Mapping the Distribution of Golf Courses in ArcMap

My dad golfed over 200 different courses over a 30 year span. Sadly, his skills did not transfer to me, though I acknowledge in a movie I filmed on the driving range [TouTube video] that golfing is a spatial sport. Class discussions about golf courses can include debates about their pros and cons, water resources, land use, permeable surfaces, wildlife habitat, tourism impacts, distances and angles, and much more.



What is the spatial distribution of golf courses in the USA? I found a golf course layer package on ArcGIS Online that I brought into ArcMap. After adding states and countries map layers, I was not surprised to find the high density in California, the northeast, and north central. However, I found a surprising number in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, and Montana’s clusters were surprising to me.



I packaged up these layers and saved them to ArcLessons so that you can use them right away.

Work with GIS fosters critical thinking skills, including questioning data—where it came from, why and when it was created, and other questions. After mapping golf courses, I noticed obvious gaps—no courses in Alaska and only one in Wyoming. I then checked private companies (Golflink and others) and organizations (the Wyoming Tourism Council), and found anywhere from 50 to 70 golf courses listed for Wyoming, and at least 15 in Alaska. I also have a difficult time believing that the Minnesota-South Dakota and Iowa-Missouri state boundaries have the impact that the map indicates on the distribution of golf courses. If most of the golf course data indeed came from the Geographic Names Information System, these only include golf course names that appear on USGS topographic maps. That most USGS topographic maps are dated and that many golf courses are simply not on topographic maps might explain some of these gaps. Check your data sources. Today, with web sites hosting spatial data rapidly expanding, it is more important than ever to understand your data—its benefits but also its limitations.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

Tom Baker

About Tom Baker

Tom Baker is an Esri Education Manager, specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teacher education, and educational research. He regularly publishes and presents on geospatial technologies across education.
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