Golf is a popular sport enjoyed by people all over the world, but it isn't traditionally the most environmentally friendly pastime.
Golfers can do their bit to help the environment by using biodegradable golf balls, but what many people may not realize is that most golf courses are quite damaging to the environment.
The chemicals used to keep the grass green, the water needed to maintain the course, and the emissions from golf carts all add up to a big environmental impact.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of eco-friendly golf courses that are working to reduce their environmental impact. These courses use sustainable practices such as using native plants, reducing water usage, and promoting electric and even solar golf carts.
So if you want a more sustainable round, here are 24 of the most eco-friendly golf courses in the United States.
- 1 Chambers Bay - Tacoma, WA
- 2 Osprey Point - Kiawah Island Resort, SC
- 3 PGA National Resort - Palm Beach Gardens, FL
- 4 Kapalua Resort - Maui, Hawaii
- 5 Barona Creek Golf Club - Lakeside, CA
- 6 The Broadmoor - Colorado Springs, CO
- 7 Mossy Oak Golf Club -West Point, MS
- 8 The Bear Trace - Harrison Bay, TN
- 9 Streamsong Resort - Streamsong, FL
- 10 Los Robles Greens Golf Course - Thousand Oaks, CA
- 11 Vineyard Golf Club - Edgartown, Mass
- 12 Saucon Valley Country Club - Bethlehem, PA
- 13 Westchester Country Club - Rye, N.Y.
- 14 Stone Creek Golf Club - Oregon City, OR
- 15 Broken Sound Club - Boca Raton, FL
- 16 Desert Willow Golf Resort - Palm Desert, CA
- 17 Bandon Dunes Golf Resort - Bandon, OR
- 18 Old Corkscrew Golf Club - Estero, FL
- 19 Venice Golf and Country Club - Venice, FL
- 20 TPC Scottsdale - Scottsdale, AZ
- 21 Pebble Beach Golf Links - Pebble Beach, CA
- 22 Torrey Pines Golf Course - La Jolla, CA
- 23 Old South Golf Links - Hilton Head Island, SC
- 24 Ben Brown’s Golf Course at the Ranch - Laguna Beach, CA
- 25 The Final Word
Chambers Bay - Tacoma, WA
Located on a former sand and gravel mine, Chambers Bay, which was the venue for the 2015 US Open, was designed with sustainability in mind from the start.
- It is a pedestrian-only course, with no golf carts permitted.
- The course features extensive native vegetation and is built to minimize water use.
- It also uses recycled water for irrigation and uses fertilizer made from bio-waste. The course is currently targeting LEED Gold certification.
Osprey Point - Kiawah Island Resort, SC
Osprey Point is a renowned Audubon Signature Sanctuary course that features beautiful Lowcountry landscapes and wildlife.
- The course is built on land that was formerly used for agriculture, and much of the native vegetation was left intact.
- Environmental initiatives include water conservation and recycling, and preservation of the natural habitat of loggerhead turtles.
- Osprey Point was the first golf club in North America to be certified as an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary.
Find out more about the sustainability of the Kiawah island resort here.
PGA National Resort - Palm Beach Gardens, FL
PGA National Resort is home to five championship golf courses, including the famed Players Stadium Course.
- The resort has been a leader in sustainable golf course management for many years and was one of the first resorts in Florida to use recycled water for irrigation, alongside energy-efficient pumps.
- PGA National Resort has been awarded the ASTM Standard for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows and Conferences.
Kapalua Resort - Maui, Hawaii
Kapalua Resort is set on 2,500 acres of land on the northwest coast of Maui and is home to two championship golf courses.
- The resort's eco-friendly golf course is a certified Audubon sanctuary. It has its own water treatment plant which recycles greywater for use on the golf course.
- Kapalua Resort has a spot treatment program that treats greens only when necessary and uses organic fertilizer.
- All green waste is made into compost and used at a nearby organic farm, which supplies local restaurants.
- A filtration system has been installed to clean all water before it runs off into the ocean.
Barona Creek Golf Club - Lakeside, CA
Barona Creek Golf Club is located on the Barona Indian Reservation in California and is one of the most eco-friendly courses in the state.
- Native oak trees have been restored, and the areas between holes are reserved for wildlife.
- Drainage areas have been created into dry creek beds which have attracted wildlife.
- The course has created a wildlife habitat on the property that is home to over 100 migratory bird species.
