For years, town officials in Surfside Beach have grappled with the same problem: golf carts on town roads. The carts have become popular with residents and tourists alike.
The headache for local police comes when the golf cart riders don’t follow, or know, the laws governing their operation.
Just last month, the Surfside Beach police put a warning out that they would be cracking down on underage drivers and those plying town roads at night.
Business owners and residents say golf carts are more prevalent than ever before, not just in Surfside Beach but throughout the Grand Strand.
Robert Vaughn from Charlotte said he rents one every time he comes to Surfside Beach.
“It’s so much easier and a lot more fun to get to the beach from our rental house than it is to have to find a parking place for our car or lug everything and walk,” Vaughn said. “Lately, we’ve had to book the golf cart at least six months ahead of time to be able to have one.”
When asked about the regulations he is supposed to follow, he admitted that he didn’t know all of them, although he was given a list by the rental company.
Myrtle Beach city spokesman Mark Kruea said there are about a dozen companies renting golf carts in the city of Myrtle Beach. These companies have to be granted franchise status by the city.
The city of North Myrtle Beach offers Thursday night concerts on Main Street. Any given Thursday, hundreds of golf carts fill up a block on Main Street, some riders leave their carts to find a spot close to the stage to sit while others stay on their carts to listen to the music and socialize with friends.
Being so popular can be a double-edged sword for golf cart companies, especially those selling used golf carts.
For years, King of Carts in Surfside Beach had a thriving business selling re-manufactured carts. Today, the company has no inventory to sell.
“We sold out before the season started,” R.J. Hart said. “We’re living on renting carts instead of sales.”
Hart said they would get used carts from golf courses and completely renovate and upfit them. But now the courses can’t get new ones which shuts down the companies supply to rework.
And if they could get them, parts are at a premium.
“We’ve been waiting on some parts since last July,” he said. “The parts to renovate them have skyrocketed, too. Lift kits have jumped a couple hundred dollars in price.”
Hart added that until things change, they will exist almost solely on rentals.
“We have 150 that sell out every week,” he said.
A check with other companies showed that new carts are much more available than used ones and electric carts are more popular in general than gas ones. Electric carts are usually less expensive than the larger gas options.
Ralph Merson from Laurinburg, North Carolina, has been buying golf carts for the last nine years. He said he preferred electric because many places they visit such as campgrounds and resorts don’t allow gas carts because of noise and speed potential.
“I guess it’s actually a bit cheaper just plugging them in instead of keeping gas in them, especially with gas prices these days,” he said.