Tips, Tricks & Trends

Golf Carts Are Not Just For Golf Courses, Part 2

In the first post about this subject, I shared with you how I went on a trip to a beach community and came upon the bright idea of opening a golf cart dealer and customization business, or if not open one on my own, at least get a job at one. In this post, I will finish the story, including my reflection on my hopes, the economy at the time, and the result.

Several Custom Golf Carts
A selection of custom golf carts are on display | Photo by Paul Harris/Newsmakers

Research

I did a little research when I was on that trip. I walked around the town and the beach. I was starting to feel my epiphany was the answer to all my concerns. I would even be in an area with water access, a bonus. But I determined that before I jump at the opportunity, I needed to do due diligence. So, I did a little research in town.

As it turns out, I was told that at the time, Colonial Beach was one of only a few certified golf cart communities in the nation. This meant that as long as the golf cart had headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and a horn it could be used on the public streets in the town. Also, speeds had to be maintained under 25 miles-per-hour. Things may have changed since then. But this is what my handshaking with the locals came up with.

It Has Already Been Done

I was also surprised to find that somebody else had already created the business. There was a shop in Colonial Beach that already specialized in selling and modifying golf carts. There was another that specialized in renting them. Great minds think alike. I was a little deflated, though.

A Red Rolls Royce Golf Cart Conversion
Singer Emmylou Harris poses with a custom golf cart owned by Gene Autry | Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

From what the locals told me the customization shop was doing a good job. In addition to sales of new golf carts, one could drive in with a used golf cart and the shop would do the restoration and modification as requested by the customer. The shop also kept a healthy inventory of custom parts in case a customer wanted to do the customization themselves. Everything from tinted windshields and wheels with spinners, to fancy upholstery and lift kits, to overhead stereo systems and all-weather enclosures were readily available or could at least be ordered quickly.

This business seemed to be the perfect fit for what I was looking to do. My research continued online. I found that at the time, there was a large market to customize golf carts. It is not all suspension lifts kits, fancy paint jobs, and air conditioning installations. Nope, demand was also for custom bodies. Much like a regular car body can be modified, so can the bodies of the carts. The bodies can even be re-bodied in fiberglass to look like a 1957 Chevy, a Hummer, a Rolls Royce, a Bronco, or something in between.

Broader Business Demographic

The more and more I dove into research, the more I found, and the more excited I got. For example, it would not be hard to expand the business to serve other customers in the region, not just those in town. Yes, golf carts are used by golf and country clubs. But they are also used by sports teams to help the injured off the field of play. Security teams are known to use golf carts to patrol large gatherings. Campgrounds use them for the maintenance teams. Airports use them to ferry customers that have trouble walking. The reasons to use a golf cart are vast. So, is the potential revenue for a business that specializes in them.

The Economy Collapsed

It is easy to dream or even plan for a dream. Sadly, I had to lay it all down. Jobs started drying up as the national economy started to tangle with the market collapse in 2007 and 2008. It was certainly a terrible time to look for a job, or even for this rookie to consider going into business. I was left with no permanent housing and no job.

It was time for another open road de-stressing weekend trip. My family and I went to visit friends in another part of the country. While there, my wife practically walked into a job. My friends also recommended me to a local employer. In an economy that was sketchy at the time, having a job was equivalent to owning a treasure. So, when that employer and I finally talked, I jumped at the job offer. It was not automotive related, but it provided for my family. That was years ago.

Revisiting the Idea

I was recently revisiting the idea of the custom golf cart shop. From what I can tell, certified golf cart communities are popular now. So, there’s no shortage of places to set up a shop or become part of an existing one. But that is pretty much irrelevant now. As quickly as the economy collapsed back in 2007-2008, COVID19 has moved even faster to temporarily shut down most of the global economy. Nobody really knows what will happen economically or health-wise after the quarantining period is completed worldwide, or if the vaccines being developed will do the job en masse as expected. Sigh…

The golf cart dealer and customization business is a neat idea. I’m sure there are a lot of successful businesses doing it now. For me, however, I’ll wait the COVID19 virus quarantine period out and see if I can save up enough, once the economy recovers, to purchase and build a kit car. That’s another dream I’ve had. It is a dream that involves less risk than the custom golf cart shop. But I still might need a golf cart to run between the house and the shop while I build the kit. Most assuredly, it will be a custom golf cart.