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Making a Case for Cart Paths

Elliot Dowling | Published on 2/20/2023
By: Elliott L. Dowling, senior consulting agronomist, Northeast Region

Continuous, well-placed cart paths help maintenance teams stay productive with tree work and other projects all winter long, regardless of soil or weather conditions. (Jim Pavonetti)

The Northeast region is once again experiencing an unseasonably mild winter. In fact, several locations are on the cusp of setting a record for the latest date without measurable snow. However, the freeze/thaw cycle and winter rain have created sloppy conditions that are not conducive to traversing the course with machines or golf carts.

Getting around the course when the risk of damage is high can be a difficult proposition, if not for well-placed cart paths. For many facilities, wall-to-wall cart paths are not something they want to consider for a number of reasons, most notably the visual contrast of an artificial surface in an otherwise natural setting. However, facilities with paths along the perimeter and a few bisecting the course are still able to get their equipment out, even when the ground conditions might not warrant cart traffic.

Strategically placed paths are still not a guarantee that you can do what you want on the course when conditions are unfavorable, nor is it a guarantee that your course can allow carts out that day, but it does permit the maintenance team to work in areas near paths. Keeping equipment and utility cart traffic off the turf will eliminate damage in most cases or at least limit the disturbance to isolated areas.

Cart paths are a hot topic at many courses. Some want them tee to green so that carts can be used nearly every day while others don’t want them at all, either for aesthetic reasons or because they are a walking-only course. In any circumstance, even a few strategically laid-out paths can boost the productivity of the maintenance team, no matter the time of year.

Northeast Region Agronomists:

Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education –

Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy –

Elliott L. Dowling, senior consulting agronomist, Northeast Region –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff


(616) 834-0450