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Can You Golf in a National Park?

When most people think of national parks, they think of natural wonders, from the geysers of Yellowstone to the mountains of Glacier to the river of grass at Everglades. One thing most people do not associate with national parks is golfing. And yet, there are three national parks where you can find courses, and several other golf courses with links (pun intended) to the national park system.

Death Valley National Park is home to the world’s lowest elevation golf course—the Furnace Creek Golf Course. Located 214 feet below sea level, this 18-hole golf course is, not surprisingly, also known for how hot it gets.

Although it is known for the soaring cliffs of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park is also home to Wawona Golf Course. Built in 1917, Wawona Golf Course is one of the few organic golf courses in the United States. The course uses no pesticides, and all the water used for its greens is reclaimed from other park purposes. Its most famous hole is the 6th hole, which is known as “Nursery Hole.” Its nickname came about because it is a popular spot for the park’s animal residents to appear with their young.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, in northeast Ohio, was once home to four golf courses. Now, two golf courses remain: Shawnee Hills and Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow Golf Course has hosted qualifying events for USGA championships, and every other year, it hosts the Greater Cleveland Amateur Championship. Rather than being federally owned or operated, these two golf courses are run by Cleveland Metroparks.

Other properties with connections to the national park system are also home to golf courses. In Massachusetts, Cape Cod National Seashore is home to the Highland Links course. Dating to the 1800s, it became a federal property in the 1960s when Cape Cod National Seashore came into being. Similarly, the Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Originally part of a military base, it is one of the oldest golf courses on the West Coast, and it was once used for refugees from the 1906 earthquake.

Perhaps the most interesting golf courses related to the national parks are three historic Washington, D.C. courses: East Potomac, Langston, and Rock Creek. These three courses were built between 1918 and 1939 for local residents who could not afford to play at private clubs. East Potomac is home to one of the oldest continually-operating miniature golf courses in the United States, in addition to its regular course. Langston Golf Course was originally constructed to replace a segregated golf course on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, and all three courses played a part in the integration of recreational facilities in Washington. The linked article provides a much more extensive look at the integration of golf in Washington.


Interested in learning more about Wawona Golf Course? Check out 101 Travel Bits: Yosemite National Park.


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