Carbon Par: Estimating carbon status of land used by Icelandic golf courses and measuring carbon sequestration and soil conservation potential of turfgrass on golf fairways and mown roughs


Establishment of some golf courses has included wetland drainage or use of previously drained wetlands. Through this, many clubs have unintentionally caused large emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions from golf courses on drained organic soils can thus be very high, while courses on mineral soils can sequester carbon. Grass can sequester considerable levels of carbon. Furthermore, managed grasslands, or turf, can sequester more carbon than unmanaged. This indicates that well located golf courses, thoughtfully planned, designed and built, have a reasonable chance of becoming net carbon sinks.

To estimate the carbon status of land used by all golf courses within the Golf Union of Iceland, a variety of methods are used, including mapping, reference to national soil databases, soil sampling, interviews and analysis. Perimeters of various golf course land use elements, such as fairways, managed roughs and native areas are drawn in architectural software, using underlying georeferenced aerial photographs. Each golf course area is broken down into 3-4 basic soil types. Soil samples are collected from a selection of golf facilities and analysed by dry combustion, delivering %C and %N content.

There are 61 golf course sites within the Golf Union of Iceland. These include 723 holes on the clubs’ main golf courses, i.e. those that have a course rating. There are exactly 100 holes on various short courses. All sites have been mapped. Preliminary spatial analysis of these maps reveals that Iceland’s golf courses occupy around 2350 hectares. Of this area, 51% is in the form of managed turf, special golf course features or hard surface, comprising mown rough (26.7%), fairways (19%), roads, paths, parking and buildings (2.9%), greens (1.4%), tees (0.7%) and sand bunkers (0.3%).

Collection of soil samples from all 61 golf course sites was completed in November 2022. Laboratory analysis has been completed for half of these, with the other half scheduled for completion in 2023, the last year of the project.

Edwin Roald

Edwin Roald, Director, Eureka Golf ehf., Langalina 22, 210 Garðabær, Iceland. Tel: +354 693 0075, email:, web:

Category: Multifunctional golf facilities
Status: Ongoing
Project period: 2020 - 2022

Fundings (kSEK)

  2020 2021 2022 2023 TOTAL
STERF 150 300 0 0 450
Other sources 345 156 171 38 710
TOTAL 495 456 171 38 1160

Project objectives

  • Estimate CO2 loss and carbon storage from land use of cultivated and managed areas on Icelandic golf courses, in total and by facility.

  • Discuss whether/how the estimation process can be streamlined further.

  • Determine what is required in terms of funding, time and other resources to produce similar estimates for other Scandinavian countries.

  • Identify marked trends, if any, revealing or suggesting how golf facilities in general can improve their carbon status from land use without negatively influencing the playing experience.