Golf Courses to Homes: Swapping Birdies for Roofs in Bold Bid to Solve American Homelessness!

In the vast expanse of American terrain, a peculiar allotment of land – golf courses – stretches over a staggering 2,244,512 acres. To put it into perspective, imagine the combined area of two Rhode Islands and a Delaware (4,030 square miles), all dedicated to the pursuit of a small white ball. Yet, this pursuit doesn’t provide shelter, solve hunger, or add to the well-being of society’s less fortunate.

people standing on green grass field near green trees during daytimePhoto Caption: This golf course, with its lush green fairways, bunkers, and putting greens, is a visual representation of the amount of land currently occupied by golf courses in the U.S.  Image source.

The legendary comedian and social critic, the late George Carlin (see image below, left), once proposed a radical idea that, when viewed through societal progress, is not as absurd as it might initially seem. Carlin suggested that the golf courses – those verdant swaths of land spread across America like a patchwork quilt – could be repurposed for a more pressing need: providing homes for people experiencing homelessness.

George Carlin, who gained notoriety for his 'seven dirty words,' dead ...To quote Carlin, “Golf is an arrogant elitist game, and it takes up entirely too much room in this country.” He painted a vivid picture of these vast courses being transformed into low-cost housing areas, taken from the hands of the predominantly wealthy, white businessmen who currently use the land to carve up the country a little finer among themselves.

Interestingly, the Golf Course Superintendents of America corroborate Carlin’s estimates, asserting that golf courses occupy over 2 million acres of American soil. With homelessness being a pervasive issue in the U.S., where approximately 326,126 individuals found themselves without a permanent residence in 2023, Carlin’s proposition appears less like a joke and more like an innovative solution to a pressing societal problem.

high angle view of city buildingsPhoto Caption: This image visually represent the idea of repurposing golf courses to build homes for people without housing. Image source.

Consider this: The average size of a new single-family home in the U.S. is around 2,480 square feet. If each golf course acre could accommodate about 17 houses (given an acre is 43,560 square feet), the potential number of homes that could be built on the reclaimed golf course land is immense.

Yet, the physical reclaiming of land is just one aspect of this proposal. The other lies in the temporal realm. The average round of golf takes approximately 4 hours and 17 minutes. It begs the question: Could this time be better spent elsewhere, contributing to personal growth, societal development, or economic productivity?

Imagine if the hours spent on the golf course were instead dedicated to volunteering, learning new skills, or engaging in creative pursuits. The time reclaimed could become a catalyst for a more productive and engaged society.

In my view, repurposing golf courses as low-income housing could be an unprecedented step towards addressing homelessness in America, echoing Carlin’s call for bold societal change. Additionally, redirecting the time spent on golf towards more productive activities could stimulate personal growth and societal development. So perhaps it’s time to reconsider our spatially and temporally priorities to carve out a more equitable future.

Indeed, it’s high time we took a swing at this idea.