Study: The Future of Seattle's Municipal Golf Courses

The Parks and Recreation system includes a diverse range of facilities and activities designed to appeal to people with a broad range of interests and levels of ability throughout the city. In addition to being real estate with a significant dollar value, public park land has the value of providing recreational facilities and open space that improves the quality of life for everyone who lives in, works in and visits Seattle. As Seattle becomes increasingly dense over the coming years, the importance of open space and green areas will become more and more essential.

The City of Seattle's municipal golf courses provide valuable open space and recreational benefits in a city that has seen its population grow from about 276,000 people, in 1916, when the first municipal course opened, to a population estimated at 724,725 in 2018. The courses are ideally located in four different quadrants of the City in close proximity to urban villages and distinct population centers. Each of the courses has unique attributes that distinguish them from each other.

The golf courses provide a family-oriented activity that appeals to all age groups with a wide range of levels of physical ability, it is a non-contact sport, and provides healthy outdoor physical activity. Municipal golf is not elitist and serves a diverse population.

Seattle's municipal golf facilities are important environmental assets with over 400 acres of open space and some of the last remaining natural stretches of open creek in the City, including Longfellow Creek at West Seattle and Thornton Creek at Jackson Park.

The City's municipal courses are a historic legacy that require on-going investment to preserve and maintain them for the next 100 years. The City needs to align its policy priorities to balance the objectives of public access, outdoor recreational opportunities, racial equity and social justice, environmental and habitat protection, open space, and financial management.

Purpose of the Study

The City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (SPR) commissioned Lund Consulting, Inc. to prepare a strategic business plan to guide the future of Seattle's public golf courses, driving ranges, mini-golf, golf food services, and related programs. The City requested an objective analysis for policy makers to consider in making decisions related to the future of City of Seattle golf courses. The study process included background research using SPR historical records, interviews with people with knowledge of past and current Seattle golf course operations and maintenance, interviews with community leaders, and national research on best practices in municipal golf course operations.

The study team included Scanlan Consulting who conducted financial analysis of past golf course operations for the period 2013-2017 and who made financial projections based on assumptions developed in collaboration with SPR staff. Cocker Fennessy was also part of the consulting team. They conducted secondary market research and primary stakeholder interview research. SPR provided guidance to the consulting team about the stakeholders to be interviewed based on their experience working with the community.

The following documents may be downloaded for review:

Golf Study Executive Summary

Golf Study Full Report