Via Strong Towns, here’s a very simple chart showing the potential revenue vs. actual revenue of a golf course in Madison, Wisconsin. In one column you have the potential tax revenue if you had developed a 42-acre golf course to the average of its surrounding neighborhood. In the other you have the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) that the golf course provides
(Question: Do Twin Citeis’ golf courses also have PILOTs?)
Here’s the chart:
There is nothing inherently wrong with golf as a game. I’m even willing to be convinced there’s a place for golf as an item in the Madison city budget. But there is something wrong with reducing services to the homeless and cutting back other important municipal functions while subsidizing the existence of four different courses that serve a small sliver of the population.
I’ve focused this analysis on the economic loss that results from the golf course, but there are other important community concerns too. On environmental issues, the record is mixed for golf courses generally; stewardship has improved in recent years. It would be interesting to hear from experts on the impact to Madison’s unique water resources. Golf also has a history of racial and gender discrimination that it is still in the process of working through.
Nonetheless, based on economics alone it’s time to use a mulligan and figure out a way to make more productive use of this land.