Photo: PAW staff / Adobe stock
… and how did they get here?

For years, golf carts have been described as the wild stallions of Princeton Reunions. Beautiful, majestic creatures, they gallop upon their strong, metal haunches out from Faculty Road all the way up to Prospect Avenue. And, much like the palominos of the Wild West, they spend their days transporting weary travelers from drinking hole to drinking hole, all the while asking nothing in return, save for a kind word (and perhaps a gentle pat upon their rear bumper).

But, for as much as we love these noble steeds, we truly know so little about them. Where do they come from? How do they get to campus? Who looks after them? Do they have any secrets? What are their wants, dreams, and deepest hearts’ desires? 

Everyone has a story to tell. And today, I’m here to tell the story of the Princeton Reunions golf carts.

Unfortunately, however, I don’t really know a whole lot about golf carts. Which is a problem, especially because I’m being paid by this magazine to write about them. So, to remedy this oversight, I reached out to Charlie Werner, Princeton Reunions golf cart logistics staff lead, in order to get the hard-hitting answers that you, the reader, deserve.

269 golf carts cover around 9,684 square feet of space … about the same size as two professional basketball courts; or around the same size as 24 Brooklyn studio apartments.

Understandably, the planning, organization, and management of golf carts for all of Reunions (which regularly sees more than 25,000 attendees per year) is pretty extraordinary. Per Werner, in order to serve the needs of all of Princeton’s alumni, family, and friends, the University procures upwards of 250 golf carts annually — last year there were 269 carts, and Werner predicts this year’s number will be comparable. 

Now, just to get a grasp of the sheer scope of that statistic, it’s important to note that the average golf cart is approximately 9 feet long and 4 feet wide. That means that 269 golf carts cover around 9,684 square feet of space … about the same size as two professional basketball courts (which are 4,700 square feet each); or around the same size as 24 Brooklyn studio apartments (which, per RentCafe, clock in at a depressingly-small 369 square feet on average).

What all of this means is that transporting Reunions golf carts is absolutely no small matter. Every year, around late winter, Princeton places an order with a Florida vendor that rents out carts to national events. (Don’t worry, the vendor has its own fleet of vehicles, so no golf courses, zoos, or retirement communities are deprived of their precious carts to provide for Reunions). The golf carts are then shipped off in a series of trucks from multiple locations all across the eastern United States and are delivered, en masse, to Princeton the week before Reunions.

However, once they’ve actually made it to campus, the storage of all these golf carts presents its own unique problems — especially with all the recent construction projects that have transformed Princeton’s once-beautiful campus into a ravaged, post-apocalyptic hellscape (kidding!). Last year, due to construction, the carts were stored out in Lot 20, where they were so closely packed together that Werner remembers “swinging from cart to cart like a jungle gym … without [his] feet ever touching the pavement.” Which is objectively cool as hell.

Of course, providing Reunions with golf carts is by no means a one-man job. And, in addition to collaborating with multiple University departments, Princeton’s golf cart program also employs a small army of about eight logistics members and 50 rover drivers — drivers who must act as private chauffeurs for the Old Guard, brave the high-stakes world of parallel parking during the P-rade, and transport thousands of alumni across campus.

So, for anyone who has ever wondered about Princeton’s golf carts, just know that their story does not begin and end at Reunions. Far from it. From out-of-state storage facilities all the way to Nassau Hall, the story of the heroic golf cart is both far-reaching and epic. You could even call it a modern-day Beowulf if you wished. Hell, I think I will call it that. And I urge all of you reading this article to do the same.

And, remember, the next time you see a lone golf cart galloping its way down Elm Drive, make sure to give it (and its driver) a courteous nod. A lot of energy went into bringing these noble steeds to our campus. And the very least we can do is say “thank you” for all the effort. 

Dan Caprera ’16 is a writer and comic.