Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 10, pp 2213–2228 | Cite as

Can a golf course support biodiversity and ecosystem services? The landscape context matter

  • Irene Petrosillo
  • Donatella Valente
  • Maria Rita PasimeniEmail author
  • Roberta Aretano
  • Teodoro Semeraro
  • Giovanni Zurlini
Review Article



In the last 30 years, the number of golf courses has increased dramatically worldwide. Since no other sport occupies and manages such large areas of green space, landscape context is crucial for determining their impacts or benefits.


(1) Examine how they affect the main landscape socio-environmental landscape components; (2) analyze the knowledge network structure characterizing the research focused on golf courses; (3) discuss the most common best management practices to mitigate their environmental impacts; and (4) suggest new research perspectives.


This paper has reviewed 239 papers from academic library databases through a literature review and co-word network analysis.


Golf courses have impacted negatively on water and soil components, while positively on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and tourism, mainly in urban contexts. The best management practices have focused on soil, biodiversity and ecosystem services, water quality and quantity, and have given specific indications for amphibians, birds, turtles, and bee species. Few articles have considered the landscape perspective, despite the potential impact on natural or semi-natural landscapes.


New clusters of research and management issues, in order to link biodiversity conservation with landscape perspective, have emerged: the need to increase (1) studies focused on the effects of golf courses on the ecological processes behind the functioning of the landscape, taking into account its composition and spatial configuration; (2) the proportion of native vegetation in the landscape composition, and density and complexity of vegetation in the landscape configuration.


Ecosystem services Biodiversity conservation Golf courses Co-word network analysis 



We sincerely thank the anonymous Reviewers for their useful and targeted suggestions and comments that have improved the quality of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_885_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (135 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 134 kb)


