Cartaholics Golf Cart Forum In the Wall Street Journal


Cartaholics Golf Cart Forum In the Wall Street Journal:

Courtesy of PR Newswire Complimentary Monitoring

WSJ(3/6) Wanna Drag? Now Golf Carts Are In The Race
[ Dow Jones & Company, Inc. · 2007-03-05 ]

By Jennifer Levitz


GLAMIS, Calif. -- Twilight fell at the Imperial Sand Dunes in the southeast corner of California as a Saturday drag-racing ritual began. A boisterous band of off-road-vehicle enthusiasts lined a sand track 100 yards wide and half a mile long. Like a scene from "Mad Max," black dune buggies roared by in a cloud of dust while dirt bikers in full Evel Knievel regalia popped wheelies.

Frank Gatlin, a middle-aged International Business Machines Corp. technician from Flower Mound, Texas, idled at the starting line in his golf cart, feeling anxious.

"He looks like a little peanut out there," said his wife, Carol.

But Mr. Gatlin, a bear of a man with a bushy mustache and baseball cap, races no ordinary golf cart. In an odd hybrid of golf and off-road racing, he and other inventive types across the country are transforming golf carts built for the fairway into mud-splattering machines. To the bafflement of cart manufacturers and some off-road fanatics, these souped-up carts drag-race in Kansas and Kentucky, and challenge mightier off-road vehicles in dunes from California to Oregon.

Mr. Gatlin's purple, chrome-trimmed cart is raised for clearance on big 27- inch tires rimmed for sand. In the rear of the cart, where golf clubs belong, he has a "wheelie bar" to hold his cart steady in case he wants to rear up on his hind wheels. His motor is a cement-mixer motor. At the drag race here, Mr. Gatlin challenged two larger, all-terrain vehicles, the first time he has competed against anything other than golf carts. It took him just a few seconds to reach 47 miles per hour. That's more than three times the speed most golf carts will travel. To the delight of a friendly crowd of hundreds, his cart, which is named Plum Crazy, grabbed the lead and kept it -- to win the race.

There was no trophy, just glory. Back at his camper, he celebrated his win with a Coors Light and a screening of the race video, which he watched four times. "At half track," he said, "I saw people starting to point, and I heard some guy say, 'Hey, that's a golf cart.'" He added, "I went ahead and opened her up."

Dwight Dolliver, a 63-year-old project manager for an elevator company in McKinney, Texas, put a snowmobile engine in his cart, which he calls The Beast. His family calls him something else. "My grown kids think I'm nuts . . . and I may be," he says.

Yet Mr. Dolliver won the golf-cart drag race in September at the Kansas City International Raceway. "It allows me to be a kid again, spend money on something useless, and have a good time with friends," says Mr. Dolliver.

The second annual "Buggy Bonanza" last June drew 70 carts to Richmond, Ky. In October, Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., held its second annual "show and shine event" to judge the best wheelie on a golf cart.

Several Internet sites, including, have sprung up for chatty golf-cart racers. On one,, someone whose screen name is Megakart wrote about living in Florida where, he regretted to say, most golf carts are used on golf courses.

Some critics wish golf carts would putter back to the clubhouse., an online site for the off-road crowd, calls the "new tricked out" golf carts the "worst trend on the dunes." Travis Kiger, the 27-year-old editor of Dirtopia, says carts are "not for serious athletic off-roaders. They're for driving guys in funny pants around the golf course."

Cart racing "is an extreme sport," counters Don Merrifield, an Arizona man with a white handlebar mustache who, with his son Troy, runs CartWheelin', a glossy bimonthly magazine that caters to golf-cart enthusiasts. The magazine grew from 48 to 96 pages last year. It offers stories on golf-cart events, and tips on how to toughen up a cart. It carries advertisements from companies that sell kits for retrofitting golf carts. One of them, Buggies Unlimited, of Richmond, Ky., promises to "put macho in your golf cart."

