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U.S. goes crazy for 90 mph golf carts

By Sam Sheringham for CNN
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Golf cart drag racing
  • Golf cart racing involves revamping carts with new engines, suspension systems and tires.
  • The National Golf Kart Racing Association organizes events which attract 75 participants and up to 500 spectators
  • U.S. racers share stories, photos and videos on online forums
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London, England (CNN) -- Golf carts used to be all about playing 18 holes without the inconvenience of walking, but thanks to a new craze that is sweeping across the U.S. the lazy golfers' favorite accessory is developing a reputation beyond the fairway.

Welcome to the world of golf cart racing, in which speed junkies jazz up their buggies before speeding them round drag race tracks.

Bryant Taylor, manager of Valley View Golf Carts in Virginia, says many of his customers show up with a regular golf cart and ask for new parts such as engines, clutches, tires, roll bars and suspension systems. The revamped carts can do speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.

"I think it's probably that human desire to go faster on everything," Taylor told CNN. "People want competition and they want to show that they are more manly than other people. It's easy, cheap and simple to juice them up, so people are doing it."

The popularity of the new sport is reflected in the growth of the National Golf Kart Racing Association.

The NGKRA, based in Jacksonville, Florida, was founded in April 2009 and now has 121 members.

I'm looking forward to being at every race track all over the country
--Chris Allen, NGKRA President

Chris Allen set up the organization after months of struggling to persuade skeptical drag racing circuits to allow golf cart events to be staged at their venues.

Now, he claims, the track owners are calling him.

"When we first started, everyone thought we were a joke," Allen told CNN. "Now people take us very seriously.

"In the early days, only a handful of people would show up. Now, we have seven corporate sponsors and the average event has 75 participants and 300 to 500 spectators."

The governing body organizes competitions in three categories, based on age groups and the speed of the carts.

At the races, drivers face off in pairs, with the winners progressing to the next round. Cash prizes and trophies are on offer at the next event on March 6 in Albany, Georgia.

Golf cart racing has also spawned numerous forums, where aficionados can share stories, pictures and videos of themselves in action.

"People get really into it," says Allen. "It's low budget - you can customize your golf cart for a fraction of the cost of a regular car."

Golf cart racing is largely the preserve of the south-eastern states, but Allen has lofty ambitions for the sport.

"I'm looking forward to being at every race track all over the country," he said. "I think it can get real big, I believe it can be nationwide."