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, 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 carefully 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 will be 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 will be drafted up in architectural software, using underlying georeferenced aerial photographs. Each golf course area will be broken down into 3-4 basic soil types. Soil samples will be collected from a selection of golf facilities and analysed by dry combustion, delivering %C and %N content.

Access to IGLUD (Icelandic Geographic Land-Use Database) and the ÝMIR-soil database will allow soil C content to be compared to that in corresponding areas near the perimeter of the golf facilities. This should indicate loss or sequestration of carbon during the lifetime of the golf course compared with surrounding areas and land uses. The project will then produce:

  • A “leaderboard” of Icelandic golf facilities, by carbon status, or carbon par, from land use.

  • A breakdown of each/all courses by the chosen 3-4 basic soil types.

  • A report on the estimation process and recommended protocol for estimation in other countries.

  • Identification of wetlands that can be reclaimed.

  • General recommendations on how golf facilities can make quick and easy improvements to their carbon status from land use.

Special efforts will be made to ensure that suggestions in (d) and (e) do not negatively influence the golf playing experience. Scapegoating is not an objective. Rather, the aim is to present an opportunity to improve upon unintended harm to the climate.

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 150 150 150 450  
Other sources 345 335 232 912  
TOTAL 495 485 382 1362  



  • 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.