• Outdoors Outdoors

Defunct golf courses get surprising second lives: 'What we've learned is how important these areas are'

"It's a great place, and it's beautiful."

"It's a great place, and it's beautiful."

Photo Credit: iStock

In a hole-in-one for the environment, a growing number of defunct golf courses across the United States are being transformed into vibrant nature preserves and parks. 

Conservation groups, land trusts, and local governments are teaming up to buy shuttered golf courses and rewild them. They're creating ecological oases in places like California, Colorado, Michigan, and New York.

This exciting trend is giving wildlife, plants, and people a chance to thrive, according to the New York Times.

The potential benefits are huge. For wildlife, it means new habitats and freedom from harmful pesticides and chemicals. For communities, it's a chance to enjoy more green space and cleaner air and water.

Just ask Charles Esposito, a 76-year-old retiree who was spotted strolling through San Geronimo Commons, a former golf course turned nature preserve in Marin County, California. "It's a great place, and it's beautiful," he gushed. "I love it."

In Palm Springs, the former Mesquite Golf & Country Club is springing back to life as the Prescott Preserve. Wildflowers and native trees, like desert willows, are making a comeback. Toxic rodenticides and traps have been removed, giving critters a fighting chance.

Up the coast in Santa Barbara, the former Ocean Meadows course is now a lush estuary surrounded by grasslands and coastal sage. Migratory birds have moved in, endangered plants are getting a fresh start, and kids bike to school on the trails.

For locals, it's a game-changer: "What we've learned is how important these areas are for people; that emotionally and psychologically they need them," said Lisa Stratton of UC Santa Barbara, which stewarded the restoration.

Of course, it's not all birdies and eagles. Golf advocates have pushed back in some cases, lamenting the loss of manicured greens and challenging the land-use changes.

But with the right stars aligned — a willing seller, an eco-minded buyer, and funds for restoration — these transformations can happen, and the upsides are worth it.

So, here's to more golf courses going au naturel. It's a simple way to protect biodiversity, fight rising global temperatures, and create healthy spaces for future generations.

In other words? It's a hole-in-one for the future.

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