It's a common site along the South Carolina coast: tourists buzzing about in golf carts - and nowadays, that's not just on the many resort and public golf courses but also on roads and beaches as vacationers leave the car parked and venture out in slower style.
The golf cart business is a booming one, not only for sales (with carts used around neighborhoods as well as at resorts and vacation spots) but increasingly for rentals to visitors. The vehicles are smaller and less obtrusive that automobiles, plus they can go places cars can't and use less gas (or none at all with electric carts).
Will Sneed has owned and operated Charleston Golf Cart Rentals at 1533 Folly Road since 2013, having previously worked for another cart company mostly involved in sales. Business is "good for three (summer) months, when all our (60) carts are out and the tourists are here full force," he says. "The rest of the year, most sit here and we're servicing them."
The attraction to tourists, Sneed says, is both convenience - "parking can be an issue on the area islands, and these can park where a car can't" - and also novelty. "Folks from the North don't have these, and they use them for sightseeing, carrying their stuff to the beach and the like."
Not only tourists are customers; Sneed's non-summer business includes weddings, soccer tournaments, music events and other functions. Sneed offers both four- and six-passenger carts, and has added extra safety features including lights, seat belts and rear safety bars. "Some of those aren't required, but we want the carts as safe as possible," he says.
Sneed plans to expand to provide carts for local festivals, and has starting renting batches of carts for company gatherings. Most of his business, he says, is families wanting a cart to get around their beach rentals.
"We're not getting rich, but it's a way to work for myself and live and work at the beach, so it's worth it," he says.
If your vacation plans include visiting the SC beaches, a rental golf cart might be just what makes getting around easier and more fun. Golf carts are allowed to be driven on secondary roads in South Carolina. You have to be at least 16 years old and have a drivers license to drive on public roads. Here's a list of rental outlets in coastal areas, plus several in Greenville and Columbia.
1533 Folly Road, Charleston
594 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Mount Pleasant
(note: Lightning Bugz are low-speed vehicles (lsv) and street-legal outside a resort, with speeds to 25 mph).
112 East Indian Ave., Folly Beach
Lowcountry Executive Center, Seabrook Island
Carolina Custom Golf Carts
108 Sea Island Pkwy., Lady's Island
10750 S. Jacob Smart Blvd., Ridgeland
1364 Ribaut Road, Port Royal
159 Burnt Church Road, Bluffton
Myrtle Beach area
Three locations (Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, Murrells Inlet)
4014 Fernandina Road, Columbia
431 Western Lane, Irmo
604 N. Woods Drive, Fountain Inn