Categories: GIS Industry

Using GIS in Golf Management

Games that require large space create spatial complexity for the players and those managing the spaces, such as ground crew or owners of playing areas. This is the case in golf, a game that requires players have spatial knowledge in crafting their strategy while also creating management complexities to keep a golf course well-groomed and fair to all the players. Additionally, golf courses have been studied in urban contexts and often have been shown to be important for conservation activities.

For owners of golf courses, management is particularly important because of the spatial extent and sometimes difficulty in knowing how to make a decision about modifying, creating, or better using the course to suit players’ needs. This can include how far players have to travel, or likely changes to the course throughout the year and seasons, or even what views players would have as they begin a particular hole. Resources such as how to best water fields and manage labor time for field maintenance are among the most important decisions in allocation of resources that spatial tools can help solve by optimising how to most efficiently spread resources and determine where they are needed the most. Knowing the course from the players’ perspective and that of different stakeholders could also be critical for the financial success of the course. Tools such as GolfGIS[1] have been created as a service that provides course managers with a way to keeping track of economic and other relevant data of their course without relying on spreadsheets. Visual displays and interactive maps allow managers to better control how their courses are being used and understand their potential for players and owners. Other tools include 3D Golf Course, BaseMapp, and Ground2Control.[2]

Basemapp is a golf-oriented and map-based management platform.

For players, GIS tools have also been used to provide new perspectives of the field and an ability to strategize. One company, MSA Aerial Solutions, has used drones to map courses and create online interactive story maps that players can view while playing or have access to before play. They can also comment or include feedback for future reference or for obtaining more information that can assist. The maps can be manipulated and simple measurements and complex views can be made using 3D visuals.[3] It is hard to say if this could change the nature of golf or even create new rules, but already it has helped players better approach increasingly complex courses.


GIS, Golf Courses, and Biodiversity

GIS for golf is not only beneficial to players and managers of these courses, but increasingly, particularly in very urban areas, golf courses have become important areas of biodiversity. This has led to their study in GIS research as places for plant and animal diversity. Golf courses are natural parks that incorporate a wide range of species. Increased demand for more complex or interesting courses has created courses that could contain greater species diversity. One study in South Africa showed that courses with more diverse species and more ground staff to maintain courses had better income and created more interest for players.[4] For some freshwater turtle species, gold courses have been shown to be just as important as areas that are designated as protected areas, where population abundance of species was comparable in protected areas and golf courses.[5] Golf courses have also been shown to be critical for areas such as wetlands in urban environments, where rivers and ponds are used to recharge wetland areas that can be used to counteract pavement that diminishes water flow and recharge.[6]

Photo: Zach Dischner, CC-BY 2.0

The use of GIS for golf provides course operators with the ability to manage financial stability of their investment, while also keeping players happy. Recently, it has been shown that golf courses, through the use of GIS analysis, play an important role in conservation, including for plant diversity, species concentration, and protecting endangered landscapes such as wetlands. GIS, drones, and other spatial technologies will likely be further used by those wanting to improve their game or to make it easier to profit from players. On the environmental side, GIS has shown that there can be a symbiotic relationship between operating a golf course and environmental protection.


[1]    For more on GolfGIS, see:

[2]    For more on golf course GIS tools, see:,, and

[3]    For more on MSA Aerial Solutions, see:

[4]    For more on how species diversity has been linked to different types of golf courses, see:  Jarrett, M., and C. M. Shackleton. 2017. “Integrating Biodiversity Considerations into Urban Golf Courses: Managers’ Perceptions and Woody Plant Diversity in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.” Journal of Land Use Science12 (4): 292–311.

[5]    For more on the importance of golf courses to turtle habitat, see: Winchell, Kristin M., and James P. Gibbs. 2016. “Golf Courses as Habitat for Aquatic Turtles in Urbanized Landscapes.” Landscape and Urban Planning147 (March): 59–70.

[6]    For more on the role of golf courses on the environment, see: Russell, Marc, Richard Fulford, Kate Murphy, Charles Lane, James Harvey, Darrin Dantin, Federico Alvarez, et al. 2018. “Relative Importance of Landscape Versus Local Wetland Characteristics for Estimating Wetland Denitrification Potential.” Wetlands, September.

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