  1. Alaoui A, Diserens E (2011) Changes in soil structure following passage of a tracked heavy machine. Geoderma 163:283–290Google Scholar
  2. Andersson E, Barthel S, Borgström S, Colding J, Elmqvist T, Folke C, Gren Å (2014) Reconnecting Cities to the biosphere: stewardship of green infrastructure and urban ecosystem services. Ambio 43:445–453PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Bachman M, Inamdar S, Barton S, Duke JM, Tallamy D, Bruck J (2016) A comparative assessment of runoff nitrogen from turf, forest, meadow, and mixed landuse watersheds. J Am Water Resour As 52(2):397–408Google Scholar
  4. Berrill M, Bertram S, Wilson A, Louis S, Brigham D, Stromberg C (1993) Lethal and sublethal impacts of pyrethroid insecticides on amphibian embryos and tadpoles. Environ Toxicol Chem 12:525–539Google Scholar
  5. Boone FR (1988) Weather and other environmental factors influencing crop responses to tillage and traffic. Soil Till Res 11(3/4):283–358Google Scholar
  6. Boone MD, Semlitsch RD, Mosby C (2008) Suitability of golf course ponds for amphibian metamorphosis when bullfrogs are removed. Conserv Biol 22:172–179PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Briassoulis H (2007) Golf-centered development in coastal Mediterranean Europe: a soft sustainability test. J Sustain Tour 15(5):441–461Google Scholar
  8. Briassoulis H (2010) “Sorry golfers, this is not your spot!” Exploring public opposition to golf development. J Sport Soc Issues 34(3):288–311Google Scholar
  9. Brotons L, Herrando S (2001) Factors affecting bird communities in fragments of secondary pine forests in the North-Western Mediterranean Basin. Acta Oecol 22:21–31Google Scholar
  10. Burgin S, Wotherspoon D (2009) The potential for golf courses to support restoration of biodiversity for BioBanking offsets. Urban Ecosyst 12:145–55Google Scholar
  11. Callon M, Courtial JP, Turner WA, Bauin S (1983) From translations to problematic networks: an introduction to co-word analysis. Soc Sci Inform 22(2):191–235Google Scholar
  12. Carrow RN, Krum JM, Flitcroft I, Cline V (2010) Precision turfgrass management: challenges and field applications for mapping turfgrass soil and stress. Precis Agric 11:115–134Google Scholar
  13. Chan L, Hillel O, Elmqvist T, Werner P, Holman N, Mader A, Calcaterra E (2014) User’s manual on the singapore index on cities’ biodiversity (also known as the City Biodiversity Index). National Parks Board, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen C-H, Liu W-L, Liaw S-L (2011) Integrated dynamic policy management methodology and system for strategic environmental assessment of golf course installation policy in Taiwan. Environ Impact Asses 31(1):66–76Google Scholar
  15. Chen Z, Ngo HH, Guo W, Wang X (2013) Analysis of Sydney’s recycled water schemes. Front Env Sci Eng 7(4):608–615Google Scholar
  16. Chester ET, Robson BJ (2013) Anthropogenic refuges for freshwater biodiversity: Their ecological characteristics and management. Biol Conserv 166:64–75Google Scholar
  17. Cohen J (1960) A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educ Psychol Meas 20:37–46Google Scholar
  18. Colding J, Folke C (2009) The role of golf courses in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. Ecosystems 12(2):191–206Google Scholar
  19. Colding J, Lundberg J, Lundberg S, Andersson E (2009) Golf courses and wetland fauna. Ecol Appl 19:1481–1491PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. da Silva AP, Kay BD, Perfect E (1994) Characterization of the least limiting water range of soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 58(6):1775–1781Google Scholar
  21. Dai Z, Puyang X, Han L (2016) Using assessment of net ecosystem services to promote sustainability of golf course in China. Ecol Ind 63:165–171Google Scholar
  22. Dair I, Schofield JM (1990) Nature conservation, legislation and environmental aspects of golf course management in England. In: Cochran AJ (ed) Science and Golf. E. and F.N. Spon, London, pp 330–335Google Scholar
  23. Davis JS, Morais DB (2004) Factions and enclaves: small towns and socially unsustainable tourism development. J Travel Res 43(1):3–10Google Scholar
  24. Deslauriers MR, Asgary A, Nazarnia N, Jaeger JAG (2018) Implementing the connectivity of natural areas in cities as an indicator in the City Biodiversity Index (CBI). Ecol Ind 94:99–113Google Scholar
  25. Ding Y, Chowdhury GG, Foo S (2001) Bibliometric cartography of information retrieval research by using co-word analysis. Inform Process Manag 37(6):817–842Google Scholar
  26. Dirksen Ch (1999) Soil physics measurements, Catena Verl. GeoEcology paperback, ReiskirchenGoogle Scholar
  27. Dobbs EK, Potter DA (2015) Forging natural links with golf courses for pollinator-related conservation, outreach, teaching, and research. Am Entomol 61:116–123Google Scholar
