A new spin on New Harmony

Valuing their peaceful lives, locals drive golf carts as a nearly silent way to get around.


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golf cart

Golf carts line the streets of New Harmony, a town founded as a utopian society in 1814. / Photo by Holly Heerdink

Nestled in Indiana’s southernmost county, New Harmony is known for its rich history as a utopian society.  But every year tourists notice another trait of this quaint town:  golf carts.  Locals and visitors cruise the streets in these vehicles, and for many, it’s the preferred way to travel.

“New Harmony is a small community, and we have civic-minded people,” says Karen Walker, a member of the town council.  “Most people are involved in the community, and it’s more convenient to drive a golf cart to the town hall than it would be to drive a car.”

Golf carts are allowed on all roads in the town with the exception of Indiana State Road 66 and Church Street, which are considered sections of the state highway.  Because golf carts can be driven almost everywhere, their popularity has increased over the past several years.  Andrew Wilson, the owner of New Harmony Golf Car Company, says his company had 1,500 rentals in 2011 alone.

But golf carts aren’t popular only for tourists.  According to information from the 2010 Census, New Harmony has 370 households.  Combine this fact with the town marshal’s estimate of 200 golf cart permits issued in 2011, and you can understand how common they are.

“I like it because it’s open air,” Walker says.  “It allows you to stop and talk to friends.”

If you visit the area, you can arrange for a tour guide to ride along and tell you about New Harmony and its utopian history.  You can also explore on your own, making stops at historic buildings like the Rapp-Owen Granary or rolling past the other golf carts that line the streets.

So jump in a golf cart and experience the sound of crunching gravel beneath the tires as you travel the roads of New Harmony.

If you go…
When you’re ready to have a golf-carting experience of your own, keep these things in mind:

Visitors may rent golf carts from the Atheneum on North Arthur Street for $15 an hour.  Rentals can be done on a walk-in basis or you can make reservations by filling out a form on the New Harmony Golf Car Company’s website.

You must present a valid driver’s license when you rent your cart.

Stop by the Roofless Church, Rapp-Owen Granary, the labyrinths and Thrall’s Opera House for a glimpse of New Harmony’s history.

Unfamiliar with the area?  Don’t worry about it!  Each golf cart has a map of the town printed on its windshield.

Golf carts must follow the rules of the road.

If you’re visiting during the winter months, you won’t be able to rent a golf cart, but you can still see them on the streets.  Many locals own covers for their carts, and they drive them even when it’s cold.

Finally, always be on the lookout for other golf carts.  People will wave as you drive past each other!

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