Ernie Els hits a shot during the second round of the 2014 Hong Kong Open at The Hong Kong Golf Club.
Getty Images/Ian Walton
By Brendan Mohler
Thursday, October 01, 2015

Starting Thursday, all golfers in Hong Kong must have a driver's license to use a golf cart--and that rule includes the city's only public course.

While not unusual in the United States, the rule is especially maddening in Hong Kong--a city of more than 7 million people--where only about one-third of the population old enough for a driver’s license owns one, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

A course called Kau Sai Chau on an island of the same name off the coast of Hong Kong is one of those affected. Of the island’s three courses, the East course already requires golfers to use carts because of its severe elevation changes, steep inclines and general danger on foot, but did not previously require driver's licenses.

The mandate is part of a larger regulation by the Hong Kong Transport Department to require all golfers at Hong Kong courses to show proof of a driver’s license before operating a cart, and it will go into effect at private courses as well. According to the Wall Street Journal, this followed a 2013 incident in which a maintenance worker at Kau Sai Chau died when a utility vehicle overturned.

The rule requires golfers to have a local driver's license in order to operate a cart, meaning foreign visitors of any kind will have to walk--or get a local driver's license just to play golf with a cart.

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Gary Player, who designed two of the courses on the island, suggested a cart-operation test in an email to the Wall Street Journal, writing, “There are many accidents worldwide on golf carts and many players have no experience at all.” He called the current mandate "unusual."

East course designer Brett Mogg referred to the measure as “extreme” because of the low number of Hong Kong residents with driver’s licenses.

Recently, a 19-year-old college student Ben Suen was playing golf at Kau Sai Chau's East course and found out first-hand why carts are required. During a recent round his cart suddenly rolled away, without him in it, and crashed into the brush. It was later retrieved by a tow cart. "It wasn't because I don't have a license," Mr. Suen told the WSJ. "People with licenses can have accidents. It's about being careful."

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