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Are City Golf Courses Considered Public Land?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a city golf course on public land and a private course?

And on that note, why do cities own golf courses in the first place? Shouldn’t a city be more focused on running the city than maintaining a golf course?

We’ve got the answers to those questions and more. So, the next time you head out to join your buddies for a game of golf on a sunny afternoon, you’ll be the genius on the course.

Let’s swing into it!

Why Do Cities Own Golf Courses?

If you’ve ever been golfing, chances are you’ve spent some time on a city-owned golf course, also known as a municipal course. So why would a city own a golf course in the first place? Believe it or not, cities own golf courses to ensure the average citizen can enjoy the recreation of golf. Similar to why cities own parks, it’s a way to provide a recreational space for the community.

Yes, the city golf course will make money, but that isn’t the primary goal. And the money earned from golfing generally goes back into the course and the facilities, continuing their purpose of providing local recreational opportunities at reasonable prices.

Are City Golf Courses Considered Public Land?

If a city runs and operates a city park, it’s public land. The same holds true for a city golf course. As a taxpayer, your taxes help maintain public lands such as parks and open spaces. Your hard-earned money goes towards beautifying picnic areas, playgrounds, trails, and more. Your tax money maintains city golf courses, and because of this, city golf courses are considered public land

Can Anyone Play at a City Golf Course?

Being considered public land opens up municipal golf courses to everyone. Remember, though, that residents may get discounted prices compared to the general public. So, if you’re looking for the best deals at a city golf course, locate your residential golf course before heading out to a neighboring town. You might get a better deal.

Pro Tip: We took a closer look to uncover all The (Many) Different Types of Public Land.

Woman driving golf course
Most golf courses are considered public land.

Can You Walk on a City Golf Course Without Permission? 

Many city golf courses may be considered public land and open to the public. Just like a park has accessible hours, so do golf courses. Most city parks are generally available from sunup to sundown or have specific hours posted. And if you’re on the property after hours, although it’s public land, you can still get caught for trespassing.

Another example of public land is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land, where you can recreate and camp only if it’s open to doing so. As a member of the general public, you can use BLM land. However, the land may not always be accessible at all times. Maintenance is necessary for golf courses to last for years.

The same holds true for city golf courses. Taxpayers pay for continued operations. This makes the golf courses public land. Still, it isn’t open to the public whenever they want to use it. If you decided to wander through a public golf course in the middle of the night or without paying the green fees, you could get arrested for trespassing.

Pro Tip: Want to stay on BLM land? Find out What is BLM Land Camping and how you can spend the night there.

What Is the Average Cost of a Round of Golf at a City Course?

Instead of paying exorbitant fees from a criminal case, why not just buy a round of golf when the course is open? Municipal golf courses are often much less expensive than private or other public courses.

Some city golf courses can cost upwards of $300 for nonresidents – Torrey Pines near San Diego, for example. However, most city golf courses will only run you around $20 whether you’re a resident or nonresident.

If you’re looking for all the amenities, such as a restaurant, bar, and pro shop, you might not find those at a municipal golf course. Still, you’ll get prices that make it affordable for most people to enjoy a round of golf without the cost of a country club membership.

Golf ball on course
There are some privately owned golf and country clubs.

What Does It Mean to Be a Private Golf Course?

If you’re looking for all the amenities plus exclusive access to golf clubs and country clubs, then you might want to look into playing golf at a private course. Only paying customers can use a private golf course. Private courses aren’t open to the general public.

Privately owned and on private land, a round of golf in a private golf club is generally not cheap. Some of the top courses report initiation fees in the tens of thousands of dollars, with annual fees in the thousands of dollars.

But you get what you pay for, and if you’re golfing at a private course or are a member of a country club with a golf course, you’ll have access to many amenities. These amenities could include restaurants, bars, locker rooms, pro shops, saunas, hot tubs, event spaces, access to special events, game courts, gyms, and more.

Are All PGA Courses Private? 

Now that you know a bit more about city golf courses and private golf courses, have you ever wondered about PGA courses? Are they all private, or are there any PGA golf courses that are open to the public?

While most PGA courses are private, there are several that are not, opening up PGA courses to the public. This doesn’t mean, however, that green fees are cheap. Some, in fact, can be around $500. One of the most well-known PGA municipal courses is Torrey Pines in San Diego. Their rates for residents are reasonable and can be under $100.

Whether or not PGA courses are played on private or public courses, there are usually ways for the public to have access to the course one way or another. That access could be through resort fees, staying at a PGA-related hotel, or simply paying the green fees. You may not be on the PGA tour, but you can still play some of the courses that are.

Are City Golf Courses Worth It?

If you’re looking to lower your handicap without all the expense of a privately owned golf course, you should be looking at city golf courses. Reasonable fees for a good time on a decent course, some with bars and restaurants, and even pro shops – what’s not to love about that?

Most city golf courses might not be a stop on the PGA tour, but let’s face it, you’ll never be on the PGA tour anyhow. City golf courses are definitely worth your time and money.

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