  28. Dobbs EK, Potter DA (2016) Naturalized habitat on golf courses: source or sink for natural enemies and conservation biological control? Urban Ecosyst 19:899–914Google Scholar
  29. Domínguez-Gómez JA, González-Gómez T (2017) Analysing stakeholders’ perceptions of golf-course-based tourism: a proposal for developing sustainable tourism projects. Tour Manage 63:135–143Google Scholar
  30. Donohue JC (1973) Understanding scientific literature: a bibliographic approach. The MIT press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  31. Ficetola GF, DeBernardi F (2004) Amphibians in a human dominated land- scape: the community structure is related to habitat features and isolation. Biol Conserv 119:219–230Google Scholar
  32. Fox S-JC, Hockey PAR (2007) Impacts of a South African coastal golf estate on shrubland bird communities. S Afr J Sci 103(1–2):27–34Google Scholar
  33. Fung CKW, Jim CY (2017) Assessing the cooling effects of different vegetation settings in a Hong Kong golf course. Proc Environ Sci 37:626–636Google Scholar
  34. Gan H, Wickings K (2017) Soil ecological responses to pest management in golf turf vary with management intensity, pesticide identity, and application program. Agr Ecosyst Environ 246:66–77Google Scholar
  35. Gange AC, Lindsay DE (2002) Can golf courses enhance local biodiversity? In: Thain E (ed) Science and golf IV. Routledge, London, pp 721–736Google Scholar
  36. Gange AC, Lindsay DE, Schofield JM (2003) The ecology of golf courses. Biologist 50:63–68Google Scholar
  37. Green BH, Marshall IC (1987) An assessment of the role of golf courses in Kent, England, in protecting wildlife and landscape. Landsc Urban Plan 14:143–154Google Scholar
  38. Gren Å, Andersson E (2018) Being efficient and green by rethinking the urban-rural divide—combining urban expansion and food production by integrating an ecosystem service perspective into urban planning. Sustain Cities Soc 40:75–82Google Scholar
  39. Guzy JC, Price SJ, Dorcas ME (2013) The spatial configuration of greenspace affects semi-aquatic turtle occupancy and species richness in a suburban landscape. Landsc Urban Plan 117:46–56Google Scholar
  40. Hall DM, Camilo GR, Tonietto RK, Ollerton J, Ahrné K, Arduser M, Ascher JS, Baldock KCR, Fowler R, Frankie G, Goulson D, Gunnarsson B, Hanley ME, Jackson JI, Langellotto G, Lowenstein D, Minor ES, Philpott SM, Potts SG, Sirohi MH, Spevak EM, Stone GN, Threlfall CG (2016) The city as a refuge for insect pollinators. Conserv Biol 31(1):24–29Google Scholar
  41. Hammond RA, Hudson MD (2007) Environmental management of UK golf courses for biodiversity—attitudes and actions. Landsc Urban Plan 83:127–136Google Scholar
  42. Harden LA, Price SJ, Dorcas ME (2009) Terrestrial activity and habitat selection of eastern mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum) in a fragmented landscape: implications for habitat management of golf courses and other suburban environments. Copeia 1:78–84Google Scholar
  43. Hodgkison SC, Hero J-M, Warnken J (2007) The conservation value of suburban golf courses in a rapidly urbanising region of Australia. Landsc Urban Planning 79:323–337Google Scholar
  44. Howard JH, Julian SE, Ferrigan J (2002) Golf course design and maintenance: impacts on amphibians. USGA Turfgrass Environ Res Online 1(6):1–21Google Scholar
  45. Hudson MAR, Bird DM (2009) Recommendations for design and management of golf courses and green spaces based on surveys of breeding bird communities in Montreal. Landsc Urban Plan 92:335–346Google Scholar
  46. Jarrett M, Shackleton CM (2017) Integrating biodiversity considerations into urban golf courses: managers’ perceptions and woody plant diversity in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. J Land Use Sci 12(4):292–311Google Scholar
  47. Jim CY, Chen WY (2016) Legacy effect of trees in the heritage landscape of a peri-urban golf course. Urban Ecosyst 19(4):1717–1734Google Scholar
  48. Jones KB, Zurlini G, Kienast F, Petrosillo I, Edwards T, Wade TG, Li B-l, Zaccarelli N (2013) Informing landscape planning and design for sustaining ecosystem services from existing spatial patterns and knowledge. Landscape Ecol 28:1175–1192Google Scholar
  49. Jones SG, Gordon DH, Phillips GM, Richardson BRD (2005) Avian community response to a golf-course landscape unit gradient. Wildlife Soc B 33(2):422–434Google Scholar
  50. Knopper LD, Mineau P, Mcnamee JP, Lean DR (2005) Use of comet and micronucleus assays to measure genotoxicity in meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) living in golf course ecosystems exposed to pesticides. Ecotoxicology 14:323–335PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Kohler EA, Poole VL, Reicher ZJ, Turco RF (2004) Nutrient, metal, and pesticide removal during storm and nonstorm events by a constructed wetland on an urban golf course. Ecol Eng 23:285–298Google Scholar
