Explaining the 90-Degree Rule at Golf Courses

Sign at East Potomac Golf Course alerting golfers to the 90-degree rule
The sign at this golf course lets golfers know that the 90-degree rule is in effect. Tim Evanson/Flickr/Creative Commons 2.0

The "90-Degree Rule" is something golf courses put into place when they want to allow the convenience of golf carts but minimize the impact of those carts on the golf course. Here's what the 90-degree rule means for golfers:

  • Riding in golf carts is allowed, and
  • Those carts can be driven onto the fairway, but
  • They must remain on cart parts as much as possible, turning off the path only at right angles (90 degrees) to reach golfers' balls.

    How to Drive the Cart When 90-Degree Rule Is in Effect

    It's simple, really: Keep the golf cart on the designated cart path (off the turf, in other words) as much as you possibly can. For example, after hitting your drive, do not jump in the cart and drive it up the middle of the fairway to your golf ball.

    Instead, jump in the cart and drive it on the cart path until you are even with the position of your golf ball. Then, turn the cart at a right angle (hence, "90-degree" rule) and drive straight over to your golf ball. Play the shot.

    Then jump back into the cart, drive it straight back to the cart path, and continue on the cart path.

    The 90-Degree Rule Is a Middle Ground

    Passenger golf carts damage the grass on golf courses, including by compacting the soil. At some golf courses, the amount of play and the types of soil or grasses make it OK for golfers to drive carts on the fairways at any time.

    A small number of courses ban riding carts at all times.

    At most golf courses, though, where riding carts are allowed often depends on daily turf conditions and weather conditions. The cart rules can even change hole-by-hole. So at most courses, the rules, depending on conditions, will range from it being OK to drive the cart up and across fairways, to the carts being banned entirely from leaving the cart paths (the "cart path only" rule).

    The 90-degree rule is the middle ground between those two extremes. It keeps riding carts off the grass for most of the hole, but still allows golfers the convenience of turning off the cart path to drive to and from the position of a golf ball.

    The 90-degree rule is permanently in effect at many courses; at others, it will be put into effect following rains or when course conditions warrant. Look for signs near the first tee or in the pro shop that might indicate whether the condition is in effect.

    Even when the 90-degree rule is not in effect at a golf course, it's a good practice to follow because it helps maintain a healthier turf.