Leopard Creek

The Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour on Friday announced changes to the current Summer Swing of co-sanctioned tournaments. Image via Twitter @golfpass

Is it time for golf to go? A Dutch-based social activist certainly thinks so

Abbey Richards laments that “over 9 billion litres of water” are wasted in the US each year to maintain the appearance of golf courses.

Leopard Creek

The Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour on Friday announced changes to the current Summer Swing of co-sanctioned tournaments. Image via Twitter @golfpass

“Society has evolved past the need for golf.”

That’s the firm view of Abbie Richards, a self-professed science communicator who “discusses climate and misinformation” and is currently sitting for her MSc in climate at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

She points out that there are almost 40,000 golf courses in the world.

“They sit there, using 26 times the amount of space per player as a football field – while providing far less value to the global community.

“Few things make me angrier than poorly purposed land. Land, for instance, that could be affordable housing, a community farm, a public park, or a natural habitat, but instead has been converted into a massive board game that functions more as a status symbol than as a form of entertainment.”


Richards says there is a common misconception that to play golf is to be in nature.

That is false, she believes.

“Golf courses are not natural – they are nature-themed amusement parks. There is an art to their craft, an art that requires the deforestation and restructuring of the land.”

“Golf is not a celebration of nature. It is the celebration of dominion over nature. It’s nature, but clean with trimmed, sterile green grass, less biodiversity, and plenty of alcohol. Humanity took nature and bulldozed the land into a board game so big they have to drive across it.”

She laments that “over 9 billion liters of water” are wasted in the US each year to maintain the appearance of golf courses.

“In Thailand, a single golf course uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers, just so rich tourists can play the same game they play at home but with a Mai Tai.”

‘Reckless’ aesthetic appeal of golf courses

Richards points out that golf course maintenance staff often dump “unregulated fertilisers and pesticides on their greenways to keep the grass looking unnaturally green.” 

The fertilizers, she says, runoff into bodies of water, causing a state of nutrient over-enrichment called ‘eutrophication’ which results in algal blooms that destroy ecosystems.

“The pesticides run off into water, seep into the soil, or are carried by the wind into other ecosystems where they wreak havoc on existing species.”

For perspective, Richards says 98% of insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species.

While pesticides can be necessary in agricultural production, their usage to “maintain the aesthetic appeal of a game is undeniably reckless.”

Golf symbolizes waste, excess, and inequality

The plague of golf courses “playing havoc with our environment” is our fault, says Richards.

“Which is why I feel such a strong obligation to the public to see this ‘sport’ eradicated.”

For decades golf had been the game of elites, and the emerging white middle class who suddenly owned land and cars and had leisure time wanted to feel rich – so they golfed.

She says our beautiful planet filled with rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems have been “torn down” and replaced with “40,000 grass wastelands.”

“The game that exploded in popularity as a symbol of middle-class success now symbolizes waste, excess, and inequality.”

“Golf is quite literally a waste of space. People are homeless and hungry in the same cities where a privileged few whack little balls across the land that could house and feed thousands.”

Bad idea

The Netherlands-based climate campaigner says golf celebrates the “wastage of resources and degradation of nature for the benefit of the select few who can afford it.”

The ice sheets are melting, the oceans are rising, global temperatures are increasing, and species are going extinct. Actual nature is collapsing but maybe the golfers aren’t noticing because the view from their astroturf looks just fine,” she sarcastically notes.

“The 20th century is over. It’s time we, as a society, admit that golf was a bad idea and move on.”