How to Drive a Golf Cart? – Complete Guide

golf carts driving how to drive a golf cart

Although driving a golf cart is not rocket science, it is reassuring to learn how to drive one theoretically before attempting it yourself.

Despite the relatively low speeds reached by golf carts, there are still safety measures you should take into account to avoid risks of injury, or if you are unlucky, death.

Furthermore, driving a golf cart correctly will prevent you some earfuls from the golf course staff, because driving a golf cart incorrectly can damage the grass.

How to Drive a Golf Cart?

There are many things to know about driving a golf cart, on top of knowing how it mechanically functions.

On top of understanding how to operate a golf cart, you need to know golf cart driving requirements, as well as proper golf cart driving etiquette.

Furthermore, some places have age requirements for driving golf carts, as well as other guidelines you need to follow. You are not allowed to drive a golf cart everywhere on a golf course. You need to follow a general set of rules that is common to most golf courses and golf clubs.

Read down below to learn about all of these essential golf cart driving basics.

How to Drive a Golf Cart Forward?

Driving a golf cart forward is fairly simple, but you need to perform the steps below in the right order. All of the steps below are essential, so follow them closely.

Step 1: Put your seatbelt on after sitting in the golf cart

Golf carts can reach speeds of up to 25mph when they are stock, and as high as 45mph if they are modified to become street legal.

In case of an accident, a crash or a tipping over of the golf cart, these speeds are likely to lead to injury, or even worse, death.

To reduce the severity of the potential injuries from accidents, you need to put on your seatbelt, and make sure every passenger is wearing a seatbelt. A seatbelt will help keep you inside of the cart inside of being ejected outside of the cart in case of an accident.

Since golf carts do not typically have doors, it is extremely easy to fall out of them if you do not have a seatbelt on. Wear your seatbelt.

If your golf cart does not have a seatbelt, either install a seatbelt, or drive slower.

Step 2: Put the key in the ignition and turn it

Line your golf cart key with the ignition keyhole.

Insert the key into the keyhole by pushing into it.

Once the key reaches the end of the keyhole, turn it clockwise.

If your golf cart is powered by gas, the engine will turn on, and the cart will get loud.

If your golf cart is electric, you will hear either no sound, or very little sound. Despite the relative quietness, your electric golf cart will still be turned on.

Step 3: Put your Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial on the Forward setting

Locate your Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial. It will either have those words painted on it to identify it, or the letters F-N-R. It is possible that your golf cart does not have a neutral setting.

 The Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial should be located near your feet, at the bottom of the front seat of the golf cart.

To be able to drive forward, set the Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial to the “Forward” or “F” setting.

Step 4: Put your hands on the steering wheel

Make sure you have both of your hands on the steering wheel, as you would in a car. Having both hands on your steering wheel allows you to react quicker and with more responsiveness in case of an imminent accident.

Your left hand should be located somewhere between 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock on the steering wheel for adequate control.

Your right hand should be located somewhere between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel for adequate control.

Step 5: Look around to make sure the coast is clear

Before you start the golf cart, you need to make sure it is safe to drive, without obstruction.

Look around for other golf carts. If there are golf carts driving towards you quickly, or crossing you in a tight space, do not start the golf cart. Wait for the driving lane to be free to start the golf cart.

Also, look around for pedestrians, like adults, seniors, and especially children. Children do not yet have a good sense of danger, and when feeling hyper-active, they might accidentally jump in front of your golf cart.

Always wait until there is no more risk of accidents with pedestrians before driving a golf cart their way. Drive very slowly when pedestrians are near. If you are afraid of children or people accidentally moving in front of your golf cart, do not hesitate to call out to them to be careful!

When you have assessed that there are no safety risks to starting the golf cart, move to the next step.

Step 6: Press the gas pedal to disengage the parking brake

If you are starting the car from a parked position, the parking brake should be engaged. The parking break prevents the golf carts from sliding down a slope and causing an accident when it is not in operation.

To disengage the parking break, gently press the gas pedal with your right foot. The parking break should click and disengage after a little bit of pressure is applied to the gas pedal. Let go of the gas pedal as soon as the parking break is disengaged.

Keep your left foot to the left of the pedals.

Step 7: Keep your foot on the gas pedal to move forward

Take one more look around at your environment to make sure it is safe to start driving the golf cart.

