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The Biggest Golf Questions: Drink Cart or Snack Shack?

The drink cart at Trull Brook

As rounds of golf slowly but surely grow longer and longer, snacks (and drinks) become more and more vital to a golfer’s survival. Hunger can be wreak havoc on those last few holes (so can one too many adult beverages). However, part of golf’s experience these days is not just the quality of food and drink options, but the frequency of opportunities to crack open the wallet and buy a snickers and a round of libations. It’s all about quality AND quantity.

There is a third option to getting food and drink onto the golf course: smuggling. Stick snacks and a few cold ones in your bag, ignore the “No Alcohol Purchased off the Premises Allowed!” sign in the parking lot. If you’re a walker, this will weigh you to start the round. But I’m not here to talk about this method. I want to focus on carts and shacks, the purest way to getting your on course sustenance.

First up is the drink cart. Typically (always?) driven by a women, sometimes a cute one, raking in the tips and enduring horrendous flirtations from every dad-bod within a fifty mile radius. The drink cart is a moving oasis winding through the cart paths. The sound, which can be identified from two par 5s away, stands out from the normal golf cart. Is it the rattling of the massive metal box on the back? The screeching breaks? The chugging diesel engine? The surprise of seeing the drink cart is similar to Christmas morning, especially when it’s the first time during the round. If it’s within the first 5 holes, you assume you’re going to see it four or five times over the next 4.5 hours. The thrill of buying beer and food from the back of a golf cart, on the side of the fairway is also great novelty. It’s the roadside stop on a long road trip. Some drink carts have special features. Granite Links has a Grey Goose drink cart, complete with a bloody mary tap. I also respect the drink carts that pile hard liquor in the passenger side of the cart, clanging around ready to deliver overpriced hangovers.

However, there are some downsides to this moving oasis. Usually, you need cash. Although this is slowly changing, as clubs use Venmo. We had a cart girl actually use her person Venmo at one course, I have no idea if my buddy’s money made it’s way to the club or if she digitally pocketed it. Some clubs will take your card and run it in the clubhouse, leaving you responsible for remembering to collect it after the round (note: this is a pain when you forget and drive all the way home…). There’s also the trust you have to have in the driver to cross paths with you a few times a round. I’ve been on courses and missed the drinks cart for the first 15 holes, which seems impossible, but it happens. There’s a bit of luck involved in enjoying the drink cart, it’s the reality of a moving target.

On the other side of the argument is the shack placed on the course. A static building full of treats. Now this should not be confused with the clubhouse, which is usually (but not always) accessible following the first nine holes. I’m more interested in a spot out on the course. Something small and simple. The two best I have seen thus far in my quest this summer are at Waverly Oaks and Shaker Hills. Waverly Oaks has a little shack set up near the 7th and 14th tee boxes. It has everything: drinks, hot dogs, snacks, a bathroom. It’s also placed at the perfect points in the round, after the 6th and 13th holes. The clubhouse is kind of out of the way after nine holes at Waverly, making its shack is even more important. After climbing the 600 yard 5th hole at Shaker Hills, the player is greeted by a simple structure built of wood. It’s not a place I’d want to be in a rain or lightning storm. It’s ramshackle and wonderful, stocked with drinks and light snacks. You can pay with credit cards or cash (and they give it back to you). Shaker’s shack is also waiting for you after the 12th hole. Another delightful crossroads of tee boxes.

The downside of these shacks is the lack of excitement at “discovering” the drink cart out on the course. Also, they have the capability of slowing up play and getting crowded. Usually, drink carts are only serving one group at a time, shrinking the time it takes to get what you need and return to, you know, playing golf. In the case of Waverly Oaks and Shaker Hills, the shacks are placed at a crossroads of holes. All it takes is a couple foursomes to clog things up, especially when a few flat-brimmed, white-belted bros decide to “switch to missiles” and order a plethora of mixed drinks.

(NOTE: Last week, my wife played a very fancy course. The round was a tad chilly and she uttered aloud that a Hot Toddy would be lovely. Within minutes, the drink was ordered and delivered to her on the course after a phone call from her host. This is the epitome of customer service and it beats the pants off a random drink cart rendezvous and on course snack-shacks.).

The shack is the better tool for delivering food and drinks to players on the course. The consistency and predictability is important to me as I play a round of golf. I’d like to know when and where my next bit of food or drink is coming. It allows me to make a better order, because I know exactly when I’ll be back ordering again. Putting my faith in a drink cart that is navigating a packed golf course is less enticing than it once was. There’s always the question, “Am I going to see this cart again? in the back of my mind when I order. With the shack, I know where I stand, and I like that. Maybe that just means I’m getting old. But kudos to Waverly Oaks and Shaker Hills for the two best shacks I’ve seen this summer.

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