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Golf carts are disappearing from Ontario golf courses. Course owners think it’s the work of professionals

The security footage is clear. It’s the middle of the night. A man pushes a golf cart out of frame. The other, wearing a hoodie and medical mask, follows behind driving another cart as quickly as it will go. 

In the early hours of April 19, the thieves load 11 carts onto a trailer attached to a heavy-duty pickup truck, then drive away from Settler’s Ghost Golf Club about 20 kilometres northeast of Barrie, Ont.

“It’s that violation feeling,” said David Graham, general manager at Settler’s Ghost, who noted that the stolen carts were outside in the brightly lit parking lot with their keys removed. “Then you have that anger or sadness and wondering, ‘Did I do something wrong that someone came and took all the carts?’ “

This incident is just one of at least 18 similar thefts at golf courses in Ontario in the last few years, course owners say. In many cases, a large number of carts are stolen from courses that park them outside where they’re easily accessible, though thieves still have to find a way to start them and get them off the lot. The number of thefts and the level of organization required to pull them off has course owners convinced the incidents are linked, and the work of professionals.

A man with glasses stands in front of golf carts at a golf course near Barrie, Ontario.
David Graham, general manager of Settler’s Ghost Golf Club near Barrie, Ont., had 11 golf carts stolen in April. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Thefts on the upswing

According to a list provided by the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada (NGCOA), at least 192 golf carts have been stolen from 18 Ontario golf courses since 2021, with the majority stolen in 2022 and 2024. 

In one instance, 44 carts were stolen from Rockway Glen Estate Golf Course and Winery near St. Catharines, Ont., in November 2022. 

WATCH | Ontario hit by rash of golf cart thefts: 

People are stealing golf carts all over Ontario

3 days ago

Duration 2:00

Golf courses across Ontario are reporting rampant golf cart theft, sometimes losing 10 or 12 vehicles at a time, which is leading some to think it’s more than just petty theft.

The latest known incident happened on May 30, when 12 carts were stolen from Wolf Run Golf Club in Janetville, Ont., about 40 kilometres west of Peterborough, Ont. It’s one of many cottage country courses that have been hit.

The carts at Wolf Run have since been found by police, according to general manager Stephen Kostoff.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for the city of Kawartha Lakes said they worked with local police to search a property in the township on June 1. They found the stolen golf carts, arrested a 44-year-old man and charged him with possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. 

Owners suspect thieves working in teams

Golf course owners are convinced the level of organization it takes to transport a fleet of golf carts means professionals are behind the thefts.

“To move one golf cart, some guy can do that with a pickup truck. To move six golf carts, you need a flatbed [truck],” said Blair Breen, regional director of the central Ontario chapter of the NGCOA. 

“You need to be working as a team.”

A man is standing in front of a golf course wearing a light blue shirt.
Blair Breen with the National Golf Course Owners Association is calling on police to find out if recent golf cart thefts in Ontario are linked. (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

Golf course owners and distributors suspect there is a thriving black market for golf carts ever since prices shot up during the pandemic. According to the University of North Carolina Charlotte Urban Institute in Charlotte, N.C., a parts shortage in the U.S. resulted in higher prices.  

“It’s quick and easy money,” said Rob Davis, sales manager with Turf Care Products. The golf-cart distributor says he provides golf carts to about a third of all the golf courses in Ontario.

He had eight carts stolen in March from his warehouse in Keswick, Ont., about 70 kilometres north of Toronto. He said all the golf carts he sells are imported from the U.S., where they’re manufactured. 

Before the pandemic, his carts sold for about $6,000 each. They now cost at least $10,000. 

Davis says he’s never seen thefts spike like this since he started in the business in the 1990s. 

“It’s very disappointing,” he said, noting his team is routinely scouring websites like Kijiji for the stolen carts, as each one has a unique serial number associated with it, but nothing has turned up so far. 

“We have no idea where the carts are going,” he said. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

According to Davis, golf cart distributors in other areas of the country say they haven’t experienced an increase in thefts.

However, he says there are many uses for the carts apart from on the links.

“Trailer parks, cottages, farmers — everybody that needs … a smaller vehicle to move across their properties is a buyer for used golf carts,” he said. 

A row of golf carts is parked by a golf course on a sunny day.
The price of golf carts has shot up since the pandemic due to a parts shortage, according to golf course owners and distributors in Ontario. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

OPP investigating

Because some of the thefts are happening in different jurisdictions, Breen is calling on the OPP and local police to find out if the cases are linked and where the stolen carts are going.

“I’m hoping the police services are communicating with each other,” he said. 

The OPP for Central Region confirms it began on investigation on April 19 into the theft from Settler’s Ghost Golf Club. 

“We cannot determine whether the thefts at various golf courses are related,” OPP spokesperson Brooklyn Harker told CBC News in an email, also noting that OPP are “actively investigating the increase in golf cart thefts.” 

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