If the coast is clear, simply gently press the gas pedal to start accelerating. Do not floor the gas pedal when you start up the golf cart. You generally do not need to floor a golf cart, and it is safer to drive at a moderate-to-low speed.

With two hands, turn your steering wheel as needed to determine the direction your golf cart is moving.

Step 8: When you are ready to stop, let go of the gas pedal, and slowly press the brake

Once you reach your destination, or need to stop to let people or other golf carts pass, you will want to break.

Many yards before reaching the point you wish to stop at, let go of your gas pedal, and gradually press on the brakes with your right foot to slow down until you stop.

If you press the break hard without slowly down first, you will experience whiplash, and run the risk of bumping your head against the golf cart or being ejected from the golf cart.

Furthermore, by breaking suddenly, you run the additional risk of not stopping the golf cart in time, which can result in accidental contact with people or other golf carts.

It is primordial that you always look around you to assess your environment and the potential safety hazards, to then react accordingly. Do not wait for accidents to happen, prevent them by looking at early telltale signs that an accident could happen.

Step 9: Press the parking brake pedal after the golf cart is motionless

Once the golf cart is fully stopped and ready to be parked, press the parking brake pedal.

After enough pressure, the parking brake will click in and be engaged.

It will then be safe to get out of the golf cart.

Step 10: Turn the key counter-clockwise and remove the key.

After the parking brake is engaged, simply turn the key counter-clockwise to turn off the golf cart.

Once the golf cart is turned off, remove the key, take off your seat belt, and leave the golf cart.

How to Drive a Golf Cart in Reverse?

Step 1: Put your seatbelt on after sitting in the golf cart

Golf carts can reach speeds of up to 25mph when they are stock, and as high as 45mph if they are modified to become street legal.

In case of an accident, a crash or a tipping over of the golf cart, these speeds are likely to lead to injury, or even worse, death.

To reduce the severity of the potential injuries from accidents, you need to put on your seatbelt, and make sure every passenger is wearing a seatbelt. A seatbelt will help keep you inside of the cart inside of being ejected outside of the cart in case of an accident.

Since golf carts do not typically have doors, it is extremely easy to fall out of them if you do not have a seatbelt on. Wear your seatbelt.

If your golf cart does not have a seatbelt, either install a seatbelt, or drive slower.

Step 2: Put the key in the ignition and turn it

Line your golf cart key with the ignition keyhole.

Insert the key into the keyhole by pushing into it.

Once the key reaches the end of the keyhole, turn it clockwise.

If your golf cart is powered by gas, the engine will turn on, and the cart will get loud.

If your golf cart is electric, you will hear either no sound, or very little sound. Despite the relative quietness, your electric golf cart will still be turned on.

Step 3: Put your Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial on the Reverse Setting

Locate your Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial. It will either have those words painted on it to identify it, or the letters F-N-R. It is possible that your golf cart does not have a neutral setting.

 The Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial should be located near your feet, at the bottom of the front seat of the golf cart.

To be able to drive backwards, set the Forward-Neutral-Reverse Dial to the “Reverse” or “R” setting.

Step 4: Put your hands on the steering wheel

Make sure you have both of your hands on the steering wheel, as you would in a car. Having both hands on your steering wheel allows you to react quicker and with more responsiveness in case of an imminent accident.

Your left hand should be located somewhere between 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock on the steering wheel for adequate control.

Your right hand should be located somewhere between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel for adequate control.

Step 5: Look around to make sure the coast is clear

Before you start the golf cart, you need to make sure it is safe to drive, without obstruction.

Look around for other golf carts. If there are golf carts driving towards you quickly, or crossing you in a tight space, do not start the golf cart. Wait for the driving lane to be free to start the golf cart.

Also, look around for pedestrians, like adults, seniors, and especially children. Children do not yet have a good sense of danger, and when feeling hyper-active, they might accidentally jump in front of your golf cart.

Always wait until there is no more risk of accidents with pedestrians before driving a golf cart their way. Drive very slowly when pedestrians are near. If you are afraid of children or people accidentally moving in front of your golf cart, do not hesitate to call out to them to be careful!

When you have assessed that there are no safety risks to starting the golf cart, move to the next step.

