Wednesday, February 2, 2022



I am here today to talk about something I know practically nothing about: golf. I don’t even play mini-golf very well, to be honest. Last night I stumbled upon a conversation on Twitter about Columbia’s golf courses and it got me thinking. 

The gist of it was that the golf courses owned and operated by CA were both a bad use of land and a poor use of Columbia Association resources. As you probably know, there are two: Hobbit’s Glen and Fairway Hills.  I have never been to either one because, as you’ve probably guessed, I don’t play golf. In fact, the closest I’ve gotten was a party for bloggers at the newly reopened Turn House restaurant, which is golf-course adjacent. (Hobbit’s Glen)

I’ve always assumed that the golf courses were there because, when Columbia was founded, golf was an amenity considered important to offer to residents of the New American City. Since Columbia was meant to be integrated from the very start, that meant that these were integrated golf courses. That may have been a very big deal at the time. (As an aside, I found this article, “Golf and Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.” to be fascinating.)

Here are the main objections I saw listed in last night’s Twitter conversation:

  • They are environmentally damaging.
  • They are a form of exclusionary land use.
  • There are too many of them.
  • They lose money.
This last point was accompanied by this image, which looks to be from a CA Budget document.

About losing money. If the golf courses were businesses, this would obviously be the deciding factor. But if we view them as services, we might be considering how much loss is acceptable in order to continue subsidizing an amenity which the community sees as a public good. (See also: Haven on the Lake) 

Again, I don’t know. In 2022, do Columbia residents feel that maintaining golf courses is a public good/valuable amenity?

As for whether we have too many golf courses, well, how many is too many? How much is enough?  According to the 2020 census, Columbia has a population of approximately 104,000. What’s the appropriate ratio of golf courses per  number of residents? Is there one? Interest and active participation in golf may have changed over time. That’s altogether possible. So the need in 2022 may not be the same as in Columbia’s earlier years. 

Addressing the issue of golf courses as exclusionary land use is going to take more research on my part before I can discuss that intelligently. So I’m going to put that one on hold and invite readers who are more knowledgeable to chime in while I go learn more.

I can’t argue with the assertion that maintaining golf courses is bad for the environment. I don’t know what lawn care products that the Columbia Association uses but many that are on the market are toxic for living things and not at all what we want running off into our waterways. And, from my limited knowledge, it would seem that layout and careful landscaping of a golf course contributes to runoff by its very nature. 

So, what to do about it? One person floated the suggestion that, were the land in question sold, the resulting funds could then be invested in services that were more needed by Columbia residents. That’s a thought. I wonder how that would look.

The only conclusion I was able to draw from this conversation is that it’s budget season again at CA and that some people have opinions. But I was glad to have run across it because I really don’t think about the golf courses much and perhaps I should.

What do you think?

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