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Golf Course conversions to public parks

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The former Millbrook Golf Course, now a public park, in Windsor, CT.

A recent article in CityLab discussed the continuing decline of golf in the United States and mentioned that the total number of private golf courses has shrunk, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. While the article focused on the potential conversion to residential and commercial uses, it did mention the conversion of private courses into public parks in a number of cities and towns across the country.  The Trust for Public Land is an active participant in creating public parks from private golf courses.  We work with towns, cities and towns in acquiring golf courses for public parks for a variety of both environmental and recreational uses. Our most recent acquisition is in Windsor, CT, but we’ve also acquired golf courses recently in Marin County, California, Portland, Oregon, Rancho Canada, California and Golden, Colorado.   More about this trend in our updated post, below.

Executive Summary:

The total number of golf courses has been steadily shrinking in the US for the past decade or so.  According the “The World of Golf” study published in 2015 by The R & A (Global Governing body for Golf) the number of courses in the US is 15,372, down from a high of 16,052 courses around the year 2005[1].

Data collected by The Trust for Public Land for the annual City Park Facts report shows the current number of public golf courses in the 100 largest U.S. cities is 413, up from 400 in 2010. Thus, the number of public golf courses is 2.69 percent of the current overall total.[2]

While we have not seen many examples of public golf courses being converted to parks, we do find 19 public or private golf courses being purchased and converted to public parks in the past 12 years. The Trust for Public Land has been an integral part of the latter effort, working on 9 of the 19 in the past 12 years.

Usage in golf courses, according to the National Golf Foundation is declining. In 2000, there were 28.8 M golfers, growing to 29.42 M in 2009, then falling by end of 2016 to 23.8 M golfers.[3] The number of rounds went from 518.4 M rounds in 2000 to 465.5 M rounds in 2013.[4] [5]

Examples of Golf Course to Park conversions in the past 10-12 years. We’ve found a total of 15 in the past 12 years that have been acquired, now in process to convert them into parks or nature preserves or fully converted. Many more have been considered, especially in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. A current trend is also considering them for conversion to housing subdivisions or commercial or industrial development.  Recent examples include: Tampa [See: http://www.tbo.com/news/localgovernment/pasco-commission-okays-quail-hollow-golf-course-conversion/2330077 ] among many others.

Current / recent golf course conversions to public parks:

Historic conversions of golf courses to public parks:

Examples of restoration techniques and processes used to convert golf courses to parks:

References:

Footnotes:

[1] – Information from the R & A and The National Golf Foundation – websites.

[2] – City Parks Facts 2017, The Trust for Public Land –

[3] – “Annual participation report uncovers favorable trends for the game’s future” April 22, 2017 in Golfdigest.com

[4] – Information from The National Golf Foundation – http://secure.ngf.org/cgi/faqa.asp?

[5] – Information from Statista – https://www.statista.com/statistics/227420/number-of-golfers-usa/

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