England is, apparently, one of the most "crowded" countries in the world with a high population density and the population is growing quite quickly. This has prompted a variety of concerns about immigration and the possibility of "concreting over the countryside" with new build housing.

But a campaign group for the homeless and for better housing, Shelter, recently claimed that England uses as much land for Golf courses as for homes:

According to a comprehensive government assessment in 2011, that’s the same amount of land in England used for homes.*

*Data on homes is from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment by Defra. Around 10% of land in England is classified as urban, but the majority of this is gardens, parks, roads, lakes and rivers. 2.27% of land in England is built upon while 1.1% is domestic buildings.

For golf, Colin uses the figure of 2,700 courses in the UK scaled to England. The average size of playing area is 30-40 hectares with the average full size of a course (including space between fairways) adding another 30-40 hectares. Colin therefore assumes 75 hectares per course multiplied by 2000 courses which is 150,000 ha, or 1.1% of England’s 13.4m hectares.

Are their assumptions reasonable? Is their claim correct?

  • Quick back of.envelopes calculation. Greater London area in acres? 388480. Given average golf course size of 150 acres, the courses take up 412,800 acres. Quite a.lot, but I dare say no.more than space given housing, at a guess. – Binary Worrier Nov 13 '13 at 20:04
  • That “growing quite quickly” link points to a report about future population growth projections, which can be pretty unreliable (PDF). – Paul D. Waite Nov 15 '13 at 15:44
  • I think it is worth pointing out that many people live in blocks of flats, whereas golf courses are rarely stacked up on each other. We could easily house everybody (including the homeless) in much less space than we currently do. That is not to say though that homelessness and lack of good housing are not a substantial issues. – Dikran Marsupial Nov 15 '13 at 16:28

My stats:

This gives 412,500 acres of golf course in the UK.

More stats:

This gives around 662,000 acres of urbanised acres in the UK.

BUT: The golf course number is for 18 hole courses. 9 hole courses are "common", and presumably take less space than the 18 hole courses, so the coverage of golf courses should be considered an upper limit, rather than a true number.

The assumptions are broadly reasonable, but are at the optimistic end of reasonable and it seems that there is more housing land in the UK than golf land, but the numbers may be of the same order of magnitude, it seems.

  • Please don't provide links to google searches as they are volatile. Can you fix your third link? – Sklivvz Nov 15 '13 at 17:15
  • Are you using UK-wide stats? I think the original estimate was for England only. Scotland, Wales and NI are far less densely populated than England which has >80% of the people. – matt_black Apr 26 '14 at 11:21

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