The Golf Cart Blog

The History of Golf Carts

by | May 7, 2020

Do you ever just sit and wonder sometimes about how something came to be? Like, how did our modern day items become as advanced as they are, where did it originate and why? What prompted the change for the item to progress over time? I often find myself wondering this while using certain items.

In the last blog about golf cart vs. golf car I talked a tiny bit about the first ever golf cart, yes there is a difference between a golf car and a golf cart, reference the last post for all the details on that but I touched on the first ever golf cart and when it was first developed and why, in this post I will be talking about the history of the golf car, who created this genius invention, why it was created and the progress it’s made over the years! I hope this interests you as much as it did me!

How the Golf Car Originated

Before I just jump right into the development of the first golf car, I feel it is important for you to really get to know the man behind it!

Levitt Luzeman, from Dayton, Ohio, was an aviator and inventor who served as an official timer for flight trials and invented a pretty wide range of mechanical machines from the statoscope to amusement park rides!

After graduating from college, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1913 at the age of 25, with his Masters degree in Science, Levitt Luzeman began his job at the National Cash Register company where he worked as a research engineer. During his free time he would work on some of his own inventions in a shed behind his house. Just 3 years later, at 28 years old, he opened up his very own company named the Custer Specialty Company which sold all of his incredible inventions.

Fast forward to 1930, Levitt Luzern created and patented the Custer Park Car which was produced in both gasoline and electric versions.

The electric model was primarily advertised as a motorized wheelchair which quickly became popular among people that had disabilities to help them get around running errands and getting from point A to point B with more ease.
Since this electric model was equipped with balloon tires and ran on batteries it made it easy to maneuver on pretty much any surface, pavement, gravel, grass and brick and it was so quiet to operate since it was battery operated.

He later created a regular car that could be driven in the street and was often used in hospitals, with the three wheel technology and small turning radius it made it easy to navigate through the hospital corridors and to turn through the narrow hospital hallways. This gave the disabled (which at this time were referred to as ‘invalids’) the freedom to move around with ease and independence.

The gasoline model went an impressive 75 miles to the gallon! Could you imagine? If only our cars these days could get that kind of mileage! This allowed the people to take a trip to town and take care of a full day worth of errands in just one trip!

Around the same time, In the late 1930’s Robert Tafel founded the Autoette Electric Car Company and purchased one of the Custer chairs that had become incredibly popular among the disabled World War I vets and others with disabilities. After purchasing the Custer Chair, he completely disassembled and reengineered it. He created a model that was equipped with two seats instead of one and was a 24 volt electric model. This new design made it easier to market to those with or without disabilities and allowed more than one person to ride together.

Gaining the Acceptance

Not long after, a gentleman by the name of Merle Williams came on to the scene experimenting with electric cars during the gasoline rationing of World War II, his Marketeer company created an electric buggy for women to use while grocery shopping. In 1951, in Redlands, California he produced the very first electric golf cart! Although the golf industry was booming at this time and these new electric and gas model carts were a huge hit, they actually were more of a hassle on the golf courses because the electric models weren’t able to hold a charge for long enough and the courses would have excessive amounts of stranded electric carts, the gas models weren’t much better as they were just too loud, smokey and weren’t very durable, resulting in many breaking down after just one round of golf. It wasn’t long before the competition started rolling in!

Winston Churchill photographed with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Cushman Motor Company released their first three-wheeled electric carts that they named the “Golfster” which also contained a 24-volt model and additionally a 36-volt model as well and later released their gas model in 1961 which gained a ton of publicity when President Eisenhower began using a Golfster after his heart attack. President Eisenhower was an avid golfer who while his time in office doubled the amount of Americans that played the sport.

Shortly after Max Walker produced the first gasoline driven golf cart as a solution to the battery operated carts that were unable to last for a full round of golf and named it, the “Executive”. In just 6 years, once companies began to greatly improve battery life, Walker sold his patents and moved on. There were only 1000 carts built during that time frame.

Progression

Around the same time frame Club Car produced their version of the golf cart, naming it The Club Car Golf Buggy which remained a 3 wheeled design up until 1970 when they released their 4 wheeled Caroche model.

While Club car wasn’t yet producing gas models, Yamaha entered the scene ahead of the game releasing a four seater, 2-cycle gas engine model, G1. In the late 1970’s Yamaha built its manufacturing facility in Newnan, Georgia just miles from Augusta which was home to E-Z-Go and Club Car. It was at this facility, in 1985 that Yamaha created a four cycle gas engine they called the “G2” and also released a 36 volt electric model as well. Fun fact- Torakusu Yamaha was captivated by western musical instruments, the musical tuning fork logo is what you see and the emblem on the front of the Yamaha golf carts today!

I hope you enjoyed that bit of history as much as I did! The progression of golf carts to modern day golf cars is pretty incredible! There have been many others in between who attempted to create and tweek the golf car design but these really stuck out to me most. Who would have ever thought that the main idea of what we know now to be a golf car was initially invented as a means of transportation for handicapped folks and has grown into something mainly known for and used today in the golf industry!

Can I get an Amen and show some gratitude to these men for their creative genius and saving our legs and backs while we walk the courses nowadays! Without them we’d still be huffing it along these hilly courses lugging around these golf bags!