GCSAA survey: Superintendents increase efficient maintenance

Number of maintained turfgrass acres decreased, and use of cleaner energy sources increased


Golf course in daylight

The median total of maintained turfgrass acres on 18-hole U.S. golf courses declined 3% between 2005 and 2021, according to recently released survey data. 

The survey was conducted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) as part of its Golf Course Environmental Profile program, which began in 2005. The survey was funded in part by the United States Golf Association (USGA) through the GCSAA Foundation.

The survey also found that course length for 18-hole courses increased by a median of 56 yards from 6,649 yards in 2005 to 6,705 in 2021. According to the report, from the first survey in 2005 to the second in 2015, the median increase in course length was 38 yards, and between the 2015 survey and 2021 survey, the median length increased by 18 yards.

While the study found that the total number of maintained turfgrass acres on U.S. golf courses declined by 14% in 2021 compared to the acreage in 2005, primarily due to course closures, the maintained acres that remain are being managed more efficiently. Recently released studies from GCSAA show that 29% less water use occurred through operations, representing two-thirds of the result and course closures representing one-third of the results. In addition, a study from GCSAA shows application rates have declined by 31% for nitrogen, 46% for potassium and 64% for phosphorus over the same time period.

The study also provides data on energy use at U.S. golf courses showing the percentage of golf facilities using cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas and solar-electric, increased by 3.9% while the number of golf facilities using gasoline and diesel declined by 3%.

The survey is based on data collected from golf course superintendents and independently analyzed by scientists Travis Shaddox, Ph.D., Bluegrass Art and Science LLC., and J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D. University of Florida and the National Golf Foundation (NGF), which published the findings for peer review before making the information public.

“The surveys show that superintendents continue to manage the golf course using less water and fewer inputs than before,” said Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA. “Through this, they are able to reduce the footprint of maintained areas while enhancing the natural beauty of the course.”

The property and environmental practices survey is the final report in the third series of GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile program.

To learn more and to see the complete survey report, read the upcoming July issue of GCSAA’s GCM magazine at gcmonline.com.