America’s golf courses have been facing a tough battle in recent years — on top of their decades-long headaches caused by overuse, climate change has dealt them another blow. According to some reports, as much as 40 percent of U.S. golf courses are economically unsustainable.
Golf courses suffer from the same dilemma that so many other sustainable businesses do — a lack of natural resources to play with. Even during its heyday in the late 1800s, golf courses would freeze in the winter and be blasted by freezing fog and freezing rain in the summer. In the wake of climate change, things aren’t much better.
Tom Maxwell, the director of research and data at global warming nonprofit SkyTruth, told the Guardian that he has found 40 golf courses across the country that have ceased operations because of water restrictions.
Another study found that 35 percent of the golf courses in Massachusetts could cease operations in the next two decades. This figure would be an average of more than 450 courses across the country.
Meanwhile, the FBI reports that roughly 15,000 jobs related to golf were lost between 2007 and 2015. Nearly half of all courses in Chicago closed in the past decade, as did a third of those in St. Louis. In Fort Worth, Texas, the majority of golf courses shuttered in 2016.
“Golf is interesting because it is an inherently unsustainable industry,” wrote the authors of the 2014 study on American golf courses’ plight.
In recent years, more and more courses have attempted to reinvent themselves by changing the way they play — from redefining the number of holes they play to overhauling new innovations that make holes more attractive to play, it’s a gamble.