On a lazy weekday afternoon in Peachtree City, Ga., Tom and Lois Burke whizzed through a little strip mall on their cart. The couple, who have lived in this idyllic town 35 miles south of Atlanta for more than 35 years, weren't coming from one of the town's more than a dozen golf courses. They were just on their way home from their SilverSneakers workout class at World Gym.
With more than 90 miles of paths connecting Peachtree City's upscale neighborhoods, shopping centers, and, yes, golf courses, golf carts are the main means of getting around for many of the community's 36,000 residents. The town has almost 9,000 registered golf carts, which anyone over the age of 16 can drive without a license. The paths link together Peachtree City's five villages, some of which are geared more toward families, others to empty nesters.
"We use our golf cart for almost everything," says Tom Burke, 74. "Life on a golf cart is just more relaxing." That pace of life makes Peachtree City a town where people come to raise their children and often stay on into retirement. The Burkes' children live nearby, and their grandchildren go to the local Starr's Mill High School.
Driving down the main street, which is dotted with crape myrtles, it's easy to tell that Peachtree City isn't just another of Atlanta's myriad suburbs. Its 15,503 acres provide a respite from the big city without being too far from its many cultural and recreational amenities. There are also ample college and professional sports teams in Atlanta. Retirees here get the benefit of plenty of distractions combined with a laid-back country pace. Lush greenery eclipses buildings, making the wooded town feel tucked away in its own little world.
Peachtree City carefully limits development. A recently opened outdoor retail complex called the Avenue includes stores like Williams-Sonoma and Talbots and caters to a local population whose average household income is more than $100,000 a year. The town's restaurants, stores, and parks intersperse neighborhoods where strict regulations keep homes and lawns looking Pleasantville-perfect.
That orderliness is what attracted Bryan Toma, 53, to Peachtree City from Memphis in 1977. "Everything is pretty and well taken care of," he says. He loves to take his cart out for quiet drives through the woods or to fish at one of Peachtree City's two lakes. He has made friends easily and until just a couple of years ago knew the people above him and below him in the phone book. Like many of Peachtree City's older residents, he has no plans to slow down. "I personally have a lot of hobbies," from playing guitar to fishing and golf, says Toma. "I'll never retire."
Neither will Tom Burke. He still runs his own company, which makes welded steel storage tanks, but takes time to play golf twice a week. His wife, Lois, 73, often takes the golf cart out to meet friends for lunch. Besides saving money for gas, scooting around in golf carts keeps their life "casual," says Tom. Plus, it has the added bonus of allowing them to enjoy a glass of wine when they go out for dinner in the evenings, he adds. "I can't think of a better place to live."
ABOUT PEACHTREE CITY, GA.
Median home price: $250,000