The pilot may have been practicing touch-and-gos - takeoffs and landings - when the plane lost power and dropped out of the sky, according to witnesses.
The plane crashed near the 8th hole of the golf course, which is a few hundred yards past the departure end of Santa Monica airport. There were some golfers nearby, but they were not injured.
The pilot, identified as 60-year-old Robert Davenport, was killed. He was reportedly a student pilot training at the airport.
The airport and its proximity to homes has been an ongoing concern for many residents in the area.
"I'm always afraid because I know that just on the other side of the house ? we've had two plane crashes, and now one on the other side right here," said Aliza Wine of Venice. "It's frightening and it's dangerous."
The airport has been at its location since 1919. Part of the controversy is that the homes came after the airport, and some say residents should have been aware of the dangers of living near an airport.
The NTSB is investigating the cause of the accident. The wreckage has already been removed from the golf course.