  52. Kotliar NB, Wiens JA (1990) Multiple scales of patchiness and patch structure. A hierarchical framework for the study of heterogeneity. Oikos 59:253–260Google Scholar
  53. Landis JR, Koch GG (1977) The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33:159–174Google Scholar
  54. LaPoint S, Balkenhol N, Hale J, Sadler J, van der Ree R (2015) Ecological connectivity research in urban areas. Funct Ecol 29:868–878Google Scholar
  55. Larson EK, Perrings C (2013) The value of water-related amenities in an arid city: the case of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Landsc Urban Plan 109:45–55Google Scholar
  56. LeClerc JE, Cristol DA (2005) Are golf courses providing habitat for birds of conservation concern in Virginia? Wildlife Soc B 33(2):463–470Google Scholar
  57. Liu Y, Dell E, Yao H, Rufty T, Shi W (2011) Microbial and soil properties in bentgrass putting greens: impacts of nitrogen fertilization rates. Geoderma 162:215–221Google Scholar
  58. Maas J, van Dillen SME, Groenewegen PP (2009) Social contacts as a possible mechanism behind the relation between green space next term and health. Health Place 15:586–595PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Mackey MJ, Connette GM, Peterman WE, Semlitsch RD (2014) Do golf courses reduce the ecological value of headwater streams for salamanders in the southern Appalachian Mountains? Landsc Urban Plan 125:17–27Google Scholar
  60. Mankin KR (2000) An integrated approach for modelling and man- aging golf course water quality and ecosystem diversity. Ecol Modell 133:259–267Google Scholar
  61. Marsh DM, Pearman PB (1997) Effects of habitat fragmentation on the abundance of two species of Leptodactylid frogs in an Andean montane forest. Conserv Biol 11:1323–1328Google Scholar
  62. Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (2001) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, NorwellGoogle Scholar
  63. Materna EJ, Rabeni CF, LaPoint TW (1995) Effects of the synthetic pyrethroid insecticide, Esfenvalerate, on larval leopard frogs (Rana spp.). Environ Toxicol Chem 14:613–622Google Scholar
  64. Matos C, Pereira S, Amorim EV, Bentes I, Briga-Sá A (2014) Wastewater and greywater reuse on irrigation in centralized and decentralized systems—an integrated approach on water quality, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Sci Total Environ 493:463–471PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Metcalfe TL, Dillon PJ, Metcalfe CD (2008) Detecting the transport of toxic pesticides from golf courses into watersheds in the precambrian shield region of Ontario. Canada. Environ Toxicol Chem 27(4):811–18PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Obear GR, Hartemink AE, Soldat DJ (2014) Soils with iron-cemented layers on golf courses in the USA. Geoderma 232–234:198–207Google Scholar
  67. Ole RS, Nordh H, Tveit MS (2015) Impact of golf courses on cultural landscapes. Popular Scientific Articles—STERF.
  68. O’Neill A, Gupta BS, Phillips DH (2014) Distribution of arsenic and risk assessment of activities on a golf course fertilised with arsenic-containing Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed. Sci Total Environ 482–483:252–259PubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Ortuño A, Hernández M, Civera S (2015) Golf course irrigation and self-sufficiency water in Southern Spain. Land Use Policy 44:10–18Google Scholar
  70. Ortuño A, Hernández M, Civera S (2016) Golf courses and land use patterns in the south-east of Spain. Land Use Policy 51:206–214Google Scholar
  71. Pagliai M (1998) Soil porosity aspects. Int Agrophys 4:215–232Google Scholar
  72. Palmer C (2004) More than just a game: The consequences of golf tourism. In: Ritchie BW, Adair D (eds) Sport tourism: interrelationships, impacts and issues. Channel View Publications, Clevedon, pp 117–134Google Scholar
  73. Panina LV (2010) Localized dry spots on golf greens in a moderately continental climate, and its prevention and control. Urban For Urban Green 9:253–260Google Scholar
  74. Peter J (2007) Japanese investment in golf course development. Int J Urban Reg 18:234–255Google Scholar
  75. Pullin AS, Stewart GB (2006) Guidelines for systematic review in conservation and environmental management. Conserv Biol 20:1647–1656PubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. RanA (R&A) (2017) Golf around the world 2017.