Step 6: Press the gas pedal to disengage the parking brake

If you are starting the car from a parked position, the parking brake should be enabled. The parking break prevents the golf carts from sliding down a slope and causing an accident when it is not in operation.

To disengage the parking break, gently press the gas pedal with your right foot. The parking break should click and disengage after a little bit of pressure is applied to the gas pedal. Let go of the gas pedal as soon as the parking break is disengaged.

Keep your left foot to the left of the pedals.

Step 7: Keep your foot on the gas pedal to move backwards

Take one more look around at your environment to make sure it is safe to start driving the golf cart.

If the coast is clear, simply gently press the gas pedal to start accelerating. Do not floor the gas pedal when you start up the golf cart. You generally do not need to floor a golf cart, and it is safer to drive at a moderate-to-low speed.

With two hands, turn your steering wheel as needed to determine the direction your golf cart is moving.

Step 8: When you are ready to stop, let go of the gas pedal, and slowly press the brake

Once you reach your destination, or need to stop to let people or other golf carts pass, you will want to break.

Many yards before reaching the point you wish to stop at, let go of your gas pedal, and gradually press on the brakes with your right foot to slow down until you stop.

If you press the break hard without slowly down first, you will experience whiplash, and run the risk of bumping your head against the golf cart or being ejected from the golf cart.

Furthermore, by breaking suddenly, you run the additional risk of not stopping the golf cart in time, which can result in accidental contact with people or other golf carts.

It is primordial that you always look around you to assess your environment and the potential safety hazards, to then react accordingly. Do not wait for accidents to happen, prevent them by looking at early telltale signs that an accident could happen.

Step 9: Press the parking brake pedal after the golf cart is motionless

Once the golf cart is fully stopped and ready to be parked, press the parking brake pedal.

After enough pressure, the parking brake will click in and be engaged.

It will then be safe to get out of the golf cart.

Step 10: Turn the key counter-clockwise and remove the key.

After the parking brake is engaged, simply turn the key counter-clockwise to turn off the golf cart.

Once the golf cart is turned off, remove the key, take off your seat belt, and leave the golf cart.

What are the requirements to drive a golf cart?

First of all, there is usually an age requirement to be allowed to drive a golf cart, depending on your region.

If you live in the US, you can read our article: How Old Do You Need To Be To Drive a Golf Cart in the US?. However, you must do your own research to make sure you have the correct information.

If you live in the UK, you can read our article: How Old Do You Need To Be To Drive a Golf Buggy in the UK?. However, you must do your own research to make sure you have the correct information.

If you live in a different country than those mentioned above, consult your local authorities for the age requirements to drive a golf cart.

In most places, you do not need a license or insurance to drive a golf cart on a golf course, but there are exceptions, so you must do research and ask your local authorities.

If you wish to drive a golf cart on public roads, you will definitely need a license, potentially insurance & registration, and you will likely need to make some modifications to your golf cart. If you have a non-street-legal golf cart, and wish to make it street legal, read our article: How To Make A Golf Cart Street Legal.

You absolutely should and need to inform yourself with local authorities and departments of transportation to confirm and get more information on the requirements to make a golf cart street legal.

Although there are general age requirements to drive golf carts on golf courses, there is a significant proportion of these golf courses that have additional, more strict rules. Some golf courses will not let anyone under the age of 14 drive a golf cart.

To avoid being kicked out of your golf course, make sure you understand the local rules, and ask as many questions as needed.

What is Proper Golf Cart Driving Etiquette?

Stay on the Driving Paths

When it comes to driving golf carts on golf courses, you actually are not allowed to drive wherever you want. Contrary to what non-initiated golf players believe, there is actually a considerable amount of walking required whether you have a golf cart or not.

golf cart driving path - golf cart driving etiquette - golf etiquette
Example of a driving path for golf carts

Most golf courses will have a “driving path” that you must follow when driving your golf cart. Essentially, the driving path is a corridor, often cemented, that allows for efficient flow of golf carts while limiting disturbances to the grass, and to players on the golf holes.

Sometimes, driving paths are not wide enough to allow golf carts cross each other in different directions. In this case, it is acceptable to drive a little off the driving path until both golf carts have crossed.

When you are going to go play a golf hole, you can and usually should park on the driving path. If another golf cart wants to pass, it will drive around your golf cart.

