Many people think the worst three words in golf are, "You're still away." This past weekend, on my Scottsdale Golf Vacation, I was reminded of three words that are even worse, "Cart Path Only."
In town to evaluate recent changes to some of Scottsdale's best golf courses, I had to weather cart-path-only restrictions at Grayhawk Golf Club and during one of two rounds at Troon North Golf Club.
While cart-path-only golf is better than no golf at all, it's kinda like driving on the shoulder of the autobahn. Takes a lot of the fun out of it, ya know? Anyway, here are some tips for dealing with the situation if you're confronted with it:
If possible, ditch the cart altogether and walk. The cart path may be the only place you're allowed to drive the cart, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're forced to use one in the first place. Ideally, a golf course will also have pull carts or caddies available. If not, lighten up your golf bag and put it on your back. Unfortunately, walking isn't an option at many courses, particularly the sprawling ones designed to sell real estate. But I don't know which is worse, courses where walking isn't an option, or ones where it is, but they have the audacity to charge you the cart fee anyway.
If you have to take a cart, take everything you might possibly need before walking to your ball. There is nothing worse than gathering your five-, six-, and seven-irons, trekking across to the far side of the fairway, then realizing you need your eight. The rule says you can't take your cart off the path, but there's nothing that says you can't temporarily take your bag off the cart. I'll often do just that, walk to my ball, play my shot, then walk the remainder of the hole with my bag over my shoulder. It's quicker, more fun, and I tend to play better when not running back-and-forth to the cart.
Take as few golf carts as possible. I often can't believe my eyes, but sometimes I'll see a foursome using three, or even four, golf carts. This is cart-path-only suicide, as it requires every player to return to the cart path after every shot. With fewer carts, the player closest to the cart path can drive the cart, and the player farthest from the cart path can walk the hole, which speeds up play.
Finally, simply avoid playing at golf courses with cart-path-only policies. Easier said than done, right? Not for readers of Golf Odyssey, our monthly, golf vacation intelligence newsletter. As part of our ultra-detailed and unbiased reviews, we make a point of warning readers about courses with cart-path-only policies.
Despite my recent Scottsdale golf vacation experience, I was pleased to learn that Troon North Golf Club has abandoned what had been a year-round cart-path-only policy (yes, even in the dead heat of the Arizona summer). A 90-degree rule is now generally in effect, other than when the course is being over-seeded or is experiencing damp conditions, as was the case this past weekend.