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Navigating the Greens: Understanding and Practicing Golf Cart Etiquette

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Chuck Wilson

When I first moved to a golf course community, I had no idea what I was “allowed” to do and, more importantly, what I should not do on the golf cart paths running behind my house. I have been here a while and had time to learn Golf Cart Etiquette.

This is a list of the unwritten rules that, if followed, keep you from being “THAT” guy.

Consideration of Others

Arrive on Time – You should usually leave home with enough time to reach the golf course (20-30 minutes before your “Tee” time). If you are arranging for the entire group hitting the links with you, this should extend to 45 minutes.

Do I Need a License?

Definition of a Golf Cart vs. an LSV

A golf cart is defined as a motor vehicle that is designed for operation on a golf course or for sporting or recreation and is not capable of exceeding 20 mph. While the operator of a golf cart does not have to be a licensed driver, the driver must be over 14 years of age.
An LSV is a legal class of 4-wheel vehicles that have a maximum capable speed typically around 25 mph and have a minimum capable speed (usually 20 mph). An LSV may operate on the streets where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. An LSV can also crossroads that have a speed limit greater than 35 mph. The operator of an LSV must be a licensed driver. LSV must have a registered license plate and be insured. The LSV must be equipped with at least the following safety equipment: Seatbelts, a windshield, rearview mirror, horn, headlights, tail lights, stop lamps, side reflectors, a parking brake, turn signals, and a vin number.

What Is The Golf Cart Etiquette of the Particular Golf Course You Are Playing?

Check with the attendants on any restrictions that might be in place, as this can change from day to day due to weather, tournaments, etc. There will be signage along the pathway such as “Golf Cart Path Only,” which means just that: to get as close to where you need to be without getting on the grass. Soil compaction and soft earth can be reasons for this rule, but it is always a good idea to minimize leaving the path even when it is not posted. Just pull parallel to where the ball rests, park the cart, and pull a couple of clubs to carry with you as you walk to the ball.

A “90 Degree Rule In Effect” means that if you leave the path to drive over the fairway, do so at a 90-degree angle. This keeps contact with the turf at a minimum. The 90-degree rule often applies if the course is damp. Some may have cart path only rules for the entire course –or for individual holes.

“Golf Cart Path Only on Hole “XX” would indicate the turf is under repair or the ground is too wet to run a cart on, so don’t leave the path at all on these holes.

Keep the Parade Moving

Of course, everybody is aware that there is a golfing party in front of you and a golfing party behind you. Try to keep the line moving by keeping the putting green occupied as little as possible. After finishing the hole, move to the cart and head over to the next hole before marking your strokes on the scorecard. The guys behind you can’t (or shouldn’t) tee off until the fairway and green are clear.

Bunker and Water Hazards

Keep your golf cart at least 30 feet away from these areas to keep the edges surrounding them from breaking down and crumbling off.

Par-3 Rule

A universal rule is that if you are playing a Par-3 hole, you do not leave the cart path. Course marshals always assume that everyone knows this and will come down on you if you get caught out on the grass in your cart during a round on a Par-3 hole.

What About Driving At Night?

If night driving is allowed in your area, then golf carts must be equipped with headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and a windshield.

Registration and Insurance

Many of the community HOA’s have a policy to govern golf cart usage on their streets and pathways. Rules, of course, are going to vary and it is a good practice to read up on these before actually getting caught out on this legality.

An example taken from a random HOA Policy Statement reads as follows:

A registration form and a release of liability and indemnification agreement (the “Registration Form”) must be completed by each Owner who intends to use a golf cart on the private streets within the Association’s community. Only Owners of record of property within the Association’s community shall be entitled to register a golf cart in accordance with this Policy. A one-time $ 50.00 registration fee must be paid by the Owner to cover sticker costs and any ongoing registration and administrative costs.

Magnolia Point Community Association

Simply put, pay a fee, get a sticker to put on your cart, and they get another stream of income.

These policies may also require you to get an insurance policy. What does this have to do with etiquette? Well, it would be proper etiquette to be able to cover any damage to persons or property by your cart. It is always a great idea to insure your vehicle, though, because it protects you as well. A published article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that nearly 150,000 golf cart-related injuries were reported between 1990 and 2006, and the injury rate more than doubled over that same period. Some states require at least a liability insurance on golf carts.

A golf cart stored in your garage can sometimes be included in home insurance policies covering damage or theft to personal possessions. Those possessions almost always have to be physically on your property when the incident occurs. Most states don’t require a specific driver’s license to operate a golf cart on roads; therefore auto insurance policies rarely cover the carts.

Take time out and add your cart to your homeowner’s policy, and if that isn’t possible, get a specialty insurance policy. It doesn’t cost much and will give you peace of mind.


Civility is never lost on your fellow drivers, and most of the items I listed above are merely a common courtesy. There are special situations for everyone out there, but these are the tips that I think stand out the most.

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