5 Environmental Impacts of Golf Courses

There is an environmental issue that needs to be handled in the middle of a golf course’s serene, green surroundings and airy ambiance. To start with, golf courses use a ton of water every day to maintain their immaculate, green grass. And if you don’t handle this, it can cause more harm than good.

The facts make it abundantly evident that we live in a crisis-ridden world, and to combat it, everyone—especially commercial spaces like country clubs and golf courses—must take environmental protection seriously.

This page describes the environmental impacts of golf courses and the environmentally friendly options they can consider to continue operating without endangering the ecosystem.

A Brief History of Golf Courses

The origins of golf can be found in a game the Dutch played in the thirteenth century in which players had to hit a leather ball to a target. The winner was the player who used the fewest shots to hit the target.

But the Scots invented a similar sport, golf, before the Dutch did, in the fifteenth century in Scotland. In golf, the object of the game is to hit the ball into the hole. Golf has spread to many nations and gone through several stages over the years. It was first known to be played in America in the eighteenth century.

However, the United States Golf Association was established in 1894 and took over the role of US ambassador for the sport. It held approximately 267 golf clubs in 1910.
There are currently more than 38,000 golf courses worldwide, with the US accounting for 43% and North America for 51% of all golf courses.

Environmental Impacts of Golf Courses

Golf courses have an enormous negative influence on the environment, even though the game is played outside, typically in picturesque valleys. Golf courses have several detrimental environmental implications, from development to upkeep.

For example, the construction of a golf course necessitates a significant amount of land clearing, which frequently results in the eradication of entire ecosystems. Large amounts of carbon emissions are produced by the heavy machinery used to clear all this land, which also has an impact on the neighboring waterways.

Let’s talk about each effect individually.

  • Deforestation
  • Privatize Land that Could be Used for Public Good or Housing
  • Water Management 
  • Pesticides
  • The Carbon Footprint of Golf Courses

1. Deforestation

A large amount of land must be cleared for the construction of a golf course. Trees and natural ecosystems may be destroyed as a result of this. Thus, a golf course may cause a lot of animals, birds, and other creatures to lose their homes.

Any stage of development may attest to this. It will upend the fauna that already exists, and some of the already established ecosystems won’t naturally rebound despite our best attempts to preserve green space.

Naturally, trees and shrubs are planted around the margins of most golf courses. While building, they incorporate water features and establish new natural ecosystems.

The trees, bushes, and landscaping will be kept in good condition because a golf course must remain green. Unfortunately, this type of upkeep depletes local resources.

Due to sediment flow, this also causes soil erosion and water contamination.

Developers often destroy entire ecosystems in the process, according to the Seattle Journal of Environmental Law. Furthermore, a lot of greenhouse gases are released by the heavy gear used to clear all of this land. Waterways close by may also be impacted.

2. Privatize Land that Could be Used for Public Good or Housing

Given that many of the state’s thousand golf courses are operating at significant financial deficits, housing advocates in California have been advocating for the conversion of some of the land they own into affordable housing.

Golf courses are usually found in attractive areas on coveted parcels of land. Why not turn these areas into accessible public parks, wildlife reserves, or hiking routes?

3. Water Management 

Large volumes of water and chemicals are needed to keep the grass green and deter pests, in addition to damaging natural ecosystems. with a large number of golf courses situated in dry regions.

Golf courses continue to utilize an excessive quantity of water at a time when climate change is having a disastrous effect on the availability of water. Of course, there are actions that colleges can take to try to use less water. However, maintaining the quality of the greens will always require watering vast expanses of grass.

The lush conditions of Utah’s golf courses require around 9 million gallons of water every day, which is equivalent to 13 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Wasting so much water in drought-affected places puts local communities at risk, in addition to local plants and animals. Farmers, manufacturers, and locals may run out of water due to overuse of freshwater resources.

4. Pesticides

Naturally, the presence of dangerous chemicals is one of the main environmental issues on a golf course. A golf course’s grass must be kept in excellent condition, which may require the use of pesticides, weedkillers, and fertilizer—all of which, when used in excess, can be detrimental to the environment.

The golf industry utilizes over fifty active chemicals in pesticides, one of which is chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that the EPA has prohibited for use in residential settings because it poses a risk to human development.

Golf grass becomes much more susceptible to pests when it is trimmed to low heights, which increases the need for pesticides. Low-cut golf turf stresses the grass and makes it more susceptible to pests, necessitating the application of additional pesticides.

There is the problem that employing these chemicals can start to affect people as well, even if we ignore the enormously detrimental effects they can have on insects and other animals lower on the food chain.

