Quintessentially Lowcountry: Golf carts go far beyond the links -- to the store, to the bank...

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Quintessentially Lowcountry: Golf carts go far beyond the links -- to the store, to the bank...

By JOSH McCANN jmccann@islandpacket.com 843-706-8145
Published Friday, November 13, 2009   |  686 Words  |  news

Elsewhere, golf carts are used primarily on golf courses.
Here, they're almost everywhere.
From Sun City Hilton Head to Fripp Island to Daufuskie Island, many residents use golf carts to go to work, shops, restaurants and the beach.
The area's warm weather, sandy environment, lack of hills and many gated communities are ideally suited to low-speed, open-air travel, advocates say. Some cart enthusiasts even persist through rainy weather or cold snaps, employing enclosures that roll down from their vehicles' plastic roofs and portable heaters designed to fit in cup holders.
"It's a big part of the community," said Kevin Kennedy, sales manager at the Club Car shop on Fording Island Road. "It's just a great way to travel in the Lowcountry."
Having a cart has proven worthwhile for Vance Kosloff, who moved to Sun City three years ago after 25 years in Moss Creek, where carts aren't allowed, he said.
Kosloff and his wife, Kathy, have since acquired a four-seater they use to transport themselves and their grandson in and around their gated community.
Vance drives a convertible sports car when he needs to travel farther afield, but he said he enjoys the simplicity of using a cart when he can.
"It's a different way of life," he said. "Just unplug it, back it out of the garage, and off you go."
Four days a week, Kosloff drives the cart three-quarters of a mile between his home and his job in the clubhouse at the Hidden Cypress golf course. He also uses it to go to the grocery store, a half-mile outside the community's gate.
During summer days, Kathy likes to cruise the neighborhood and admire landscaping of nearby homes, Vance said.
People who sell golf carts noted an up-tick in demand more than a decade ago as gated communities became all the rage across the Southeast, Kennedy said.
"That's when it took off," Kennedy said. "We saw it coming, and we knew the private consumer market was going to be huge."
Authorities say golf carts aren't as well suited for tasks such as dodging traffic on U.S. 278, but that doesn't stop some golf cart drivers from risking life and limb to get to the restaurants across the street from Sun City.
Shortly after Wendy's and Zaxby's opened across from Sun City, a handful of renegade retirees could be seen darting across the road, shaving a few minutes from their journey by ignoring a bridge built specifically for residents of the retirement community.
Although South Carolina law says licensed drivers can operate golf carts with a special permit on secondary roads or to cross a primary road during daylight hours less than two miles from their residence, Beaufort County Sheriff's officials said it is not safe to take a shortcut across a 55 mph highway in an electric cart.
That's not much of an issue on Fripp Island, where U.S. 21 terminates after leading motorists through Hunting Island State Park.
In that more isolated, slower-paced environment, golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation, said Stuart Mitchell, general manager of Fripp Island Resort.
That sometimes made for a comical scene in the days when male diners at a club on the island were required to wear a coat and tie, he said.
The resort rents carts to guests, and residents celebrate July 4 with an annual parade dating back decades that can draw more than 100 decorated carts.
Once a cart was decorated to look like a loggerhead sea turtle.
"You wouldn't even know there was a golf cart under it," Mitchell said.
You can find all manner of carts on Fripp, Mitchell said, some with oversized wheels distinctive colors or striped seats.
Mitchell suspects carts' ability to connect riders with the environment contributes to their popularity on Fripp.
Just before dark, families can often be found riding around in search of deer with "no sound but the wind," Mitchell said.
"It's truly a unique experience," Mitchell said. "It's you and nature."