The Broadmoor - Colorado Springs, CO
The Broadmoor is one of the most well-known eco-friendly golf courses in the United States.
- The hotel has taken many steps to reduce its environmental impact, including converting over 50 acres of highly maintained turfgrass to native varieties of grasses and wildflowers.
- Other sustainability initiatives at The Broadmoor include installing moisture and temperature sensors to efficiently control water on the courses, as well as conducting regular irrigation audits.
Mossy Oak Golf Club -West Point, MS
Mossy Oak Golf Club is located on a 2,000-acre nature preserve in Mississippi and is one of the most eco-friendly courses in the state. Its sustainable initiatives include:
- Restored native prairie grasses around clubhouse building and course.
- Uses organic, slow-release fertilizers.
- Irrigates with reclaimed water.
- Does not irrigate native areas.
The Bear Trace - Harrison Bay, TN
The Bear Trace is a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf community located on the Tennessee River and is home to three championship golf courses. It was GEO-Certified in 2014, and has the following sustainable measures in place:
- Reduced irrigation to conserve water.
- Natural buffer strips to prevent pesticides from leaching into the soil.
- Bubble basins were installed to protect the lake against erosion.
- Chattanooga district uses a greywater system to collect rainwater.
Streamsong Resort - Streamsong, FL
Streamsong Resort is home to two championship golf courses and is located on a 16,000-acre nature preserve built on a former phosphate mine in Florida.
The golf facilities at Streamsong have been built with a minimalist philosophy in mind.
- Natural areas surrounding all fairways.
- No irrigation outside of playing surfaces.
- No fountains or unnecessary lighting.
- Unique natural water recycling system.
Los Robles Greens Golf Course - Thousand Oaks, CA
Los Robles Greens Golf Course is located on a 100-acre nature preserve in California and is one of the most eco-friendly courses in the state. Following the state's severe droughts, the course was re-designed to combine natural beauty with policies that support the local ecosystems.
- Removed 30 irrigated acres of turf, and replaced with 55,000 naturally drought-resistant native plants.
- Reduced usage of fossil fuels, water, and pesticides.
- Created its own nursery to grow native plants.
- Fallen leaves are not cleared but left to mulch in their natural environment.
Vineyard Golf Club - Edgartown, Mass
Vineyard Golf Club is located on Martha’s Vineyard and has the distinction of being America's only fully organic golf course. The club is publically accountable and open meetings are held regularly to allow local people to review its environmental performance. Initiatives include:
- All chemical pesticides have been replaced by organic compost fertilizers.
- Water is supplied from a borehole and stored in a deep lake.
- Natural vegetation is retained outside of playing areas.
- Ecologically sound waste management practices, including reusing of chipped wood on pathways.
Saucon Valley Country Club - Bethlehem, PA
Founded in 1963, Saucon Valley Country Club has long been a leader in environmental sustainability. The golf courses are certified Audubon Sanctuaries, which recognize the highest level in environmental policies.
- The Saucon Valley Country Club is an environmental sanctuary where members work to protect the land.
- It is committed to preserving the natural resources and environment by taking care of both now, as well as for future generations.
- The country club has a habitat enhancement, natural resource protection, and environmental stewardship committee.
Westchester Country Club - Rye, N.Y.
Westchester Country Club is a family-friendly club located just 40 minutes from Manhattan. It boasts two championship courses and an executive 9-hole course.
- The Westchester Country Club in New York switched to a geothermal heating system after installing more than 200 wells 300 feet deep.
- Many areas on the course have been allowed to grow wild.
- Rainwater is captured for irrigation via enlarged collection ponds.
- Bird boxes have been set up to restore the native bluebird population.
Stone Creek Golf Club - Oregon City, OR
Stone Creek Golf Club is located in Oregon City, close to Portland. Like many places in the state, it demonstrates a dedication to preserving the natural world around it.
- Pest management system ensures that the use of pesticides is kept to a minimum.
- The course has created a wildlife habitat on the property that is home to several endangered species of animals.
- Irrigation is limited to play areas only. Water is tested regularly to ensure it is free of pesticides.
Broken Sound Club - Boca Raton, FL
In the heart of Florida’s beautiful Palm Beach County, the Broken Sound Club has been designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International. The award-winning 27-hole golf course is set amidst 2,000 acres of stunningly preserved natural habitat.
