This study is a meta-analysis of research examining the environmental impacts of golf courses. Golf is a very land-intensive sport, and to properly build and maintain a quality golf course can require considerable amounts of fresh water, fertilizers, pesticides, clearing trees, and potentially disrupting various types of habitat. There are currently about 40,000 golf courses worldwide and so understanding the environmental impacts is increasingly important. This study is unique in that it reviews nearly 250 academic papers published between 1980 and 2017, so the results offer a useful outline of the state of knowledge in this area. The authors identified research papers via review of academic databases and a set of keywords relating to golf and environmental impacts. Next, they conducted a co-word network analysis (CNA) of those papers to identify both major research focus areas and topics that had received only limited coverage. The authors found that almost 90% of the published research on golf’s environmental impacts is focused on North America and Europe. The findings also reveal that, in order of most negative to most positive, golf courses impact water, soil, land use, landscape integrity, biodiversity/ecosystem services, tourism, and people. Ultimately, the authors conclude that while golf courses generally make negative impacts on water quality and soil, they also generally make positive impacts on biodiversity (among certain categories of plants and animals, at least) and tourism. This is relevant for managers because those entrusted with supervising golf courses ought to understand both the negative impacts courses can make – in order to reduce them – and the positive impacts of golf – in order to increase them further. Golf may be uniquely positioned as a sport which can make direct, measurable, and positive contributions to environmental and sustainability goals.
CITE: Petrosillo, Irene; Valente, Donatella; Pasimeni, Maria Rita; Aretano, Roberta; Semeraro, Teodoro; & Zurlini, Giovanni. (2019). Can a golf course support biodiversity and ecosystem services? The landscape context matter. Landscape Ecology 34: 2213-2228