The game of golf has a long history as a game played on foot. Traditionally, caddies were there to help players with their clubs as they walked the course’s length, and golf carts only came onto the scene relatively recently, with the first one popping up in the 1930s.
By the 1960s, they became a more prevalent option, and nowadays, they can be found on practically every course.
When a golfer chooses between walking or riding, he is choosing between an active day with time for reflection versus a day of comfort and social opportunity. Walking allows a golfer to be fully present as they enjoy the day on the course while riding will offer social and environmental comforts.
In the rest of this article, we will look at five pros and cons for riding and walking.
Both are good options depending on your personality and the conditions of the day, and by the end of this article, you will be able to make a more informed decision about how you want to play your next round of golf.
Pros of Riding Golf Carts
As golf has changed in the last decades, there has been a rise in the popularity of carts. Nowadays, these can be powered by electricity or gas and can even come equipped with smart technology.
They can be quite a lot of fun to drive, and some golfers wouldn’t hit the links without them. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of taking a cart out on the course.
Good for Seniors & Those Struggling With Mobility
As a sport with an aging population, the cart has provided a way for the older players to continue to participate in their favorite pastime.
For someone who is no longer able to carry a bag and enjoyably walk for several miles over the course of a day, a cart makes the game possible and pleasurable for all.
This benefit isn’t just restricted to the senior players. Anyone facing a mobility issue, whether it be temporary or chronic, can use a cart and move around the course with ease.
Even for someone in great shape, if they are not in the mood to walk the course’s length on any giving day, they can always opt to take a cart and enjoy its comfort and speed.
In this sense, the cart is an equalizer that allows more people to participate in the game of golf. Long walks and uphill stretches that once would have kept players at home are no longer a problem if using a cart.
This can make a day out on the course more appealing for many potential players.
Makes Challenging Courses Accessible
There are many reasons that a course may not be very accessible on foot. One example of this is housing development courses that have been designed in recent years.
These courses, which feature unusual layouts as they include housing on the same premises, can often be much larger than the average course with much longer distances to walk in between holes. Cart use makes this type of course feasible.
Due to the nature of evolution in golf course design, even traditional courses can feature parts of the course that are a bit more of a struggle for someone on foot.
Many courses initially only built the front nine holes, with the idea that golfers would simply play the same nine holes two times. However, as it became preferred to play 18 unique holes, many golf courses added a separate back 9.
For this reason, the back nine on a particular course can perhaps be hillier or less walkable than the front 9. Using a cart allows you to take on any course without wondering about what natural features might be there to slow you down as the game goes on.
There is a wide range of comforts that modern golf carts can offer the players. First, they are a secure storage area for any miscellaneous items you bring with you on the course.
If you’ve got an extra golf glove, your phone, wallet, cigarettes, or whatever it may be, you have a designated storage spot on your cart that won’t weigh you down as you’re moving around the course.
Not only can you bring extra layers or rain equipment depending on the weather conditions, but you will also have protection from the elements in the cart itself. Most carts these days are well weatherized and will keep you dry and even warm.
There are such things as “smart carts” available on some courses these days as well. As an innovation that first came from the resort course world, many carts will feature a GPS that gives important information about the course.
It has taken on the role of a caddy in many ways, such as providing yardage and hazard details to the golfer. This can be a real advantage if you are not a regular on a particular course.
Additionally, by partaking in the comfort of the cart, you are saving your energy for when it counts. You are able to give your full energy and attention to your swing and won’t feel the fatigue of being on your feet all day when you reach the last few holes.
Speed Up Play
As golf courses struggle with the number of rounds being played decreasing over time, one way for players to get more rounds in on a time constraint is by using a cart.
If you are playing with friends but time is still of the essence, you can drop your buddy off directly at his ball and proceed to your own.
Simply put, a cart goes faster than someone on foot. By incorporating a cart into your game, you might be able to play a bit more in the same amount of time as if you were on foot.
This, of course, is a win for the golf course as well. As a business interested in making money, they are interested in their customer playing as much as possible. Golf carts could potentially turn a day of 9 holes into more.
Socializing in the Cart
Of course, one of the greatest perks of using a cart when out golfing with friends is the sense of adventure and time spent together in the cart.
In a foursome, the group usually breaks into pairs, and each will take a cart. With your cart buddy, you can swap stories and spend more time together as you cruise from hole to hole.
Another aspect of socializing in the cart is the ability to eat and drink on the go. You are easily able to bring some food along with you or perhaps some cold beverages.
Even if you didn’t pack anything from home, often there will be someone circulating on the course selling food and drink to golfers. Being able to use the cupholders and take a break on the course with your friends is a very appealing aspect of using the cart.