The club is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment. Some of the initiatives include:
- Preserving and restoring native habitat.
- Using Integrated Pest Management techniques.
- Reducing water consumption.
- Recycling water for irrigation.
In recognition of these efforts, the Broken Sound Club has been named one of the most environmentally-friendly golf courses in the USA.
Desert Willow Golf Resort - Palm Desert, CA
The award-winning Desert Willow Golf Resort is set amidst the spectacular scenery of the Coachella Valley. The resort features two 18-hole championship golf courses, each of which has been designed to blend in with the natural desert landscape.
- The courses use a unique irrigation system that recycles water from the on-site lakes. This has resulted in a significant reduction in water consumption.
- In addition, the courses use drought-tolerant native plants to reduce the need for watering.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort - Bandon, OR
The Bandon Dunes resort is built on an old sand dune, which means very little soil was disturbed during construction. All profits from its new 9-hole course will be donated to the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.
- All of the grasses on the course are native to the area and require no irrigation.
- Bandon Dunes has been certified as an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary.
- The club is engaged in a campaign to eliminate single-use plastic and is trying to go fully plastic-free.
- The resort has its own on-site water treatment plant that recycles all of the water used on the golf course.
- Bandon Dunes has installed an array of solar panels and is a 95% carbon-free and approaching carbon-neutral resort, offsetting all of its emissions through various initiatives.
Find more information on the environmentally friendly policies at Bandon Dunes here.
Old Corkscrew Golf Club - Estero, FL
This 275-acre course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is located near Fort Myers in southwest Florida.
- The majority of the land is made up of native scrub and wetland. Less than 1/3 of the total area is actual turfgrass.
- Conservation areas have been re-vegetated with thousands of native plants, while all invasive plant varieties have been removed.
Venice Golf and Country Club - Venice, FL
This southwest Florida course was built with the environment in mind from the start.
- The layout weaves its way through natural wetlands and woodlands, using the existing landscape to create a beautiful and challenging golf experience.
- Water conservation is a top priority at Venice Golf, and they have been recognized as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International.
TPC Scottsdale - Scottsdale, AZ
The desert landscape of Scottsdale is home to a variety of unique plants and animals, and TPC Scottsdale works hard to protect this fragile ecosystem.
- The course uses a state-of-the-art irrigation system that recycles water from the golf club's Lucky 13 lake.
- In addition, the course has installed solar panels to offset energy use and minimize its carbon footprint.
Pebble Beach Golf Links - Pebble Beach, CA
Pebble Beach Golf Links is considered one of the most beautiful and sustainable golf courses in the world.
- The course was designed with the environment in mind and features native vegetation, meandering creeks, and stunning ocean views.
- Pebble Beach is also a certified Audubon International Sanctuary and is committed to protecting and conserving natural habitats.
Torrey Pines Golf Course - La Jolla, CA
Torrey Pines is another certified Audubon International Sanctuary and is known for its stunning coastal views and beautiful landscape. The course is situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is home to a variety of native plants and animals.
- The course carefully monitors surface water runoff, which might cause instability to the structure of the cliffs.
- Torrey Pines is committed to environmental stewardship and has implemented a number of sustainability initiatives, including a waste reduction program to minimize food waste at championship events.
Old South Golf Links - Hilton Head Island, SC
This 18-hole, par 71 course was designed by Rees Jones and has been open since 1991. The course is built on an old plantation and features beautiful live oaks and Spanish moss. The course has won numerous awards including being named one of the "Top 100 Courses in the World" by Golf Digest.
- The course is committed to being eco-friendly and has been certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
- It uses solar power for the clubhouse and maintenance building, has a water filtration system that recycles water used on the course, and uses organic fertilizers.
Ben Brown’s Golf Course at the Ranch - Laguna Beach, CA
- The course is situated on a nature preserve, which means that the natural habitat of local wildlife is protected.
- The course uses recycled water for irrigation.
- Low-emitting electric carts are used on the course.
- Course turf is made of a mix of organic materials, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
- Ben Brown’s is a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship.
The Final Word
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly golfing experience, be sure to check out one of the courses on our list. Not only will you get to play in a beautiful setting, but you’ll also be doing your part to help preserve the environment.
Have you had a chance to play at any of these sustainable golf courses? Or are there any others you think should be added to the list? Get in touch and let us know.