Are Golf Courses Bad for the Environment (or Good)?

There are few things more visually appealing in the world of sports than a well-maintained golf course. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that keeping the average golf course in pristine condition takes a lot of time and effort. Golf courses are known to increase home and property values, but a related question is often not considered: Are golf courses bad for the environment?

This table covers the environmental benefits and drawbacks of golf courses:

Positive Negative
Improves water quality  Maintenance costs
Wildlife refuge Carbon footprint
It is common for golf courses to replace chutes

Lost balls and other debris

Provide jobs Use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to maintain aesthetics

In general, no, golf courses are not harmful to the environment. If you are interested in learning about golf course construction and the factors that determine its effect on the environment, keep reading!

Golf Course Design and Construction’s Environmental Impact

To better understand how a golf course affects the environment, we’ll first start by learning how golf courses are built. The process may seem simple to the casual observer, but a great deal of planning and decision-making is required to build a proper golf course.


Today’s golf courses are traditionally divided into “front nine” and “back nine.”More modern designs emphasize convenience by having the front nine and rear nine in a loop, with the front nine leading away from the clubhouse and the rear nine terminating at the clubhouse.

The older courses are more extensive in layout, with the entire course located with each hole further from the clubhouse.


The construction of a modern golf course generally undergoes a four-step process:

  • Topsoil layer
  • Hills and Dips
  • Sewer system
  • healthy grass

Topsoil refers to the first step in the process, which is to remove all topsoil from the construction area and replace it with a special soil composition.

Hills and Dips is the second step and requires course designers to mark areas where hills and dips will appear, ensuring that the course maintains a certain level of symmetry and aesthetic beauty. The markers are made of different colors to indicate what operation needs to be done in that area. For example, a red marker could signify an area that needs to be filled in, while a blue marker indicates the slope of the dips.

A robust drainage system is essential for the proper construction of a golf course. If the system is faulty or does not have adequate capacity, the course could end up being unplayable due to excess standing water, as well as other boggy conditions. Standing water could also attract pests such as mosquitoes, making the course even more unplayable.

Keeping course turf irrigated is extremely important to the health and playability of the golf course. The most popular way that modern courses keep their turf watered is by using an automated irrigation system. Although these systems can become expensive, proper and consistent watering ensures that the beauty and longevity of the course is maintained.

Environmental effects (positive and negative)

Whether golf courses affect the environment positively or negatively has not been thoroughly studied. However, the current weight of evidence indicates that golf courses are not bad for the environment.

Negative effects – Golf Courses

Perhaps the most common criticism of golf courses by environmentalists is the cost of maintaining the course.

Modern golf courses require meticulous care that involves extensive mowing, watering, and fertilizing. This, in turn, causes the release of a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent Swedish study found that the carbon footprint of the average golf course is almost ten times that of the average person.

Another potential disadvantage of golf courses is the incidence of lost balls and other forms of garbage.

A recent estimate indicates that more than 300 million golf balls are lost annually around the world. Most golf balls are not environmentally friendly, and when lost in the brush next to the course or in a water hazard, the likelihood of causing area damage is significant as golf balls they release heavy metals when they finally break down.

Finally, some modern courses use pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to maintain aesthetic appeal. Proper disposal of these cleaning agents often involves the use of irrigation techniques that, if not closely controlled, could cause the chemicals to contaminate the local water supply.

Positive Effects – Golf Courses

Golf courses may be beneficial to the environment in a variety of ways.

First and foremost, golf courses are built to improve the water quality of the surrounding surroundings. Many contemporary golf course hydrate the grass using clean wastewater. The grass in the field also works as a filter system, further cleaning the water as it is utilized.

Some fields provide a great habitat for particular sorts of wildlife. A golf course, for example, in a hectic metropolitan environment may frequently provide a congenial living habitat for plants and animals that would not otherwise live in the region.

One of the lesser-known characteristics of current golf courses is that they are designed and built in places that were formerly utilized as landfills. This approach has two beneficial environmental effects:

  • First, the area previously polluted with garbage will be transformed into a much cleaner area.
  • Second, all of the positive effects discussed above, such as water purification, will likely be present.

Read Also: Will Golf Cart Batteries Freeze (in The Winter)?

Conclusion: Are golf courses environmentally friendly?

As you can see, the subject of whether golf courses are good for the environment is nuanced, with no easy yes or no response.

Prior to contemporary times, the great bulk of data pointed to golf courses being environmentally detrimental. However, the advent of technology such as automated irrigation systems combined with modern course design techniques has shifted the weight of evidence in favor of golf courses helping the environment.

As technology improves and designers are concerned with creating course with the environment in mind, it is likely that modern golf course will continue to help improve the environment.