As reported in the State Journal, the city of Madison financial statements for golf make for a sobering read. The financial losses are troublesome and reinforce the need for decisions about the future of the city’s golf courses.

As Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway weighs options, part of her decision should be based on her fiduciary responsibility to Madison’s taxpayers. But I hope she also considers other important factors.

The city of Madison golf courses deliver access to physical and social benefits to a population in our community that other sports don’t provide. Every day on city-run golf courses I see generations of families spending time together. I see newly bereaved spouses who have turned to golf to find a network of friends and support. I meet people who have moved to Madison for a new job, or to be closer to grandchildren, and who are looking for golf leagues to meet other like-minded people. And most often, for retirees, golf becomes a substitute for their work routine, and their playing partners replace their co-workers. This community we have at Madison golf courses is unique and should be valued.

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My daily exposure to people on Madison golf courses provides just anecdotes, of course. But my experience also is grounded in research. The benefits of golf are not lost on academics. Search any academic journal database and you will find articles reporting how golf provides exercise that reduces weight and increases cardio health. The golf swing increases balance and strength — critical factors for an aging population. Playing golf reduces loneliness and increases social networks. Spending time outside with friends also can reduce stress. (Arguably, that last point may depend on one’s golfing performance).

That’s why preserving golf is so important. Only city-run golf can democratize the game and ensure its benefits are accessible to every member of our community.

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Shapcott is a golf instructor at city of Madison courses.