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The History of The Golf Cart

Tee It Forward
March 14, 2015
Golf’s Vernacular
February 17, 2016

The History of The Golf Cart

This coming season, at both Candia Woods and The Oaks, we will be introducing a brand new fleet of golf cars.

Coming up with the best fit for our courses was a year-long process including:  determining which manufacturer is offering the best product, which model will provide the best experience for our golfers, which custom features will be most beneficial to our members/guests, which color will be the most appealing and (most importantly) which 2016 model golf car has the most advanced safety features.

We listened to presentations from all of the top suppliers, tested demos at our courses and had our mechanics go through every aspect of performance and safety on each of the demo cars.

All of which resulted two things:
1) A decision on the cars that will be featured at Candia Woods and The Oaks.
CLICK HERE to see all of the fantastic features in our NEW EZ-Go RXV fleets.
2) Made me think how advanced golf cars have become in the 5 years since we purchased our last fleets.
        It prompted me to do the research and write the golf ezine story below… I think you’ll find it interesting.

The History of the Golf Car

It seems that it was the early 1930’s when custom built motorized vehicles made their first appearance on America’s golf courses.  These early golf cars were custom built with small gas motors.

At the time, no self respecting, healthy golfer would consider a round of golf riding from shot to shot in an awkward looking, noisy vehicle.  The only market for the first golf cars were golfers with disabilities; those who could no longer walk the course.

With such a limited market the designs, performance and features of these early golf cars were, at best rudimentary… and they carried a hefty price tag.

Interestingly, it was gas rationing during World War II which was the real genesis for what we know today as the quiet electric powered machine that is the hallmark of the 21st century golf car industry.
With extreme limitations on gas a man named Merle Williams of Long Beach, California decided to help his wife get around town with a gas less vehicle.

Williams, an engineer who worked for a large firm, had become one of the country’s most knowledgeable on electric powered motor vehicles.  He took his work knowledge to his own garage and, in his spare time, built an electric powered car for his wife.

As people began to see his Mrs. Williams driving a soundless vehicle they bombarded her with questions about where they could purchase such a car.  Merle Williams decided to start his own business.

The Marketeer company was born with an initial focus on the development of compact electric cars.  But, as soon as he got his new company underway, Williams realized that there was also a market for indoor transport vehicles that did not produce dangerous emissions.

To support the war effort, super large warehouses and factories had been built throughout the country… vehicles were needed to move materials and people indoors.

Instant economic success for Marketeer came with a line of electric industrial vehicles.

With economic security, and the end of the war, Williams and his wife Peggy turned their attention to their favorite past time – golf.   And, as you might imagine to be his next logical move, changed the focus of the business to developing an electric powered motorized golf car.

In 1951, after moving their manufacturing facility to Redlands, California, Williams introduced the first production model electric motorized golf vehicle… The Marketeer golf car became the first on the market.

Distributed mostly in the western part of the US, the new product had good early consumer acceptance.  And, as is frequently the case with the successful launch of a new product, it wasn’t long before competitors entered the market place.

In 1954 E-Z Go introduced their first of many motorized golf cars  –  followed in 1955 by Cushman, Club Car in 1958, Taylor-Dunn in 1961, Harley-Davidson in 1963, and Yamaha in 1971.

Unfortunately; the early battery systems (even the Marketeer) were not, at the time efficient enough for golf course use.  They would only accept a charge for 18-holes, worked only on relatively flat terrain and had a very short life.

To resolve the shortcomings of these first electric golf cars manufacturers began to develop gas engines that would go 36 in a day, had no difficulties with hilly terrain and extended the life of the car.  But, these gas motors had (and continue to have) one big drawback on a golf course… they make a lot of noise.

In fact, the noise produced by these more efficient gas golf cars was so much an undesirable factor, research and development of batteries more fitting to use in golf cars continued.
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As research/development was ongoing to improve battery functionality for golf course use, other design features went through a great deal of evolution.

In the adjacent photo of the 1965 Westinghouse/Musketeer you see steering by a tiller bar and only three wheels… very unsteady on hilly terrain.

By the 1970’s virtually all golf cars featured four wheels and conventional car type steering.  But, because battery research had yet to develop a product sufficient to overcome the lack of efficiency, electric powered cars were relegated to courses with flat terrain

By the 1990’s the demand for golf cars became so substantial that major conglomerates began to purchase the successful manufacturers. Textron corporation acquired E-Z-Go and Ingersoll-Rand bought Club Car.  More resources became dedicated to developing batteries to efficiently power the more desirable electric golf car.

Electric powered cars have now become the highest standard in the industry.  There is no better experience than riding in a well built electric powered golf car.  We made the switch from gas powered to electric powered cars more than 15 years ago… we’ll never return.

But, as we learned throughout the year long process of selecting new cars, improvements continue to astound us.

Engineers have designed ergonomically friendly seats, new roof lines provide maximum protection from the sun’s UV rays and rain, windshields protect the riders from the elements without encumbering sight lines, the breaking systems have been developed to allow for easy stopping and automatic locking and bag compartments are sized to accommodate easy access to each player’s clubs.

This spring, when you come out to play The Oaks and Candia Woods, you’ll be riding in our new E-Z Go RXV model golf cars… all equipped with two USB ports for your use to power up any hand held device!

With your I-Phone charging, and opened to a GPS app providing you exact yardage on every shot… give some thought to the three wheel, tiller bar Marketeer pictured above!

I wonder if Merle and Peggy Williams could have imagined the golf car of today?

If you haven’t yet done so – CLICK HERE to see all of the incredible features and options you’ll enjoy in our new golf car fleets.

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