The End of Golf Course Urbanism?

[The 12th Hole on Edina’s Braemar Golf Course.]


It was a seemingly trivial bit of news last month. The Star Tribune had a short article on the closing down of a new golf course in the exurban town of Independence, Minnesota (population 3,622).

The closing of the high-end golf course joins a list of problems that golf courses have been having in the Twin Cities and around the country. As the director of the golf association says, business has been “choppy”. A course closed near Lake Pepin, and another “venerable” one was recently sold in St Paul. Similarly, as the Highland Villager has been reporting, St Paul’s municipal golf courses have been losing money for years.

As The New York Times pointed out recently, one reason why golf is waning in popularity is our faster-paced, multi-tasking, short-term lifestyles.

“You can manage to get a dinner on the calendar with a guy maybe once a quarter, but you can meet him once a week for a workout,” Mr. Wassong said. Golf, he added, “takes too much time.”

(Instead, as the Times also somewhat mockingly described, its become a “trend” to have business meetings while “spinning” at the gym.) People are just too plain busy to drive out and spend an entire afternoon putting around the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps another reason is that people are slowly abandoning the golf course as an imagined landscape. I’ve only played it a few times, but it seems to me that golf comes with a certain imaginary that has a lot in common with the suburban dream, more generally. Golf course maintaining perfect control over vast green pastures,

Early suburbs were often built on conjunction with golf courses [1]. In places like Kansas City’s Country Club District, or right here in Edina,  the suburban home, the automobile, and the membership at the golf club were seamlessly integrated with each other. Golf and suburban living were all part of a single lifestyle. And cities like Winter Haven, Florida are designed so that you can get around entirely via golf cart.

Maybe it’s the poor economy, or maybe it’s a faster pace of life, but I like to think that golf course-centric cities are fading in importance. Perhaps part of the reason that golf course urbanism is on the decline is that people are looking for more urban ways of life. Maybe parks will replace fairways, and plazas will replace putting greens.


[1] Fogelson, R. (2007) Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870 – 1930. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.