Golf cart craze hits the Hoosier state

Kenny and Paula Honeycutt give tours of historic Madison on 6- and 8-passenger golf carts. PHOTO: Kenny and Paula Honeycutt/Madtown Hoppers

Story by Julie Campbell

Imagine waking up on a sunny Saturday morning where the only thing on your agenda is exploring the shops and restaurants in a charming Indiana town. You step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air, but instead of walking eight blocks from your bed and breakfast to the town’s main street, you fire up a golf cart and get there in a fraction of the time.

Move over Uber—golf carts are quickly becoming the transportation method of choice in many of Indiana’s small towns. Since Indiana’s golf cart law makes it easy for each individual city and town to determine its own ordinance, many towns are allowing visitors and residents to use golf carts to get them from place to place and save their feet (or ankles or knees) from the wear and tear of walking.

William “Shorty” Baker, harbor master at Rivercrest Marina in Madison, says golf carts are a “big deal in town.” The full-service marina owns six four-seat golf carts, which stay busy on a consistent basis during their peak season of April 15 to October 15. 

On Thursdays, weather permitting, residents and visitors “cruise in” for specials in downtown Madison.
PHOTO: Kenny and Paula Honeycutt/Madtown Hoppers

“As long as the weather permits, we can even rent one in December if someone wants one,” he says, adding that the vehicles have roofs so they protect riders from wet weather.

In accordance with Indiana law, golf cart drivers need to be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license.  At Rivercrest, though, they must be at least 21 to rent a cart and have proof of insurance. Rental fees are $50 daily Monday through Thursday and $70 Friday through Sunday.

Baker says the typical age group that rents carts in Madison is mid-30s and older.

“They’re mainly using them to go downtown to the wineries and to go shopping,” he explains. “You can’t drive or park on Main Street, but you can go on all the side streets, and you can cross Main Street.”

Leah Pruett enjoys showing off Madison to out-of-town visitors on her customized golf cart. PHOTO: Jim Pruett Group Real Estate

Popular Madison Realtor Jim Pruett, along with his wife Leah, embrace the town’s golf cart lifestyle. “Anyone who’s been to Madison knows it’s a special place,” Jim says. “We live in the historic district and enjoy showing it off to out-of-town visitors. And the best way to do that is via golf cart—people love it.”

Towns like Madison are perfect for traveling by golf cart, because the entire town—133 blocks to be exact—is on the National Historic Registry. That’s a lot of ground to cover by foot! Several of the homes throughout the town, like the Lanier Mansionthe Francis Costigan House, and the Shrewsbury-Windle House are open for tours and draw history and architecture buffs alike. 

Many travelers also rent golf carts during festival season, which helps them to avoid walking long distances from their bed and breakfasts to the festival location, says Baker. Three popular Madison festivals that draw crowds from all over the country are the Madison Ribberfest BBQ and Blues, the Chautauqua Festival of Art, and the Madison Regatta on the beautiful Ohio River.

In addition to saving your feet, another benefit of using a golf cart is the money saving aspect.

“You can drive around for two weeks on one tank,” Baker notes. “They’re great on gas.”

GT Carts in Cicero does a booming business due to the lakeside town’s golf cart-friendly regulations.
PHOTO: Stephanie Nicol

And some golf carts even run on electric power, which saves the environment.

Kaylee Hahn of the White County Tourism Authority says that festival time in her county is also golf cart time.

“If someone were to rent a golf cart, I would recommend doing so during festival periods so they can take advantage of cruising down streets during a popular time,” she explains.

“Within ‘golf cart distance’ to many White County amenities are multiple resorts, campgrounds, and restaurants which allow cart parking,” Hahn explains, adding that a local company, GT Carts in Monticello, rents carts to visitors. “Lighthouse Lodge Bed & Breakfast has one golf cart that visitors can use, but they encourage guests to bring their own. Alexander’s Landing is a resort with limited parking but do see many tourists using golf carts in/around the area. All campgrounds welcome golf carts.”

In Cicero, where GT Carts has a second location, golf carts are more than welcome in the city limits.

Cicero Town Council member Jack Russell says all of downtown Cicero is a great place to drive a golf cart, with loads of great shops and restaurants to visit. Some restaurants, such as the Boathouse Kitchen and Swan Dive and Wolfie’s Northern Woods Grill, offer waterfront dining at the picturesque Morse Reservoir.

“Some places even have golf cart parking,” Russell says.

If renting a golf cart at your next destination appeals to you, be sure to call ahead to ask about the town’s golf cart ordinance and about options for rentals. Once you rent a cart, be certain you understand exactly where you can and cannot drive and park, as some cities allow carts on their main streets and others don’t. Above all, have fun and travel safely!