Golf-cart racing traces its roots to the drag-racing circuit for cars. Pit crews use carts to tow performance cars to the line to avoid using up fuel. At some point, one golf-cart driver said to another, "'My golf cart is faster than yours.' And away they went," says Billy Robbins, marketing vice president of Buggies Unlimited. Most golf carts race on straight courses because "golf carts aren't conducive to whipping around corners," he says.

Used golf carts cost roughly $2,000, about a fourth the price of an all- terrain vehicle. Upgrades can cost an additional $5,000. Electric golf-carts on the off-road circuit run on 96-volt batteries instead of a cart's typical 36 or 38 volts. Other carts rely on gasoline motorcycle engines, saw engines, and lawn-mower engines. Beyond more power, super carts also need lift for clearance, fat tires, and tougher suspension. Speeds of up to 70 mph are rumored.

The most popular golf carts for extreme makeovers are manufactured by the two big U.S. cart makers, Club Car, a unit of Ingersoll-Rand Co., of Bermuda, and E- Z-GO, a division of Textron Inc., the Providence, R.I., conglomerate. The companies lease carts to golf courses for three to five years and then drop them into the aftermarket, where the carts are typically snapped up, particularly by retirement communities.

John L. Garrison, president of E-Z-GO, lapsed into a long silence when told about his carts flying over dunes and through mud. "It's a golf cart that they've turned into a monster golf cart," he says. "I've got to be honest, we're not proponents of that. . . . We're fond of saying, a golf cart is a great vehicle, but it's not a toy."

Indeed, these carts face bigger hazards than sand traps. Andy Fisher, a 46- year-old fuel handler at Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C., stuck a $500 lawn-mower engine in his 1990 E-Z-GO cart. He says, "When it hit 50, the motor exploded on me. My wife was not very happy." Then, recently, his cart broke down when he did a wheelie in the parking lot in front of a golf-equipment shop. "I was showing off," he says.

Mr. Gatlin got into the hobby when he bought a golf cart for cruising around campgrounds. He started tinkering with it. The white canopy, for keeping the sun off golfers, was "the first thing to go," he says. He adds that "when I was taking it all apart, I found the golf tees that had fallen down behind the dashboard and, you know, the little pencils they use."

Last year, Mr. Gatlin started "Alpha Carts," a company that sells parts for " performance golf carts." He races his 1998 E-Z-GO, which has two-tone leather racing seats.

"It's one of the few things you can do from scratch," he says, explaining his passion. "He's got a real knack for it," says his wife. "It's his pride and joy." CartWheelin' magazine recently anointed Mr. Gatlin "wheelie king."


That article has made my day!!! I had high expectations for Cartaholics when I took it over and many goals but making it in the Wall Street Journal wasn't one of them. I'd like to thank whoever gave Cartaholics the plug in the article and also congrats to Andy, Frank, BU, Troy and Don from CartWheelin'... :cool:


I don't mind a bit John. The more it's seen the better. I just wished we could get something around here to do a show or something and make some contacts to come and film and interveiw us.


New Member
...all in all...the word is getting out about how much fun...(and serious work)...we have with our carts...

...and HRC...I have to give you another "WTG"... :thumbsup:

...seems like I've had the opportuntiy to do that a lot lately sir... :D



New Member
Maybe it's going to work!!! I sure hope so. I've seen a lot of progress since I joined. Glad to be here. Keep up the good work HRC and thanks.



"Dats right, 'betta rekonize, ne phew"
Translation: "way to go guys, lets keep up the great work!"


I've been seeing links to that article all over the internet its even on chinese web pages. It should be good publicity for this forum as well as the golf cart community.


I was searching on google for golf cart stuff and saw quite a few chinese pages that had the article. I wasn't looking for anything on the chinese pages they were listed in the search I was doing. I do like eggrolls if that means anything :rotflmao: