Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Planning, Design, and the Built Environment


Worzala, Elaine

Committee Member

London , James

Committee Member

Baker , Thomas

Committee Member

Beditz , Josepth


The history of golf's built environment in the U.S. has reflected the changing face of the game in terms of the number and type of golf courses built, as well as the demographic profile of those playing the game. This study offers insight as to how various socio-cultural and economic forces have impacted the game and golf course development. Since 2000, the golf industry has experienced significant declines in the key barometers of its economic wellbeing as defined by: the decline in the number of golfers and rounds played and the decrease in the number of golf courses.
The literature review and situation analysis led to the hypothesis that '...the nature and type of courses built or renovated during the 1990s development boom were more costly, longer, more difficult and took longer to play compared to the golf courses built during the previous golf course development boom periods in the 1920s and 1960s.' And, this paradigm change in golf's built environment may have been a contributing factor in the decline of golf participation and the economic viability of the golf course business.
In order to determine if there has been a paradigm change in golf's built environment during the 1990s, an analysis of the National Golf Foundation (NGF) Golf Facility Database was undertaken. The key variables of interest that characterized the nature and type of golf courses built were identified in order to provide measurements for testing the hypothesis and to explain how and why golf's built environment had changed. The quantitative analyses included both a univariate analysis and an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). The qualitative analysis was based upon both a literature review and 12 in-depth expert interviews with prominent golf community real estate developers and golf course architects.
The univariate analysis profiled and described how the golf courses built in the 1990s were more costly, longer, more difficult and took longer to play; and, the ANOVA found that the differences in the key variables of interest for the golf courses built in the 1990s golf courses, compared to the golf courses built in the 1920s and 1960s, were statistically significant, which supports the research hypothesis.
Since 40% of the golf courses built during the 1990s were tied to real estate development, in-depth expert interviews were undertaken with some of the most prominent real estate developers such as John Reed and Bob Whitley and golf course architects such as Greg Norman and Tom Fazio. The consensus among the developers was that master planned communities that had a high profile golf course as a featured community amenity were able to command premium real estate lot prices and to increase sales turnover. In addition, the architects were motivated to design difficult golf courses that would enhance their reputation and, therefore, increase their professional fees. This financial incentive led to the development of golf courses that were more costly, more difficult and took longer for the average golfer to play.

Included in

Economics Commons