Driving Golf Carts On The Road: Is It Legal? (Rules Explained)

Golf carts are so fun to drive that it makes sense to want to take them for a spin away from the course from time-to-time.

But is it actually legal to drive golf carts on the open road? And if yes, what are the specifications you need to meet in order to do so?

Generally, golf carts can only be driven on the road in specific situations and often require a permit from local authorities to do so. In most cases, golf carts can only be driven within the confines of a course or private venue – or crossing public roads within close proximity of such locations.

Naturally, the world is a very big place and each corner of the globe has different rules and regulations when it comes to driving golf carts on public roads.

But having done my research, the general consensus is golf carts can be driven freely within the boundaries of a course or private venue; yet, if you do wish to drive one of the road, you’ll likely need to do the following:

  • Obtain a permit from local authorities (either police, the local council or transport department)
  • Be 16+ years old and have a valid driver’s licence
  • Ensure your cart is fitted with appropriate safety features (including headlights, indicators, seatbelt, tires with adequate tread, working brakes and rear-view mirrors)
  • Ensure your cart has valid registration plates

Below, I’ve gone into greater detail about the rules and regulations for driving golf carts on the road in golf-mad Western nations including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, along with answering some other commonly-asked questions.

Can you drive a golf cart on the road in Australia?

Golf carts can be driven short distances on roads in Australia, typically between two road-related areas near a golf course, but conditional registration is required in most cases. Driving golf carts on the open road in Australia is illegal and can result in you being fined by police.

Australia is a large nation broken into seven states and territories (similar to the United States), each with their own ability to set their own road laws.

I’ve researched the legislation pertaining to each state and territory and almost all jurisdictions limit the use of golf carts to within the boundaries of golf courses – only permitting carts, even with conditional licences, to cross public roads but not drive along them.

Driving golf carts on the open road in all states and territories will likely see you occur a hefty financial penalty.

Below, I’ve outlined in more detail every Australian state and territory law for driving golf carts on the road.

Driving a golf cart on the road in New South Wales

In New South Wales, conditions of use for golf carts (also called golf buggies) restricts them to road-related areas such as, but not limited to, sporting venues (including golf courses), caravan parks, retirement villages and entertainment venues. Limited road access will only be allowed as a means of travelling between two road-related areas.

Elderly people and people with disabilities may apply for permission to drive a golf cart short distances along roads and road-related areas to a nearby golf course – however, they must provide medical evidence explaining their lack of mobility and the reasons why they cannot float, hire or store the vehicle at the golf course.

Driving a golf cart on the road in Victoria

In Victoria, golf carts (also called golf buggies) are exempt from registration as they are not considered ‘motor vehicles’. Because they do not have the safety features of a regular vehicle, their access to road and road-related areas is limited to within a two-kilometre radius of the golf course.

Driving a golf cart on the road in Queensland

In Queensland, driving a golf cart (buggy) on the road requires conditional registration and will restrict the user to only crossing a road – to get from one road-related area to another – within the designated area of the golf course. Drivers of the vehicle must carry a copy of any information sheet issued by an authority that is required as a condition of use.

Driving a golf cart on the road in South Australia

In South Australia, a golf cart (buggy) is classified as a restricted miscellaneous vehicle. Under this classification, the cart may only be driven for a limited number of short journeys from one road-related area to another. A conditional registration can be issued to a vehicle that is constructed for use in a restricted area, such as a golf course.

Driving a golf cart on the road in Western Australia

In Western Australia, driving golf carts (buggies) on the road requires a conditional licence approved by the Department of Transport. Even with this licence, golf carts are only approved to cross roads to and from the golf course and not be driven on the open road.

Driving a golf cart on the road in Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, you don’t need to register a golf cart (buggy) if you’re only driving it within a golf course area. This includes driving the cart in the following places:

  • A car park attached to a golf course
  • Crossing a public street or a road within the same golf course
  • A footpath, shared path or public thoroughfare within the same golf course

You should also follow the golf course or land owner’s rules, and you must not travel along any roads other than those listed above. 

Driving a golf cart on the road in Tasmania

In Tasmania, driving a golf cart (buggy) on the road requires you to obtain a restricted registration. Even with this licence, you are only legally permitted to drive the cart along public thoroughfares or public roads that cross within the boundaries of the golf course. Driving on the open road is illegal.

Driving a golf cart on the road in Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory, no registration provisions apply to a golf cart (buggy) being driven directly across a road or road-related area that intersects with or crosses a golf course if the vehicle:

  • Is being used in the course of, or as an incident to, a game of golf or to watch a game of golf
  • Is travelling to or from the golf course to be used for or in relation to the rolling or maintenance or surface improvement of part of the golf course
  • Is travelling to or from a car park or storage building that is separated from the golf course by the road or road related area

Driving golf carts on the open road in the Australian Capital Territory is illegal.

