Little Ride, Big Personality

For visitors to the islands, the sight of golf carts puttering around the streets can be quite a surprising one, especially as they are often nowhere near an actual golf course. But, as the locals know, golf carts on Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms are a way of life—an essential and easy way to traverse the distance between home and the beach, the store and school, Aunty Pitty’s house and Cafe Medley. All without polluting the air, disturbing the serene sounds of the coast or threatening the neighborhood cats. So important are golf carts as a form of resident transportation that IOP City Council recently appealed to the state for permission to build special golf cart paths. Margaret Pilarski flagged down some carts across the islands and found out why we love these funny little Neighborhood Electric Vehicles so much. Photos by Steve Rosamilia.


The Crawfords—Grant, Grant II and Maddie—or as they refer to each other: Daddy, G and Woo Hoo, are Wild Dunes residents who use the carts for everything, since they tend to stay close to home. The whole family likes to pile into the big one and go for a drive to take in the scenery on nice evenings—the 17th tee box on the Links course is a favorite viewing area to look out on Dewees and the ocean. When the second cart was added to the mix for his wife and daughter, Grant added the chrome wheels in honor of Maddie’s style. It was quickly festooned with Hello Kitty, star and palmetto tree stickers, and one of Maddie’s princess figurines sits in the cupholder at all times, designating it her “Princess Cart.”


Abby Kobrovsky and rescued pup, Andy, cruise Sullivan’s Island in John Fradella’s cart. The pair both live on the island (Abby has her own cart, too) and enjoy the ease of transportation with the added delights of experiencing the weather and landscape at the same time. Many of the stickers on John’s cart are for local restaurants, but others are for another sweet island spot— Hawaii. John’s work with means he often travels to the state and has come to support Hawaiian conservation and wildlife preservation efforts. That advocacy translates back home to supporting similar preservation efforts on Sullivan’s Island.


The Charleston Notre Dame Club may not have an official vehicle, but Tommy Knisley is its unofficial marketing team on wheels. The club convenes to watch the football and basketball games at Dunleavy’s, which is convenient for the Sullivan’s Island resident. When the golf cart isn’t en-route to the pub, you might spot family hopping between relatives’ homes in the neighborhood, or heading to the beach or on their way to a tennis match. Aside from Notre Dame gear, the only other decoration the cart gets is in the annual Fourth of July parade on Sullivan’s—Tommy’s show of American patriotism is just as important as supporting his Fighting Irish.


Vince Sonson and De Daltorio share their golf cart with Louie and Rosie, their rescues from Charleston Animal Society, where De is the Director of Education. Louie, the three-legged black Lab, loves riding in the cart so much that strangers may find him in the front seat of theirs, expectantly waiting for a ride. (“Sorry in advance!” warns De.) The other place you may find Louie is in a classroom, along with Rosie, as they act as Ambassadogs to teach students about animal compassion and responsibility. Aside from a whirlwind jaunt the cart once took across the IOP connector, down Rifle Range to Coleman and back across the Ben Sawyer bridge (directionally challenged relatives alone at the wheel), Vince and De love the cart as a simple daily symbol of a “clear break between the daily grind of the outside world and the restful, rejuvenating qualities of home.”


Jim and Maureen Van Tiem are the only full-time Wild Dunes residents in this family, but thanks to a large out-of-state family contingency that includes many golfers and beachgoers, they’ve actually sprung for a second cart. Like most, they use their carts for scenic convenience, but often pick up stranded cyclists, reroute lost walkers, or give rides to families with overtired tykes. When the grandchildren are in town, the Van Tiems like to go scouting for wildlife, once racking up a count of 32 deer, another time spotting an alligator near the road, helping find a lost dog, and numerous sightings of egrets, blue herons, flying fish, and of course—turtles. Clockwise from 11 o'clock: Julie Osoteo, Collin Van Tiem, Grace Osoteo, Ryan Van Tiem, Holly Nesbitt, Kristen Komara (blocked is Brennan Van Tiem held by Kristen), Beth Nesbitt, Maureen Van Tiem and Jim Van Tiem. In the cart clockwise, Mark Osoteo, Garett Nesbitt and Jane Nesbitt in his lap.