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'Pimp my golf cart'

By Christina Macfarlane CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Adapted golf carts are growing in popularity across Europe
  • 99% of sales are for individual use in the USA
  • Modern carts built with leather seats, airbags and iPod players
  • 'Pimped' golf carts are seen as status symbol

(CNN) -- It seems the world of the golf cart is changing if certain industry manufacturers are to be believed. By shedding their normal surroundings, improving their dowdy image and hitting the streets -- "pimped up" carts may increasingly be seen away from the course.

Celebrities have been queuing up to jump on the buggy-wagon. The most recent purchase was by pop star Cheryl Cole, who bought husband and Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole a "Mini-Hummer" buggy as a gift, spending $8,000 customizing the cart with gold-plated hub caps, Swarovski crystals and a trunk for his golf clubs.

Dominik Jackson, owner of Mini-Hummer says demand for the vehicles has rocketed since 2006: "It started as a glorified golf buggy, but since adapting the look we've had demand from all over Europe and even from royal families in the Middle East." The carts are already on the roads in Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, and the company are planning to launch a new fully enclosed Mini-Hummer in London next year.

While Europe is catching up with the trend, there has been a big market for "pimped" golf carts in the United States for some time. "I'd say about 99% of our sales these days are for individual use," says Randy Hopper, owner of Sick 'N' Twisted Designs, one of the largest bespoke golf cart manufacturers in California. "We build customized golf carts to the specific requirements of the customer - we pretty much do everything."

Since adapting the look we've had demand from all over Europe and even from royal families in the Middle East
--Dominik Jackson, owner of Mini-Hummer

And this really means everything. Modern carts are now built with leather seats, wooden dashboard, surround-sound systems, iPod players, lower lighting and air bags, in a variety of themes - street, lifted, off-road and even Limo carts.

Sick 'N' Twisted customer Dave Johnson is having his golf cart pimped and modified to match the color of his boat: "It's going to be burgundy with 12-inch wheels, full sound system and air-bags that adjust the height of the cart." Dave insists that in his neighborhood, golf carts are more of an everyday than a luxury item: "They're practical, affordable and it's nice to cruise around and see your neighbors."

So is this a case of keeping up with the Joneses? "There's no official competition on our street, but people take notice of things like that. It's definitely seen as a status symbol."

While the golf cart remains a staple on the fairways, the souped-up street version is no longer just par for the course.