Can you drive a golf cart on the road in the United States?

Golf carts can be driven on the road in many cities or municipalities within the United States, but the laws vary between jurisdictions. States such as Georgia, Florida, California and Arizona are far more open to the use of golf carts on public roads, while other states are less so.

The US is one of the most highly-populated, freedom-loving countries in the world with some of their 50 states housing more people than the entire nation of Australia combined (for reference, California has 39.5 million people; Australia has 25.6 million).

It makes sense then that some of their laws surrounding the use of golf carts on roads is a little laxer than their brothers Down Under.

That being said, each state in the US has slightly different restrictions – some tighter, some looser.

For example, in Florida you can drive a golf cart across a highway provided it divides a subdivision, mobile home park or golf course (and also if you’re daring enough to attempt it!).

There are too many states in America to list every single law here, but the general consensus is most will allow you to drive golf carts on the road for short distances provided:

  • It is within a low-trafficked residential area
  • It is nearby a golf course, or within golf course boundaries
  • The vehicle has working indicators, windscreen wipers, steering wheel horn, speedometer and seatbelts fitted
  • The vehicle has a clearly identifiable licence plate number
  • The driver has a valid driver’s licence

But, the best advice is to always check with local authorities (police or council) before driving a golf cart on the road in the US as the laws will change even from city to city, let alone from state to state.

Can you drive a golf cart on the road in the United Kingdom?

Golf carts (buggies) in the United Kingdom are generally for restricted road use only; for example on a golf course, or where crossing a public road near a golf course is necessary. In some instances you may be permitted to drive your golf cart on private roads, however they must be ‘road legal’.

For your cart to be roadworthy, you’ll need safety features such as working lights and indicators, a registration plate, rear-view mirrors and even seatbelts if you wish to venture out onto public roads in England.

You may even need a valid driver’s licence and a speedometer fitted to ensure you don’t exceed the limits (even though this is unlikely in a golf buggy).

However, as is the case in Australia and the United States, regulations will vary depending on which part of the country you are located – the best advice is to check with local authorities about any restrictions you must abide by before venturing away from the golf course in a cart.

Can you drive a golf cart on the road in Canada?

In Canada, places such as Ontario allow you to seek a permit to drive golf carts on select off-highway roads with speed limits up to 35mph, with no more than two lanes. Driving golf carts on highways, however, is illegal and can result in hefty fines from police.

If you’ve been successful in obtaining a permit, you must also have a valid driver’s licence and be 16 years of age or older to drive a cart legally on local roads.

Furthermore, the vehicle will need to pass inspection by local police and be fitted with a windshield, rear-view mirror, appropriate tires, a “properly working” steering mechanism and adequate brakes.

Also, they must be equipped with properly working brake lights, headlights, tail lights and turn signals.

Of course, these laws may vary from one jurisdiction to another and it’s always recommended to clarify with local authorities before taking to public roads in your golf cart.

Do you need a licence to drive a golf cart?

You only need a licence if you plan to drive your golf cart on public roads, away from the golf course or private estate in which the vehicle is located. If you only plan to drive your cart within the confines of the course or estate, you do not require a licence to operate it.

If you intend to drive your cart on the open road, it’s likely you’ll also need to obtain a permit from local authorities before doing so and also ensure the vehicle is roadworthy.

You must also remain under the legal blood alcohol limit if driving your cart away from the course.

How old do you have to be to drive a golf cart?

Generally, 12-years-old is the minimum age requirement in most countries for driving a golf cart. However, some localities set a minimum age limit of 14. If you intend to drive your golf cart on public roads, and are legally able to do so, the minimum age limit is typically 16-years-old.

While they may be slower-moving and far less dangerous than a motorbike or scooter, for example, a golf cart is still a vehicle than can propel you along at reasonable speed (we’ve all seen videos of blokes rolling carts on the course after a few too many drinks with mates).

For this reason, children younger than 12-years-old are not recommended – and many cases are not allowed – to get behind the wheel of golf carts; the driving should be left to their older sibling/friend/parent.

Final message

Golf carts are super fun to drive, but if you’re planning on taking one out on the open road, it’s likely you’ll need to meet specific criteria to ensure you’re legally-compliant before doing so.

Every country has slightly different rules and regulations regarding the operation of golf carts away from private venues – such as a golf course – so the best advice is to always clarify your obligations as a driver with the relevant authorities before going for a spin on public streets.

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