McDonald’s Locations vs. Golf Courses

I read that there are more golf courses than there are McDonald’s locations in the United States, which seemed surprising. There are about 16,000 golf courses and 13,000 McDonald’s locations. How could this be? Obviously, there are a lot of McDonald’s locations, but where are all these golf courses? Some maps made it clear.

The following map shows the distribution of McDonald’s locations across the conterminous United States. As you might expect, they concentrate around cities.

McDonald’s Concentrated in Cities

Circles represent the number of locations within a 10-mile radius.

McDonalds in cities.  

An area in East Los Angeles has 110 locations within a 10-mile radius, which makes it the most dense area. This makes sense because McDonald’s was founded in southern California. The second most is an area just outside Chicago with 88 locations. This also makes sense, because McDonald’s headquarters are in Chicago.

At first glance, the map for golf shown below looks similar to the McDonald’s one. There is a higher concentration around cities, but golf courses are more widespread, especially in the Midwest.

Golf Courses More Spread Out

Circles represent the number of locations within a 10-mile radius.

Golf spread to open areas  

This makes more sense now. You can have a golf course in an area where there aren’t that many people, because people will travel to play golf. Few people are going to travel specifically for McDonald’s.

If we compare the two, you see the McDonald’s city concentrations, and golf fills the in-between spaces.

More Golf Courses or More McDonald’s Locations?

Circles represent the number of locations within a 10-mile radius, and color indicates which there is more of.

Golf courses are in more places other than dense cities.


The high number of golf courses along the Florida coast and in the northeast jump out to me, someone who has never played a round of golf. I also noticed it’s fairly common for smaller golf courses to sit next to each other, whereas you’re not going to see neighboring McDonald’s restaurants, which seems to contribute to the higher totals for the former.

The McDonald’s location data came via Kaggle, which lists locations as of September 2023. I found golf course location data via POI Factory, which was last updated November 2023. I aggregated the data in 20-mile increments (10-mile radius) and used packed circles to make the Dorling cartograms.

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