These pollutants eventually find their way into rivers and streams through rainfall, where they may begin to pose a health risk to nearby human populations as well as golfers.

5. The Carbon Footprint of Golf Courses

It is important to acknowledge that there is strong evidence that golf courses emit a lot of carbon dioxide. According to a study on the topic, a golf course’s carbon footprint is over ten times larger than that of an average individual.

This is primarily because of the course’s high maintenance needs, which include constant mowing, fertilization, and upkeep. The carbon footprint of a course can also be significantly impacted by lighting and other electrical requirements.

It’s also true that a lot of courses focus on self-improvement. Carbon neutrality is even a goal for some people. Then, maybe, we are approaching the stage where we may contend that a player’s choice of golf course can have a major influence on the ecosystem.

This can be one of the best ways to make sure you are playing on a golf course that supports players who are trying to offset their carbon footprint and acknowledge some of the uncomfortable truths about their impact on the environment. 

How Are Golf Courses Trying to Improve?

Numerous golf facilities have been alerted to the aforementioned detrimental impacts in recent years. The world doesn’t need any more golf courses to be built, but many of the ones that are already there strive to lessen their environmental effect in other, more environmentally friendly ways, like the ones listed below.

1. Protecting Biodiversity and Wildlife 

Le Dinard Golf and other golf clubs give their patrons pamphlets that introduce them to every kind of plant and animal that lives in the region. This makes it possible for visitors and golfers to recognize, value, and save the course’s natural residents.

Monarchs in the Rough was another initiative of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP), which assisted hundreds of golf clubs in converting their courses into secure, perfect habitats for endangered monarch butterflies.

2. Off-Grid Golf Courses 

Sustainable golf courses are incorporating solar panels into their designs. Golf course facilities collaborate with Entero Energy, a solar plant development company based in Austin, to reduce energy costs and promote environmental awareness.

This project includes switching to electric golf carts and landscaping tools in addition to adding solar panels on clubhouses and parking lots.

3. Sourcing Irrigation from Wastewater 

Many golf courses use recovered water to maintain their landscaping, which reduces the environmental impact of their water usage. This water is irrigated from showers, toilets, and other sources. It is also referred to as “gray” wash water.

This recycled water can be used to maintain the greens on a course and wash equipment if it is properly handled. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions because it requires a lot less energy.

4. Golf Course Development 

Many contemporary architects have restored golf courses with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. The American Society of Golf Course Architects has chosen five golf projects to receive the 2022 Environmental Excellence Awards.

Dana Fry and Jason Straka, two of the recipients, completely renovated the Union League National Golf Club. They worked with national reserves and conservationists to build large lakes and wetlands for the course.

Eco-Friendly Ways to Develop and Maintain a Golf Course

Golf facilities must acknowledge their substantial environmental impact if they are to stay in business. The good news is that companies can reduce or even completely eradicate, this impact by incorporating eco-friendly methods into their operations.

  • Protect the Biodiversity in the Golf Course 
  • Lessen the Use of Pesticides 
  • Use Effective Water Irrigation and Drainage 
  • Leveraging Solar Energy 

1. Protect the Biodiversity in the Golf Course

Respecting the plants and animals that live on and around the golf course is essential. Golf courses can accomplish this by remodeling to include additional bodies of water, which are essential to preserving biodiversity.

Another piece of advice is to set aside a space exclusively for natural life and try to limit human interference with it. Conversely, leave a spot untrimmed to encourage the development of organic plants.

2. Lessen the Use of Pesticides 

The environmental effects of pesticides are nothing new. It’s time for golf courses to use less chemicals for property maintenance. They might discover new environmentally friendly, organic substitutes and fertilizer solutions to lessen their influence on the environment.

3. Use Effective Water Irrigation and Drainage 

For many golf courses, water management has long been a challenge. The next best approach is to recycle water to reduce their water usage. This is already being done by Southern California golf clubs to maintain lush greens.

Additionally, since they will require less water, it is worthwhile to use grass seed varieties like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grass that are more resistant to heat and drought.

4. Leveraging Solar Energy 

Golf courses may run on cleaner energy thanks to solar electricity, which reduces the emissions from mowers and other landscaping machinery that run on fossil fuels. Another creative option is to place solar panels on the golf carts themselves or use solar batteries to recharge their electric golf carts.


Golf courses have advantages and disadvantages, but they can harm the environment more than benefit it if suitable guidance based on sound environmental principles isn’t given to them.

Both current golf courses and prospective developers must take the required steps to safeguard the environment and the actual property that supports their operations.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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