  77. Rice PJ, Horgan BP, Hamlin JL (2017) Evaluation of individual and combined management practices to reduce the off-site transport of pesticides from golf course turf. Sci Total Environ 583:72–80PubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Rodriguez Diaz JA, Knox JW, Weatherhead EK (2007) Competing demands for irrigation water: golf and agriculture in Spain. Irrig Drain 56(5):541–549Google Scholar
  79. Saarikivi J, Tähtinen S, Malmberg S, Kotze DJ (2015) Converting land into golf courses—effects on ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae). Insect Conserv Diver 8:247–251Google Scholar
  80. Salgot M, Priestley GK, Folch M (2012) Golf course irrigation with reclaimed water in the Mediterranean: a risk management matter. Water 4:389–429Google Scholar
  81. Schlossberg MJ, Schmidt JP (2007) Influence of nitrogen rate and form on quality of putting greens cohabited by creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass. Agron J 99:99–106Google Scholar
  82. Selhorst AL, Lal R (2011) Carbon budgeting in golf course soils of Central Ohio. Urban Ecosyst 14:771–781Google Scholar
  83. Shao-Hua Y, Zhi-Hui C, Lie-Bao H, Xin-Shi L (2012) Study on optimization of moisture retention for golf green rootzone soil mixtures. Acta Ecol Sin 32:26–32Google Scholar
  84. Sláma J, Bystřický V, Štych P, Fialová D, Svobodová L, Kvítek T (2018) Golf courses: new phenomena in the landscape of the Czech Republic after 1990. Land Use Policy 78:430–446Google Scholar
  85. Tanner RA, Gange AC (2005) Effects of golf courses on local biodiversity. Landsc Urban Plan 71:137–146Google Scholar
  86. Terman MR (1997) Natural links: naturalistic Golf Courses as wildlife habitat. Landsc Urban Plan 38:183–197Google Scholar
  87. Terman MR (2000) Ecology and golf: saving wildlife habitats on human landscapes. Golf course Manage 68:183–197Google Scholar
  88. Threlfall CG, Mata L, Mackie JA, Hahs AK, Stork NE, Williams NSG, Livesley SJ (2017) Increasing biodiversity in urban green spaces through simple vegetation interventions. J Appl Ecol 54:1874–1883Google Scholar
  89. Threlfall CG, Walker K, Williams NSG, Hahs AK, Mata L, Stork N, Livesley SJ (2015) The conservation value of urban green space habitats for Australian native bee communities. Biol Conserv 187:240–248Google Scholar
  90. Threlfall CG, Williams NSG, Hahs AK, Livesley SJ (2016) Approaches to urban vegetation management and the impacts on urban bird and bat assemblages. Landsc Urban Plan 153:28–39Google Scholar
  91. Tu C, Wang Y, Duan W, Hertl P, Tradway L, Brandenburg R, Lee D, Snell M, Hu S (2011) Effects of fungicides and insecticides on feeding behavior and community dynamics of earthworms: implications for casting control in turfgrass systems. Appl Soil Ecol 47:31–36Google Scholar
  92. Udeigwe TK, Young J, Kandakji T, Weindorf DC, Mahmoud MA, Stietiya MH (2015) Elemental quantification, chemistry, and source apportionment in golf course facilities in a semi-arid urban landscape using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. Solid Earth 6:415–424Google Scholar
  93. Warnken J, Thompson D, Zakus DH (2001) Golf course development in a major tourist destination: implications for planning and management. Environ Manage 27(5):681–696PubMedGoogle Scholar
  94. Whited D, Galatowitsch S, Tester JR, Schik K, Lehtinen R, Husveth J (2000) The importance of local and regional factors in predicting effective conservation: planning strategies for wetland bird communities in agricultural and urban landscapes. Landsc Urban Plan 49:49–65Google Scholar
  95. Wiens JA (1989) Spatial scaling in ecology. Funct Ecol 3:385–397Google Scholar
  96. Winchell KM, Gibbs JP (2016) Golf courses as habitat for aquatic turtles in urbanized landscapes. Landsc Urban Plan 147:59–70Google Scholar
  97. Wu J (2013) Landscape sustainability science: ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes. Landscape Ecol 28:999–1023Google Scholar
  98. Yang Y, He Z, Wang Y, Fan J, Liang Z, Stoffella PJ (2013) Dissolved organic matter in relation to nutrients (N and P) and heavy metals in surface runoff water as affected by temporal variation and land uses—a case study from Indian River Area, south Florida, USA. Agr Water Manage 118:38–49Google Scholar
  99. Yang Y, Wu M, Cui L (2012) Integration of three visualization methods based on co-word analysis. Scientometrics 90:659–673Google Scholar
  100. Yasuda M, Koike F (2006) Do golf courses provide a refuge for flora and fauna in Japanese urban landscapes? Landsc Urban Plan 75:58–68Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Landscape Ecology, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and TechnologiesUniversity of SalentoLecceItaly
  2. 2.Department of FoggiaRegional Environmental Protection Agency of ApuliaFoggiaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and TechnologiesUniversity of SalentoLecceItaly

Personalised recommendations