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


The development of some golf courses has included wetland drainage or the use of previously drained wetlands. Through this, those 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 and managed grasslands, or turf, can sequester more carbon than unmanaged. This indicates that appropriately 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 was used, including mapping, references 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 were drawn up in architectural software, using underlying georeferenced aerial photographs. Each golf course area was broken down into 3-4 basic soil types. Soil samples were collected from a selection of golf facilities and will be 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. On various short courses, there are exactly 100 holes. All sites have now been mapped. Preliminary spatial analysis of the maps obtained has revealed 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, breaking down as follows: mown rough 26.7%, fairways 19%, roads, paths, parking and buildings 2.9%, greens 1.4%, tees 0.7% and sand bunkers 03%.

Soil samples have been taken from 30 of the most remote rural courses. These will be analysed in early 2022. Other soil samples will be collected in spring and summer 2022, and subsequently analysed. The project is scheduled to conclude in 2023.

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 TOTAL
STERF 150 300 300 750
Other sources 345 335 232 912
TOTAL 495 635 532 1662


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

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

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

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