How to Deal with Cart-Path-Only Policies on Your Next Golf Vacation

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.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
Commented on

As a superintendent I think this article is terrible. Carts are extremely damaging to turf. The game was meant to be walked..God forbid you have to walk a little to grab your "eight iron" . You probably could afford to lose a few lbs anyway.

Commented on

Seriously - golf is a game for walkers - get of your lazy hind end and walk to your ball. Is this the way America now works - if you can't drive out to your ball, you are not playing! Grow up - and walk a few paces - it may be good for you.

Commented on

Please check out this short movie showing the advantages of playing cart path only and 90 degree rules using the Cassoni Detachable Golf cart; the best solution to speed play.

Commented on

Wow! Thanks for the tip! I'll think twice before booking tee times in Scottsdale next time. That's what I love about Golf Odyssey and GVI. You guys are always ahead of the curve and always looking out for your subscribers! Hats off to you!!!

Commented on

I wish that were the case. A number of the courses impose "cart path only" restrictions beyond the over-seeding which usually occurs around October. For example, Grayhawk is "cart path only" throughout the winter months and until very recently, Troon North was cart path only all year round.

Commented on

Your comment regarding the worst three words in golf is very accurate! Fortunately, for most courses, I think you will find that the "cart path only" policy in Scottsdale is only in effect when the courses are overseeding the fairways, and that you can drive the courses most of the year. Unfortunately, it seems like they all overseed at the exact same time so if you have some flexibility in scheduling your trip, you might want to check with the courses first before making your plans.

Commented on

Point well taken. I certainly didn't mean to imply that I would shoulder my playing partner with the cart for 18 holes! Typically, we share the burden with the person closest to the cart path keeping the cart and the player farthest away hauling their bag. Frankly, being far from the cart path is usually burden enough. :)

Commented on

Your comment about how you take your bag off the cart and walk the rest of the hole is actually very rude to your playing partner and may actually slow down the pace of the round. Your playing partner in now responsible for moving the cart up the path toward the hole by themselves. They now may have to run back and forth between their ball and the cart a few times - especially if they are not scratch golfers and mis-hit a shot or two. While you may play better -- I sure your cart buddy isn't! My feeling is that unless both players are equal in golf ability, having both players moving the cart up the path in a leap-frog manner is probably the quickest way to play the round.

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How to Deal with Cart-Path-Only Policies on Your Next Golf Vacation