SoloRider Golf Cars Helping Municipalities Comply With Accessibility Issues and Generate Revenues

Municipalities throughout the U.S. are discovering a way to bring golf back into the lives of community residents while increasing golf course revenues. Their discovery is a golf car designed and engineered to get people with limited mobility back in the game.

In addition to privately owned public access golf courses, more and more municipalities are adding the innovative vehicle at their courses as a way to address accessibility issues defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (The ADA provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, and state and local government services.)

Municipalities also see the vehicle as a socially responsible way to provide for the needs of their communities.

“We purchased our first SoloRider in 2004 with the intention of making golf accessible to the entire community,” said Doug Stultz, golf manager at the Hamilton County Park District inCincinnati, Ohio. “The SoloRiders have enabled us to reach out to the community, create awareness and continue to build programs designed to meet the needs of golfers with disabilities who want to play the game again.”

The SoloRider single-passenger golf car features a turf-friendly design that makes it safe to go onto tees and greens, reducing the amount of walking required and giving players greater access to the course. The car, which meets or exceeds all applicable ANSI safety standards, features a stand-up seat and hand controls for braking and acceleration. The patented seatswivels and positions players in an infinite number of positions from which to play their shots without leaving the comfort and safety of the car. The car’s top speed of 14 mph is the same as a standard fleet golf car.

SoloRider golf cars not only help municipalities comply with accessibility guidelines and promote recreational opportunities, they also create incremental revenues, according to city and county officials who have purchased the vehicles.

Stultz says there’s now an “active crowd” of 25 to 30 new golfers who come to HamiltonCounty courses to use the single-rider cars to play and hit balls on the range. He estimates the group played 100-125 rounds last year and probably accounted for at least twice that many additional rounds based on the able-bodied players they brought to the course.

Hamilton County’s experience inspired the City of Cincinnati to purchase three SoloRiders; one more is on the way, compliments of a grant from the United States Golf Assoc. Steve Pacella, regional manager for Billy Casper Golf, which manages Cincinnati’s eight public courses, cites the “trickle-down economic effect” of single-riders.

“The direct revenue they generate isn’t as significant as the indirect revenue,” he said. “If I have three of these cars available, that may inspire a league of players that we didn’t have before. If there’s a kid with a disability who wants to play, that may get his whole family out here.”

Pacella says the additional revenues complement the social importance of helping people in his community spend time on the course. “To be honest, we’re not worried about the dollars we recover from the carts,” he said. “Whether they go out one time or 100 times, we know we’re doing the right thing and helping people enjoy the game.”

In addition to Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati courses, a number of well known municipal courses including Torrey Pines in San Diego, which will host this year’s U.S. Open;Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., which will host the U.S. Open in 2009; and the Santa Barbara Golf Club have added SoloRiders to their fleets.

“The big challenge is awareness,” says Richard Chavez, director of golf for the city-owned Santa Barbara Golf Club. “When you get people to actually use the cart, they think it’s awesome. I remember one gentleman who must have thanked me 20 times after playing a round in the cart.”