Golf Cart Hot Rods
Almost everyone who can remember being a teenager (more often men, I think) can remember an episode or two of inappropriate binges behind the wheel. For those of us who have more modest memories, we can still remember friends who were, by our standards, off the charts. In my case, I can still wake up with a shudder, counting fingers and toes decades later.
Then, it started happening at the golf course, with my father, who retired with my mother to Green Valley, Arizona, where golf carts become the family sedan. They require stickers and can only run on roads of 35 mph or less, but DMV just didnâ€™t know what they were in for with dad.Â I donâ€™t know where he found it, but that thing (beside looking cool) was freeway-worthy, and I remember trips to the store after a round of 18 with heart in mouth, pinned against the seat by a new level of gravity. Lucky for all of us, dad aged slowly, still had pretty good reflexes in retirement and was sensitive to school crossings and other civic necessities. But the poor road runners, javalinas and coyotes â€“ they never had a chance.
I should have been prepared for it. During graduate school days, I played a fun course in Pennsylvania with a member of the staff. I knew the guy, but was unaware that A.J. Foyt was his alter ego, and that war whoops were his calling card, especially on steep downhills. Even on the fairway, he would take the overland route to the ball, ridge-running a la Indiana Jones stopping the Mercedes truck along the three- thousand foot drop. Thank goodness he was coordinated, or I would never have lived to have a deep voice. The worst of it was that the fool contraption only had three wheels! Now, I ask you, who in his right mind purchases a fleet of three-wheeled golf carts for his mountain course, then hires this guy to manage them? In retrospect, I have to admit that it was fun, but in the moment? I saw parts of America that I hope never to see again.
I was unaware until recently that the accidents incurred by golf cart drivers is legion on the North American continent. Theyâ€™re running down large household pets, hanging from trees and sitting at the bottom of pools, natural and otherwise. They are changing the shape of course hazards, scaring the wildlife to death and forging unholy alliances between fellow speed freaks, not to mention that those little buggies are expensive!
And thereâ€™s a new generation of golf carts coming that we of the last era will barely recognize. In fact, I stopped in to daydream at a new Tesla this week, and realized that it looked very much like some of the new carts on the fancier courses in this part of the country. All well and good, but that one with the curved roof that looks so svelt, streamlined and Jetsonish? Study it â€“ it has three wheels! Three wheels! If my friend in Pennsylvania had been driving one of those, weâ€™d still be in prison thirty years later.
Westerners just have the unfortunate knack of taking what is supposed to be a peripheral tool for the dayâ€™s occasion, and turning it into an obsession. This isnâ€™t Gary Player wearing black or Paula Creamer showing off pink panther golf covers. This is serious. Â These are machines that are coming dangerously close to being able to elude policeâ€¦or at least course marshals.
From now on, Iâ€™m doing a character and criminal check on the people taking the wheel next to me on that first par five with a lake on one side and a chasm on the other. Iâ€™m not going to get into this madnessâ€¦although I have begun to wonder what kind of mileage the new ones get, and whether the sticker might be cheaper than registering and licensing the car â€“ ok, just kidding.