Wealthy people love golf carts that aren't on golf courses
- I've spent the past year covering luxury lifestyle and wealth for Business Insider.
- I've toured multimillion-dollar penthouses and mansions, visited the richest zip code in the US, and attended the glitzy Monaco Yacht Show.
- One surprising thing kept popping up in all of these places: golf carts. Specifically, I'm talking about golf carts that aren't on golf courses.
- On a private island for millionaires in Florida, golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation. And at the glitzy Monaco Yacht Show, golf carts shuttle the yachting industry elite around the port full of $4.3 billion worth of yachts.
- Even in Kentucky, at the world's biggest horse sale, golf carts were on standby to shuttle wealthy buyers from the parking late to the sales pavilion.
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Wealthy people love golf carts.
If there's anything I've learned in my year of covering luxury lifestyle and wealth for Business Insider, it's that.I've traveled to the richest ZIP code in the US in Florida, attended the Monaco Yacht Show, spent 12 days traveling through Russia, and went to the world's largest horse sale in Kentucky. I've gotten inside a fair share of multimillion-dollar homes. These experiences have given me an up-close look at the different forms wealth takes.
And in many cases, that form is apparently golf carts - specifically, golf carts that are not on golf courses.
On a private island for millionaires, golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation
Earlier this year, I spent a spring afternoon on Fisher Island, a private island off the coast of Miami that's the richest ZIP code in the US. Residents of the island have an average income of $2.2 million.
I arrived to the island on a private shuttle boat and was promptly picked up by a golf cart. I got a whole tour of the 216-acre island - from its pristine private beaches with sand imported from the Bahamas to its luxe beach club - via this golf cart.
While there is indeed a golf course on Fisher Island, residents drive their golf carts everywhere. I saw the occasional car here and here, but it was obvious - partially from the 19 miles-per-hour speed limit - that golf carts were the preferred mode of transportation on the island.
All the golf carts on Fisher Island are individually owned, but at the island's newest and most luxurious residences, Palazzo Del Sol and the recently completed Palazzo Della Luna, each resident is given a custom $20,000 Garia golf cart, a publicist told me.
In 'the horse capital of the world in Kentucky,' golf carts save people from walking any more than absolutely necessary
In September, I spent three days in Lexington; Kentucky's second-largest city is known as "the horse capital of the world." The region is home to about 450 horse farms as well as Keeneland, the world's largest thoroughbred auction house.
The horse world draws a lot of money to central Kentucky. In 2018, Keeneland sold more than $600 million worth of horses - $377 million in its September sale alone. These buyers, who come from all over the world, include the likes of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai and billionaire businessman Vinnie Viola. The Sheikh dropped $16 million on 10 horses at the 2019 September auction.
I went to the first day of Keeneland's September sale to see what it was like. After parking my car, the first thing I saw was - you guessed it - golf carts, waiting to pick up the royals and millionaires and carry them from the parking lot to the sales pavilion.
You can even find golf carts at the fancy horse farms in Kentucky. At Jonabell Farm, the 800-acre farm owned by the Sheikh of Dubai, extended-length, golf cart-like shuttles carry groups of tourists around the rolling fields to see the immaculate skylit barns and the powerfully built stallions.
At the Monaco Yacht Show, where millionaires party on superyachts, golf carts shuttle guests around the port
In September, I spent five days in Monaco for the Monaco Yacht Show, where an estimated 30,000 people came to see the more than $4.3 billion worth of 125 yachts displayed in the port.The attendees were mainly yachting-industry insiders and wealthy private clients from all over the world - the US, China, Russia, India, the UK - looking to charter or purchase yachts. A daily pass to the yacht show cost about $330, but some people got the "Sapphire" VIP experience, which costs $2,700 for the week for special privileges like private yacht tours, cocktail hours, and access to private VIP lounges.
These yachting enthusiasts needed some way to get around the port full of 125 yachts, of course - and how else but by golf cart? The yacht show provided a small fleet to ferry guests around the show.
I hitched a ride a time or two myself, and I have to admit, it was a welcome respite from pounding the pavement in the hot sun.
Golf carts are, of course, not only used by the wealthy. A retirement community near Orlando, Florida, is a town made up of 120,000 people and about 60,000 golf carts. As Julie Weed reported for The New York Times, the town was laid out so its senior residents wouldn't have any need for a full-sized car, resulting in streets teeming with "tricked-out" golf carts.
I can see the appeal of a golf cart over a car, particularly in a warm climate. They're cheaper, have better gas mileage (or are, in other cases, electric), are easier to park, and are just plain old more fun to drive.
But as a millennial with an innate resistance to liking anything associated with the extremely boring sport of golf, I mostly found myself bemused by the presence of golf carts in all these places where wealthy people are in abundance - but there's not a golf course in sight.