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The Fledgling Movement to Rewild Golf Courses

an old golf course that's being reclaimed and rewilded

Mark Twain once said: “golf is a good walk spoiled.”1 Some American communities are realizing that a golf course is a good outdoor space spoiled.

A small number of shuttered golf courses around the country have been bought by land trusts, municipalities and nonprofit groups and transformed into nature preserves, parks and wetlands. Among them are sites in Detroit, Pennsylvania, Colorado, the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, and at least four in California.

“We quickly recognized the high restoration value, the conservation value, and the public access recreational value,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, California state director with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which bought the San Geronimo course, in Marin County, for $8.9 million in 2018 and renamed it San Geronimo Commons.

The article also shares this startling fact: “The United States has more golf courses than McDonald’s locations.” WAT.

  1. Yeah, he probably didn’t.

Discussion  5 comments

Mac Brown

Wow - and it doesn't appear to be close: 17,000 golf courses vs. 13,500 McDonalds (my research was quick and may be incorrect)

Dave Dewey

My town bought a local course that I had played many rounds on, and are in the first few years of turning it into a park. They've installed an incredibly popular disc golf course so far, and are now soliciting feedback for a planned mountain bike park. We walk the dogs there all the time. Even before actual work started, it was humbling and impressive at just how FAST Mother Nature reclaimed that course... it wasn't more than a couple of years before I could barely visualize the fairways underneath the new wild space.

Michelle Lee

Same here in Philadelphia. Around 2019 or so the city determined that an old golf course flooded too often to be maintained as a golf course. During 2020 they let the grass grow and by summertime, a full-on meadow had sprung up in its place. The park managers mowed a few walking paths but otherwise let it be. It's been an incredible sanctuary during the pandemic and beyond. For both better and worse, there's a lot of interest in this area of the park now, including an interest in unwilding some of it back to artificial sports fields.

Matt G

There was an abandoned golf course in Fresno, California that I would go by sometimes. It being treated as a park and just kind of left alone to do it's thing. I thought it was fantastic and the people who lived around the park seemed to as well. I'd love to see my municipal course turned into a park.

T. Shirbert

We lucked into our local gem about 6 years ago when it was just an abandoned country club and was only maintained (if at all) by local volunteers. In 2021 the Allegheny Land Trust raised enough money to buy it and take over and now it is better than ever!

We walk the pooch here on the regular and it's one of my favorite places in general. Now when I pass still functional golf courses in the area, I think "I can't wait for this place to go out of business!"

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