Golf – the decadence in our use of space

For a new book, I explore the space-time relationship of many human activities, as a measure of our system impact, and to see if there are alternatives that can do with less.

Space time in the sense that the conversion of solar energy is the basis of life here on earth, and that space or land is needed that can allow that solar energy to do its work in a certain period of time. As such, space-time on Earth is limited for all processes. And all activities are space-time related and depending the availability.

By chance I came across the Golf sport, and did some calculations. I already knew from an earlier exploration that golf takes up a lot of space. A average 18 hole golf course is around 75 hectares, and can accommodate approximately 40,000 rounds of players per year [x] Someone normally playing golf once a week, for about 4.5 hours, will actually play around 2/3 of the time, due to holidays and bad weather. He therefore occupies 34 of those 40,000 possible rounds, on those 75 hectares. That divided by each other gives a space-time occupation for that one golfer of 650 m2-year…. That’s a lot. Many a lot. Especially if you know that there is only 0.2 hectare available per person in the Netherlands, 2000 m2. Golfers therefore take up a lot of space in an absolute sense, in other words, they take up a disproportionate amount of space-time … they literally show off… In other words, they claim a large ‘social space-time circle’. Which as such is withdrawn from the productive capacity of our country, which in turn causes that, for example, agriculture has to increase its production, in order to deliver the same amount on less land. At the expense of more land use abroad, for fertilizer and pesticide production and other mechanization and robotization of the process. (space-time ‘elsewhere’) Instead of providing extra space-time locally for open-field farming in a bio-ecological way… And the costs of this agro-industrial system are passed on to everyone, including non-golfers, so those with a much smaller social -cultural space-time occupation. These kind of relationships become visible with space-time calculations…

Golfers also travel regularly to play on other courses: driving with SUVs, and sometimes even fly abroad for to play. For a weekend of golf, or a weekend’s claim of space-time from others. The socio-cultural space-time occupancy is exploding… Golf should therefore be the first activity to be banned, or at least heavily taxed: in proportion to space-time occupancy, that is. Compare it with taxing driving the car, in proportion to time of road use. But then taxing in proportion to land use….

That sounds exaggerated, you think? Well, then think of the following: suppose everyone in the Netherlands wants to play golf in principle 1 x a week (the 34 times), then we need 1/3 of all the land in the Netherlands for that… If they really went every week ( 50 x a year) even half of all land would become golf course…! ‘And aren’t we all entitled to play golf once a week…?’

But hey, this exploration wasn’t meant to nail golfers. But the numbers are much higher than I thought when I started calculating. So on reflection: golf is criminal, in a country where we have to turn every m2 three times upside down before we decide to use it for either homes, farmers, roads, forests, nature, water storage, and so on. Then its insane to use 1/3 or half of all the land or more for a walk, on a field where nature is mowed short and occasionally hit a ball with the walking stick. You can’t even walk the dog on those courses.

This Land use is of course not only dramatic in the Netherlands: 60% of the inhabitants of Nairobi live in slums, and Lars Reutersward of UN Habitat once calculated that they all live together on as much land area as the combined land area of the golf courses in the city! That’s even more embarrassing.

Golf thus proves to be the ultimate example of the decadence of our species, which allows itself to suppress nature on which it depends, literally and figuratively. Everything has to make way for that little ball that has to be able to float through the air and roll over a short-mowed lawn.

There is nothing left but to close the courses*, or to at least tax this heavily, in terms of lost solar income, either in energy or in biomass. Even then, golfers have to adapt. Just like I already argued and proposed how we could turn Rugby into climate neutral rugby [2] by playing in the woods, golfers will have to switch to Farmers Golf or Urban golf, hitting a ball in the woods, or between buildings, with real handicaps. If not, golfers are a the real handicap to the societal and climatical transition.





4,100 holes in the Netherlands (2018) compared to approximately 3,500 in 2013.

The average number of members per club decreases from 830 to 714 members (-14%)

Taken in a year’s time, a maximum of approximately 40,000 rounds are feasible on an 18-hole course (source: Gosta 2007). The practically feasible occupancy is 50% of this, therefore a maximum of about 150 players per day. (summer) / 5 winter months 1/3

– golfing 1x per week 18 holes 4.5 hours, 2/3 x 52 = 34 / 40000 x 75 ha = 650 m2 year per player

– check: 7 months x 30 days x 150 players plus 5x30x50 : about 40000 rounds players


Author: ronald rovers