If you are more motivated by enjoying the day of golf as an outing than as a serious opportunity to improve your golf game, the cart definitely facilitates this type of play.
Cons of Riding Golf Carts
Now that we know the joy that comes with choosing to rent a cart let’s take a look at some of the downsides that come with it as well.
Rainy Days & Cart Path Play
Just because you rented a cart does not mean that you are unrestricted in your ability to move around the course. On bright, sunny days when the ground is firm, you can drive right up to your ball, usually without restrictions.
However, in winter or on a rainy day, when the grass is damp and can be damaged, you will be restricted from driving on the cart path. This limits your ability to get close to your ball.
You will still find yourself walking quite a bit, moving from your cart on the path to wherever your ball has ended up. This can involve long distances or even hills.
For some golfers who do enjoy the cart, the “cart path only” days can be a dealbreaker for them. The enjoyment can decrease as the day involves a lot more hopping in and out of the cart.
Also, walking for long stretches back and forth from where the ball landed and where the cart was allowed to be parked.
No Access to Your Bag
Another drawback of cart play is the fact that your bag is in the cart. This is typically not a big deal if you are able to drive right up to where you are going to hit from.
That way, you still have complete access to all of your clubs as you choose which is best for your shot. However, if it’s a “cart path only” day, your bag will be too far away from you to make changes in your selected club comfortably.
This goes for any other equipment or accessories that you have left in the cart as well. Again, this is usually positive to store everything in a safe place, but on “cart path only” days, it can be quite a hindrance.
Noise and Disruption
If the course you are playing uses electric carts, these will typically be much quieter and less distracting than some gas-powered models. Using a gas cart can be a bit noisy and potentially disturbing to others playing the course in quiet.
This goes for the behavior in the cart as well. It can be a little too easy to be enjoying the time with your golf buddy and perhaps be a bit rowdier than usual.
It’s possible you have a few beers open in your cup holders, which can also impact the volume you are interacting at. Be courteous to the others you are sharing the course with if you feel this applies to you.
Departure From Tradition
Some view the use of carts as an unnecessary modernization in the game of golf that takes it further away from its origins. Caddies were the traditional way of bringing your clubs around with you in a comfortable way.
Some that take a more purist view of golf see the use of carts as an unfortunate departure from the caddy tradition.
As electric carts become more popular, it is more and more likely that you can use a cart without contributing to pollution and greenhouse gases.
As many of us think about our own carbon footprint, we may not be able to justify using a cart that is emitting harmful pollutants as we take part in a leisure activity.
Gas carts do have a negative impact on the environment. If gas carts are your only choice at your preferred golf course, consider mixing it up and walking the course on occasion to lessen your negative environmental impact.
Pros of Walking the Course
If you are a more introspective golfer and prefer to be in touch with your surroundings, you may prefer the more traditional approach to the game.
That involves walking the course with your bag over your shoulder or on a pushcart by your side. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of this type of approach.
Observation of Conditions
When you walk the course, you will have many more opportunities to observe the conditions around you. You will be able to feel the wind more easily, feel how hard or soft the ground is, how the grass feels as well as other elements that will impact your golf game.
Not only is this advantageous for your golf game itself, but it is also a pleasurable experience to be present in nature and really be aware of the moment. Many golf courses are home to beautiful nature and wildlife.
By moving with awareness, you never know what you will catch a glimpse of– seeing a deer or a wild turkey darting around on the course might make the day even more special.
Time to Reflect and Stay Focused on Your Game
As you walk from shot to shot, you have more time to reflect on the shots you have just hit and what you will do next. Having this time, especially if walking alone or calmly with someone else, allows you to be a more reflective player and, ultimately, an improved, more self-aware golfer.
Additionally, walking in between holes is not just a great reflection time but also keeps your body warm and loose. By jumping in the cart and waiting in between shots, your muscles have a chance to cool down and tighten up.
By engaging in constant movement throughout the day, you are keeping your body ready to swing in its greatest range of motion.
Always Have Your Bag With You
Especially if it would be a “cart path only” day, one great advantage to walking is that you will always have your bag with you. This means that you have full access to your clubs at all times.
No matter which club you will need for any particular shot, you will never feel like you could have done better if you just had your bag with you.
You will not experience the regret of choosing the wrong club and leaving a better option in the cart parked on the cart path. You will be able to be present at the moment and respond to each challenge with all of your tools available to you.
Long Walk at Pleasurable Pace
If golfing for 18 holes, it is quite typical that you will be walking three to six miles. However, this is leisurely spaced out over three or four hours.
This means that you will still be able to get your steps in without doing so all at once. By breaking up the distance over the course of the game, you will be able to enjoy your walk without wondering when it will end.
