Is Golf an Endangered Species? How a 500-Year Old Sport Can Disappear


By Harvey Silverman, Contributor, Golf Business | Silverback Golf Marketing 

It might take years, decades, centuries, or eons for a biological mass to become extinct. But here’s the thing – extinction eventually occurs. 

Political forces in my state of California are initiating golf’s endangerment with something called AB-672. If passed, this new law would circumvent California’s seemingly sacred Public Park Preservation Act of 1971. It would place all California municipal courses, which make up 22% of the total course count, in the crosshairs of politicians and developers (some joined at the hip) looking to carve them up for housing. 

Yes, California needs more housing, especially affordable housing. What makes this law egregious and dangerous is the singling-out of municipal golf courses – all other open and public green spaces will sally forth with legal protection. But what happens if AB-672 becomes law? When would targets be placed on privately-owned daily fee and private clubs? 

AB-672 was introduced to the California legislature by the Lorena Bobbitt of golf, Cristina Garcia representing District 58 in the state Assembly. The district is just east of downtown Los Angeles and contains several municipal golf facilities. I’m sure she drives by the courses and sees a foursome or two traversing a large tract of land, not noticing the packed parking lot around the corner. I don’t think it helped when the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) stated in their fervent case to keep courses open during the height of the Covid crisis that golf courses average 1.1 golfers per acre when full. The idea was to visualize the spacing a golf course provides, deeming it safe for recreation during the most severe lockdown in our lifetimes. 

But to others like Garcia, the visual was so few people treading upon large tracts of open urban and suburban space, and wouldn’t my constituents rather see densely packed new homes instead?  

I know there are readers out there thinking, “Who cares? That damn muni down the street has been killing me for years! It has all the advantages.” Meet me in Orlando, and I’ll tell you, face to face, why you are wrong.  

What happens when golf’s bunny slopes, the place most often hosting the new golfer’s initial visit to play the game, are nowhere to be found? The answer is simple – the game’s growth, in fact, even sustaining where we’re at now, becomes collateral damage to the land grab.  

We’ve seen the devastating effects of how labels attached to politicians can derail their ambitions. “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Low Energy Jeb” are just a few slapped upon losing opponents during a recent presidential campaign. We don’t like it, but labels matter, alter perceptions and change the narrative in just a few words. 

The formal name of AB-672 is “Conversion of Publicly Owned Golf Courses to Affordable Housing.” However, the SCGA’s Communication & Marketing Department and Public Affairs Department (does your local golf association have a Public Affairs Department?) initially considered a title as incendiary as “Public Golf Extinction Act” to convey to its members just how high the stakes were in the outcome of this fight.  Cooler and more strategic instincts ultimately prevailed; so instead, they’ll be going with “Public Golf Endangerment Act.”  Let’s hope it’s hot enough to move people to action.

Attaching an alt-label is brilliant. It should be impactful. It hits public golfers right between the eyes with the reality of the threat to the game they love. The SCGA intends to mobilize the other golf associations (SCPGA, NCPGA, GCSAA, and with enough prodding, the NCGA) and the 2.4 million California resident golfers (according to Pellucid). 

Craig Kessler, the SCGA’s Director of Government Affairs, writes, “to the degree to which a successful AB 672 puts golf’s blood in the political waters, it promises to bring more sharks our way in terms of more bills attacking golf’s encumbrance of large tracts of land in urban/suburban/exurban settings.”

Be forewarned – “more bills” are not exclusive to California. We can cite a litany of movements started on the left coast. Let this not be one of them. 



Harvey Silverman is a contributor to Golf Business and the proprietor of his marketing consultancy, Silverback Golf Marketing, and the co-founder of, golf’s only pay-by-hole app. Harvey authored NGCOA’s “Beware of Barter” guide and has spoken at their Golf Business Conferences and Golf Business TechCon.


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