Follow the Direction Signs

On the driving paths, there are usually signs that show you in which direction you should be driving. Follow the driving directions intended by the golf course to help with driving flow and avoid traffic.

golf cart direction sign
Example of a golf cart direction sign

Driving in the wrong direction could get you warnings from the golf course staff, and even worse, kicked out.

Follow the 90 Degrees Rule

On most golf courses, you need to follow the 90 degrees rule. The 90 degrees rule basically stipulates that you can only drive onto a golf hole’s grass from the side, driving perpendicularly into it.

To get a more visual idea of the 90 degrees rule, look at our infographic illustrated down below:

90 Degrees Rule for Golf Carts
90 Degrees Rule for Golf Carts

If you are going to drive off the driving path or rough terrain and onto the golf hole, you need to do so from the lateral side of the golf hole. You can only enter the golf hole fairway at 90 degrees, in straight lines.

This rule is meant to avoid chaotic driving onto the fairways, and to minimize accidents.

Do Not Drive on the Greens or Tees

Golf greens, located near the holes, and tees, located at the start of a hole, get proper care from the golf course staff because they are crucial areas in the game of golf.

To keep golf player satisfaction high, the golf greens and tees need to be in decent-to-good condition. Unfortunately, driving golf carts onto tees and greens can damage the greens and tees, so it is highly discouraged, and often prohibited.

If you drive onto a golf green or tee on a golf course where it is prohibited, you run a very high chance of getting immediately kicked out.

Avoid Hazardous or Closed Off Areas

Some areas on golf courses may be explicitly closed off for many reasons; you are NOT permitted to drive on those areas.

Reasons for course sections being closed off include eliminating access to give grass time to grow back, or to keep players away from dangerous areas (deep water, cliffs, quicksand, etc).

Furthermore, although not necessarily closed off, there are areas of the golf course that you must avoid. These areas include wet grass sections because the weight of the golf cart can damage them, and the golf cart can get stuck.

It will be embarrassing to call the golf course staff to get a tow truck for you, and you will most likely have ruined your game day.

Additional Safety Guidelines

When driving a golf cart, there are many additional considerations to take into account to maximize your safety and that of others.

Passenger Behavior & Seating

First of all, only the person in the driver’s seat should be allowed to operate the golf cart.

While the golf cart is moving, everyone needs to remain seated, ideally, with a seatbelt fastened securely. To maximize safety, there should only be one person sitting on each seat at most.

Everyone in the golf cart needs to keep their arms, hands, legs & head inside the golf cart at all times. There are obstacles outside of the golf cart that can hit the passengers and cause severe injury, such as trees, stakes, other golf carts, people, etc.

Obstacles

Do not drive under low-hanging branches or trees because they might whip the driver or the passengers. Getting whipped can cause serious injuries when you are travelling at 20+mph.

Be mindful of other obstacles such as tree trunks, brick walls, and more.

Driving & Turning

When it comes to driving, do not abruptly turn or stop the golf cart.

Always reduce speed when approaching sharp turns, or you will risk tipping over the golf cart and injuring everyone in the golf cart.

In wet conditions, or rough terrain, drive more slowly than in dry conditions.

Finally, do not drive a golf cart if you are sleep deprived, drunk, or intoxicated. You would be putting your safety, and the safety of everyone else on site, at significant risk.

Be Mindful of Slopes

When driving up or down slopes, always drive slowly, and perpendicularly to them. Do not drive up or down slopes at angles or crossways because that is a very unstable way to drive. The golf cart can easily tip over and cause the passengers severe injuries.

Never drive on slopes with 20° inclines or even steeper inclines. You do not need to use a protractor to measure the slopes before driving on them, but be smart and exercise judgment.

Conclusion

After reading this article, you have learned how to drive a golf cart both in forward and in reverse settings. You also now understand the requirements to drive a golf cart, golf cart driving etiquette on a golf course, and other safety precautions to take.

Thanks to this guide, you will know exactly what to do next time you rent or drive a golf cart, and fit right in with the more experienced golf cart users. Follow all the tips in this article, and your experience will be as smooth as possible, fun, and accident-free.

Have you driven a golf cart before? Been a lifelong passenger ready to hop behind the driver seat? Let us know in the comments down below!