Back in 1457, the creators of golf back in Scotland never put much thought into a question that’s almost impossible to avoid now when you step onto the course. Should you walk or should you ride a golf cart? Are these really the only two options available? And can you gain a small advantage based on whether you take a cart or carry your bag?

For me, I grew up carrying my bag. My dad would always tell me “golf isn’t a sport if you don’t carry your bag” and I actually have to agree with him on that. While golf is defiantly challenging either way, riding a cart takes out most of the strenuous activity (turns out that walking 4-5 miles with a bag on your back is hard work). This isn’t to say that taking a golf swing isn’t physically taxing, because I’ll wake up sore after hitting a few hundred balls on the range the day before, but there’s something about carrying your bag up and down hills, through the woods, and around all the hazards we slash our balls into that really makes golf a workout. Something that I think is really lost when we play in carts.

But is carrying your bag really the only option you have? Well, no… as a young kid especially I was stuck in a tough position, I wasn’t quite strong enough to carry my back for the 9 or 18 holes we played but I also didn’t have the luxury of riding a cart (almost exclusively because my dad didn’t want to ride). Luckily for my younger self though, most of the courses around my home rented pull carts for the rounds I played. These three wheel life-savers were the only things that allowed me to keep up with my dad back in my youth. They were so helpful that eventually, I even bought my own pull cart to take out with me because I played so much.

Now that I’ve grown up a little bit I usually leave the pull cart at home but recently I’ve fallen into a less healthy habit, riding a golf cart. Now, obviously, taking a cart isn’t as good of a workout as carrying your bag, but can the saved energy help relate to a lower score at the end of the day? Well of course there’s no way to know for sure but in my opinion riding in a cart actually hurts my game. As counter-intuitive as it might seem, as I thought more about it does make a lot of sense.

The reason riding in a cart hurts your golf game is because you just get to the ball too quickly. This can be a blessing and a curse. If you’re playing well, riding in a cart can help stay in your groove. Say you hit a good drive and then take a cart up to the ball, the last shot you hit is still in your mind and we all know the feeling of getting into your groove. It seems like no matter how you swing at the ball the result always turns out okay.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite can also be true…

One bad shot often times leads to another, especially with the wrong mindset, and this is only amplified by riding in a cart. Where normally a golfer would have time to analyze their last shot and ultimately put it behind them, riding in a cart can get you to your next shot so quickly that one shot can easily influence your mindset on the next shot.

Even yesterday I witnessed this strange phenomenon while playing. At Kettle Hills Golf Course I was shooting even par through 7 holes, after a double bogey on the eighth hole and another bogey on the ninth I finished with a 39. Not too bad for the front nine but unfortunately this momentum also carried into the back nine where I shot a significantly worse 46. While I can’t attribute this drop in performance entirely to riding versus walking I can’t deny that I felt the momentum sway away from me on the back nine holes.

I think the most important thing a golfer can do to avoid the momentum trap of cart golf is just slow down and relax. While it’s easy to carry each shot into the next, focusing on the way you want to hit your next shot is always a good way to move past whatever happened a few moments before. Of course, these are always good tips for playing better golf but they can be even more important when you’re playing in a cart. While these can help I think that even just being aware of the way playing in a cart can affect your game is enough to help minimize how it plays into your game also.

Now it’s your turn… Is there something you do to stay focused while you’re playing cart golf? Does it affect you the same way it affects the rest of us? Either way, hopefully, the next time you’re cruising around the links you’ll be a little better prepared for the way your cart can affect your golf game. So until next time golfers, always play smart when you’re off in a cart.