at the Leith Links, near the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

It would be another nearly two centuries later, in 1932, before a US-based inventor and keen golfer, Lyman Beecher, devised a way of navigating a golf course despite his debilitating arthritis. Lyman’s rickshaw-type carriage saw him pulled along by a pair of caddies, his thankless assistants guiding him and his set of clubs towards his ball before allowing him to disembark to play his next shot.

An electrical engineer by trade, Beecher would later add a front wheel to his cart and experiment first with petrol power and later electric propulsion once his former altogether noisy and smoky creations were shunned from local golf courses.

Generally reserved for golfers who couldn’t, rather than wouldn’t, walk the course, it was only in the 1950s before the broad appeal of a golf cart began to grow – primarily as a means of speeding up the game. While some would try to promote the idea of a petrol-powered vehicle once more, in 1951, Merle Williams of the company Marketeer harnessed his experience and knowledge of electric transportation to launch the golf cart package that would pioneer this now hugely lucrative industry.

With any number of brands keen to harness the potential of the by now “must-have” golfing accessory, even famed US motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson would enter the fray with a selection of carts, including petrol- and battery-powered options. Sold between 1963 and 1982, early Harley-Davidson golf carts are now highly sought-after collector’s items.

These days predominantly electrically propelled, the appeal of a golf cart has extended far beyond simply fairways cruising. These zero-emissions, easy to manoeuvre and generally straightforward to maintain golf carts have been adopted by hotels, housing estates and, indeed, retirement villages around the world as an efficient means of travelling between homes and facilities.

In their modern application, while accessories such as weather-proof cladding, headlamps, refrigerators and even GPS navigation can be added, a golf cart relies on energy from a rechargeable battery pack to flow via a control unit that regulates delivery according to the position of the throttle pedal, to an electric motor. This control unit is conversely also able to send harnessed energy back into the battery via regenerative braking.

Buoyed by the seemingly inevitable advent of self-driving carts, according to Allied Market Research, the global golf cart market will hit $1.79 billion by 2028.

Willard Batteries now offers 8V and 12V golf cart batteries, designed to ensure they meet the quality, durability, and performance standards that you have come to expect from a Willard battery.