Golf carts are an integral part of the sport. If you’re playing golf, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself behind a steering wheel of one.
And it makes perfect sense, as golf courses are pretty huge and spread over a vast area of land, which could be tiresome and time consuming to travel by walking. This is why golf carts are becoming increasingly popular with the sport’s growth.
However, as golf is becoming more and more popular, many children and adolescents are also drawn towards it. There are now more juvenile golfers right than there ever were, and the number is expected to grow in the coming years.
This puts these younger golf players and their parents in an ethical conundrum. Should a young golfer be allowed to drive a golf cart? If yes, then what is the legal age a person should be to drive a golf cart.
The answer to both of these questions is a bit complicated and not so straightforward. Before answering them, it’s better that we create some context first. Let’s begin with answering what exactly defines a golf cart.
Definition of a Golf Cart
Different states have varying definitions of what constitutes a golf cart, and in some cases, they don’t explicitly define it. They simply classify golf carts under the general category of motor vehicles. However, the most common criteria for a golf cart across the country is as follows:
- It must operate on a golf course for recreational purposes
- It should be used to carry golf equipment.
- Carry a maximum of 2 persons. (up to 6 in some states)
- Has a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. (ranges between 15-35 miles per hour in most states)
- Must have at least three wheels in contact with the ground.
- Should have a maximum empty weight of 1300 pounds. (Up to 1800 pounds in some cases)
Furthermore, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a golf cart should have the following components:
- A mirror
- Tail lamps, reflectors, stop lights, and an emblem or placard for slow-moving vehicles
Do you need a license to drive a golf cart?
The short answer is yes, but it’s not that simple. In states where golf carts are not considered motor vehicles, you don’t need a license, registration, or insurance to drive them. However, these states will also not allow golf carts to be out on public roads.
In states that consider golf carts as motor vehicles and allow them on public roads, it is mandatory to have a license to drive a golf cart. By this logic, the minimum legal age to drive a golf cart would be the minimum age for a driving license in a particular state (typically between 16 and 18).
But then again, you will need a license if you want to drive the golf cart on public roads. If you choose to drive on private property such as a golf course or a clubhouse, the driver does not need to have a license.
States have different requirements for golf carts and the driving license, and other technicalities. For instance, if we consider North Carolina, any person above the age of 16 with a valid driver’s license can drive a golf cart on public roads. Also, the golf cart’s speed should not exceed 35 miles per hour.
Furthermore, if you wish to drive a golf cart in a private community that owns and maintains the roads within, then you’ll have to consult with the homeowner’s association. Different associations will have additional rules, and many of them allow children below the age of 16 to drive on their private roads.
Similarly, in California, a person cannot drive a golf cart on public roads unless they have a valid driver’s license. The golf cart should also be registered and must comply with all the regulations. However, no license or any other document is required to drive a golf cart on private property.
In Florida, however, golf carts can travel at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and must be driven on designated roads for them. The interesting thing here is that Florida doesn’t require golf carts to be registered or titled, and thus they don’t require insurance. Moreover, you can drive a golf cart without a license, given you are at least 14 years old.
So, in conclusion, the answer to the question “How old do you have to be to drive a golf cart?” is a bit complicated. It depends on the state and local laws and where do you want to drive the golf cart. In private properties, we can say that there is no legal requirement. However, when it comes to public roads, the minimum age is somewhere between 14 and 16.
Important factors to consider when letting your child drive a golf cart
Golf carts are classified as Low-Speed Vehicles (LSV) as they rarely go above 35 miles per hour. However, this low speed can be deceiving, as significant injuries can occur even at these speeds.
Moreover, we mentioned earlier there is no minimum requirement to drive a golf cart on private property like a golf course. Many parents take advantage of this fact and let their children who are below the legal driving age to drive a golf cart for practicing their driving skills.
If you don’t take some precautions, letting your child drive a golf cart can be extremely dangerous. Here are a few things you must keep in behind when you let a youngster drive a golf cart:-
- Never allow your child to drive the golf cart all on their own. If you must let your child drive, make sure that you are sitting beside them.
- Don’t let your child overspeed when they’re driving the golf cart.
- Warn them about driving into areas with rugged terrains.
- Never let your child drive a golf cart on public roads unless they have a valid driver’s license. This can cause legal troubles both for you and your child.
- Avoid teaching driving to your child on a golf cart. Golf carts might be slow-moving, but they’re not the ideal vehicle for learning driving.
- Golf carts generally don’t have seat belts, making them all the more dangerous for children.
- As golf carts don’t have windows and doors, the most common type of accidents involves getting thrown out of the cart.