Preserving Golf Courses From Development

If you’d like to prevent golf course redevelopment anywhere in the USA then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 (call-text) or for an initial no-cost discussion of strategy options.  To see an example of the type of strategy CEDS can help you develop click on: Golf Course Preservation Initial Strategy Analysis Example. Please don’t hesitate. Delay almost always decreases the likelihood of success.

Click this text to see examples of how we’ve helped prevent golf course redevelopment.

Since 2006 the number of golf courses closing each year has exceeded the number opened. Over the past ten years 800 courses have closed nationwide. Yet there are still more than 16,000 golf courses in the U.S.

This trend has been attributed to declining interest in golf combined with a glut in the number of golf courses. However, this doesn’t mean that the course you treasure must close. There is much that those living near a course can do to keep it open. Following are some of the many good reasons for preserving a golf course.

Arguments for Preserving A Golf Course

There are many good reasons to prevent golf course redevelopment. Following are a few of the more important ones.

Property Value

Homes located next to a golf course can sell for 40% more than the same dwelling located elsewhere. This also means that those living next to a golf course paid a premium for that benefit. This makes it exceedingly unfair to convert the golf course to other land uses which negate the increased property value and other benefits enjoyed by nearby residents.

Economic Benefits

According to the most recent report from the National Golf Course Owners Association, golf is a “$68.8 billion industry that contributes approximately $3.9 billion annually to charities across the country – more than any other sporting activity.” Nearly two million jobs are tied to golf. One study showed that a golf course in Oklahoma pumps nearly $90,000 a year into the local economy.

Aquatic Resource Health

Several decades ago there was great concern about the impact of golf courses on streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater and other aquatic resources. However, Integrated Pest Management, Naturalization, and other innovations have dramatically reduced the loss of pesticides, fertilizers and other forms of golf course pollution.
Converting a golf course to other land uses, like housing, can cause substantial aquatic resource damage. Each acre of rooftop, street, parking lot and other impervious surface built on a golf course can damage up to 660-feet of downstream waterways. While ponds and other stormwater management measures may reduce the impact, nothing protects aquatic resources as effectively as keeping a well-managed golf course green.

Wildlife Habitat

The latest Golf’s Environmental Impact Factsheet notes:

“The golf industry has been very proactive in wildlife habitat enhancement as exemplified by the fact that nearly half of all golf courses increased their acreage of native-natural-unmowed areas by an average of ten acres between 1996 and 2005.

  • The acreage of non-turfgrass landscapes on golf courses are substantial and can make an important contribution to green space and wildlife habitats for communities.
  • Non-turfgrass landscapes on 18-hole golf courses include an average of 35 acres dedicated to forests, wetlands, ponds, streams or other specialized habitats.
  • Golf courses have an average of 11 acres of water bodies (lakes, ponds, wetlands, streams), nearly double the amount of the acreage of greens and tees.”

Recreation & Open Space

Many local governments set a goal of 10 acres of park, recreation and other open space per 1,000 residents. With an average area of 100 acres a typical golf course achieves the open space goal for a population of 10,000. If your area is running behind in meeting the goal then a powerful argument can be made for preserving a golf course, particularly if other recreation activities are accommodated.

Golf Course Preservation Strategies

Following are some of the more common methods of preserving a golf course threatened by development. Determining which strategy options are most likely to succeed requires a bit of research. An example of how CEDS researches preservation options can be view at: Golf Course Preservation Initial Strategy Analysis Example. For further detail regarding how CEDS might perform a similar analysis for your effort contact us at 410-654-3021 or Also, visit our Strategy Analysis webpage.

Deed & Land Use Restrictions

It is not uncommon for deed restrictions or agreements to exist which protect a golf course from being converted to other uses. So, your first step in exploring preservation options should be a thorough title search. In many states deeds and other land records are available online. An hour or so of browsing could uncover restrictions. However, the restrictions may be challenged by those seeking to develop a golf course.

Increasing Profitability

While the number of golf courses is shrinking, this should increase the profitability of the remaining courses. If the owners of the course of concern to you claim that poor revenues are forcing development, then options for increasing profitability should be considered. Some of these options may be far easier to achieve with strong community support, like tax breaks or converting a course from private to public. Also, measures like improved marketing can increase cash flow. In one CEDS effort to preserve a golf course we learned that improved online marketing could increase revenue by up to 185%.


Zoning determines what uses can be made of any piece of land, including a golf course. If a golf course is zoned for high density development then ask your local elected officials to consider downzoning. The fewer the number of homes allowed per acre the less likely development becomes. For further detail see the CEDS Zoning webpage.


The homes bordering a golf course can sell for 40% more than the same dwelling located elsewhere. This gives adjoining homeowners a strong incentive to preserve the course. It may be possible to come up with the funds needed to purchase the course by getting these homeowners to pool their resources. It may also be possible to interest various land preservation groups in joining in. The most important role of these groups may be to take title to the golf course until you and your neighbors can raise the necessary funds or secure a loan. Don’t overlook local or state park agencies as potential partners too. For further advice see Chapter 16 Open Space Preservation in the free CEDS book How To Win Land Development Issues.

Partial Development

If the preceding options don’t pan out then consider working with the owner on partial development of the golf course. Perhaps the owner can make as much profit on developing the course with ten large-lot homes vs. 50 quarter-acre lots. Or maybe development can be clustered on just 20% to 40% of the course leaving the rest green. These are but a few of the many possible options.