Additionally, getting in three to six miles of walking is great for health. If you are looking to be more active or at least balance out the beers you plan on drinking back at the clubhouse; walking is a great way to make golf an active and healthy sport.
Everyone Goes Directly to Their Ball
Walking can make the game have a more independent feel. If golfing with others, you are able to walk some stretches together, but everyone can naturally break off whenever they get closer to their ball.
This is great if you are more concerned with your golf game as opposed to socialization. Walking helps facilitate a more focused game of golf.
Cons of Walking the Course
However, when it comes to comfort, socializing, and fatigue, walking is not always the best option. Let’s take a look at how walking the course can have its downsides as well.
This depends on the people involved, but typically riding in a cart, sharing a drink and a snack with your golf buddy, is the more social activity.
It is possible to have a fun time walking with your golf buddy as well, but you both must be excited about the idea of walking the course together in order for it to be a good day out.
You won’t enjoy the walk as much if your golf partner struggles with it or is complaining about it.
Walking is a good choice for a more introverted, reflective golfer, or a small group excited to walk the course together and share that particular experience.
It might be a better choice for a couple looking forward to the walk together as much as the game itself.
Exposure to the Elements
While a cart can keep you dry if it starts to rain or keep you protected, if the wind starts blowing hard, you will be without this protection if walking the course.
It will be up to you to prepare for the weather conditions, which may involve bringing a raincoat or extra layers.
This also means that you will not be able to extend the golf season the way players can who take carts.
Golf carts have been able to stretch out the golfing season by providing extra shelter and protection from the harsher weather at the end of the fall season and the beginning of the spring season.
If you choose to walk, you will be doing so in the more traditionally accepted golf season.
Weight of Bag & Supplies
Now that you’re all packed up with a raincoat, extra layers of clothes, and whatever supplies you think are best for the weather forecast, you’ve got to carry these around with you for 18 holes.
This is certainly a drawback of walking, is that you are physically responsible for the weight of your bag and anything else you are looking to carry with you.
However, that might be misleading because many golfers who walk will opt for a pushcart.
This essentially puts your golf bag on wheels and lets you bring your cart along with you as you walk the course. This keeps the heavy weight of your clubs and supplies off of your back and shoulders.
Of course, nothing is stopping you if you prefer to carry your clubs on your back.
If you are in good physical shape and are up for the challenge, you can certainly walk the course in this way as well.
This will give you a chance to build strength as well as keep all your supplies by your side.
Comfortable Golf Shoes Needed
If you are planning on walking the course, you will need to make sure your shoes are up for the task.
Getting tired over the course of the day can have a negative effect on your golf game, so making sure your feet are cared for and aren’t prone to extra fatigue is necessary if you want to get the most out of your time on the course.
You can make sure you choose a waterproof golf shoe to keep your feet dry as you walk through the fresh morning dew.
There are also many athletic styles of golf shoes available nowadays, so you should not have a problem finding something that gives you the comfort of an athletic sneaker for walking long distances.
The last thing you would want is your choice between walking or carting to cause an impact on your game.
If you are not prepared with good footwear on a particular day, it might be a better choice to grab a cart for that particular round.
That way you will not suffer the extra fatigue that the wrong shoes can cause you to feel.
Requires Physical Ability
For some reading this, walking the whole course simply isn’t an option.
That much walking might be beyond your physical abilities at this current moment. Whether it be recovering from surgery or dealing with a chronic injury, walking the whole course simply is not available to everyone.
This is certainly a downside if it applies to you.
Other Tips When Deciding Whether to Walk or Cart
Now that we know what makes walking or riding a good choice depending on preference and conditions let’s look at some other tips for making this choice.
First, you do not have to make a choice and stick to it for your life as a golfer. Of course, you can always shift back and forth between these two styles, even in the same game.
A golfer can walk the front nine and choose to rent a cart for the back nine. One day, when you are out with your friends, you may choose a cart while the next time you will decide to walk.
Both options are available to you, depending on your mood, needs, and conditions.
Also, it is not unheard of for one golfer in a group to choose to walk while his friends take the cart. If this golfer is in good shape and can make good time on his feet, there should not be a big disruption in the pace of play.
Finally, remember that renting a cart costs money. If you dream of spending your pocket cash on some new golf equipment, consider forgoing the cart for a few rounds and walking instead.
This can help you redirect your golf budget to a different purchase and add some new equipment to your collection.
There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should walk or take a cart. It is a matter of personal preference, and this preference is likely to change depending on the weather, the social environment, and daily energy levels.
If you’re looking to be active and burn some extra calories out on the course, walking is a great option. If you prefer to save your energy for the golf game itself, jump in a cart. Simply remember to check in with yourself and see what you are feeling like on that particular day.