Off The Record: Kill the bill

By |  March 16, 2022 0 Comments

The anti-golf bill in California is back in the news. Authored by Christina Garcia, California Assembly Member from Bell Gardens, Calif., AB 1910 proposes to convert municipal golf courses to low-income housing.

The USGA funded a project with the Natural Capital Project team at the University of Minnesota to determine the benefits of golf courses. The Natural Capital Project integrates the value nature provides to society when making major land-use decisions.

Urban ecosystem service assessments are critical to ensuring that the value of nature becomes a standard component of urban planning. Ecosystem services include outputs, conditions or processes of natural systems that directly or indirectly benefit humans or enhance social welfare.

So, the USGA asked the question, “Who receives the benefits or ecosystem services that golf courses provide beyond golfers who use the facility?” The scientists developed a method to evaluate the ecosystem services that golf facilities provide.

The researchers quantified the ecosystem services of the 135 golf courses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, including St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. Each land use has different values for the model parameters used to make comparisons. The footprint of the golf course is replaced with other land use to see how removing the golf course would change the ecosystem service under evaluation.

The researchers analyzed three specific ecosystem services provided by vegetative land cover: 1. Urban cooling (reduction in temperature from the urban heat island), 2. Pollinator abundance and 3. Stormwater nutrient retention (nitrogen and phosphorous).

Golf courses provide the greatest amount of cooling compared to other land uses. Golf courses have a similar cooling improvement to natural areas or city parks. In contrast, golf courses have considerably more cooling when evaluated against conversion to suburban residential, urban residential and industrial development.

Golf course pollinator abundance was similar to suburban residential development, but conversion to city parks and natural areas would increase pollinators. However, conversion to urban residential and industrial would decrease the pollinator abundance.

Natural areas and city parks export less nitrogen and phosphorus than golf courses in stormwater runoff, while suburban and urban residential developments export more nutrients.
The bottom line is converting municipal golf courses to urban residential, as proposed in AB 1910, would increase temperatures and stormwater nutrient runoff and decrease pollinator abundance.

While Assembly Member Garcia also believes golf courses are a waste of government funding, municipal golf courses provide funding for parks and recreation departments throughout the state. Craig Kessler, Southern California Golf Association, said that $12 million every year goes into the coffers of county parks and recreation, which subsidizes those swimming pools, trails, picnic areas and soccer fields that don’t pay for themselves.

So, kill the bill, save golf!

This article is tagged with and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author: Mike Kenna, Ph.D.

Mike Kenna, Ph.D., is the retired director of research, USGA Green Section. Contact him at

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