April 2009

Definitely Not Your Father’s Golf

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: Photography by anne

It has a certain ring to it: “street legal.” It sounds like a new television series on FOX .The good guys in, say, a STAR-B48 Bubble 2 chasing the bad guys in some boring two passenger rig you could find at virtually any golf course. This is a heads up. The humble electric golf cart has met the 21st Century and the ride has gotten a heck of a lot more interesting. “Street legal,” by the way, means a modified cart that can legally be driven on roads posted at 35 miles per hour or less.
“They aren’t just for golf anymore,” said Tim Brinker, owner of Carolina Cart Center, an authorized distributor for Star Carts, a line of electric carts manufactured by JH Global Services out of Greenville, South Carolina. The company began its operations in 2003. Brinker opened his distributorship six months ago. “I was in the home building business in Cincinnati and could see where the market was going years ago. So I started going in a different direction. I did a great deal of research, came along Star in Greenville and loved it. The customer base we have is just great,” Brinker said. Carolina Cart Center is the only area dealer in the area that offers “street legal” carts.
The Star line has 23 different models. In Brinker’s showroom, there is the rather elegantly designed 14- passenger “bus” that will be used for tours in Savannah. The four-wheel drive cart, custom-painted in a camouflage, is a favorite for hunters, Brinker said. “They love it because it’s so quiet. It has a 3,500 pound winch on the front and you can switch from two- to four-wheel drive on the fly.”
Brinker’s carts are also being used to transport visitors from condos to beach access points. Metal roof racks are added to carry all that beach paraphernalia. “Instead of having to load up the car, then find a parking spot, our carts just add another layer of service for guests,” Brinker said.
Timing is everything. When Brinker opened the distributorship, gas prices were hovering in the $3.65 range. “We saw a lot of people come in and ask if they could trade in their car,” he said. “If you are running full speed, the energy cost is about one dollar a day.” The range of a Star cart is about 60 to 65 miles between charges. Some of the carts have the charger built in, so owners just plug it into a wall socket at the end of the day. It takes eight to 10 hours to recharge the batteries.
The one thing missing from all of Brinker’s carts is something he is very proud of: None have a tail pipe. He is very pleased his business is definitely “green.”
Of course, the Carolina Cart Center does have golf carts. They are Brinker’s biggest sellers, especially the ones with every bell and whistle a golfer can think of: embroidered seats, custom colors, pin striping, CD players, custom enclosures, side mirrors. “We can customize just about everything on the cart,” Brinker said. “I love being able to use local business around here for the custom work.”
For residents of Sun City, the cart has become their second vehicle, Brinker explained. Pointing to one of the models, Brinker said, “This has a high-low speed system on it. We tell people to get to the golf course, put it in high speed. When you get on the golf course, put it in low speed. You don’t want to be going 25 miles per hour on the turns on the golf course.”
When fuel prices started to spike into the four dollar range last year, there were rumblings about allowing electric carts on roadways where they are now prohibited, where the posted speed limit is 35 m.p.h. or less. The problem, Brinker said, is a kind of Catch 22. “People said the carts would cause traffic tie-ups going only 25 miles per hour. The capacity is there for 35 miles per hour, but the maximum speed you’re allowed by the Federal government is 25 miles per hour,” Brinker explained. “For street-legal carts, you’ll see NEV, neighborhood electric vehicle, or LSV, low-speed vehicle, on the license plate,” he added.
The Carolina Cart Center also services all brands of electric carts. “We have a 2,500 square foot service center just down the road,” Brinker said. The service center is also where all the customization is done. “We even offer loaners,” he added.
Brinker believes there is a big future for electric carts of all shapes and sizes in the Lowcountry. “We just need people to see what is possible,” he said.

The Carolina Cart Center is located at 452 Argent Boulevard, behind the Super Walmart off of U.S. 278. For more information, visit www.carolinacartcenter.com.

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