Should you open up your golf course to walkers during the lockdown?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 7, 2020 16:50

Three MPs have called on golf clubs to allow members of the public to walk across them during the lockdown, but some golf club managers disagree.

Several golf clubs such as Reading GC have said members of the public can use their venues for exercise as golf is forbidden, but many clubs have also chosen not to do this – and some have reported that individuals have not just ignored this, but they have behaved inappropriately at the time of a national crisis.

In addition, the manager of Reading Golf Club, Gary Stangoe, said that while this policy works for his club, it won’t for most.

“Every club must be left to make their own choice and for most it won’t be appropriate,” he said.

Now, MPs have started calling on golf venues to open up to the public.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, tweeted: “It’s surely common sense to create as much open space as possible to allow socially-distanced exercise.

“Let’s open up golf courses to the public (there are 300,000 acres of them across UK) and give people more room to walk and run.”

She added that she has backed a change.org petition, which says: ‘Don’t close parks – open up golf courses so there’s more space to exercise safely.’

Labour’s Dulwich and West Norwood MP, Helen Hayes, agreed. She said: “Access to open space is vital for maintaining our physical and mental health at this very difficult time.

“In order to alleviate pressure on our parks and help make sure they stay open, I’d encourage any organisation with a large area of private open space to consider opening it up to the public, where this doesn’t compromise the safeguarding of children on site.

“I know that some of the local schools are already doing this where they are able to without compromising safeguarding and it would be really great to see golf courses and sports clubs opening up their grounds too.”

Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, Harriet Harman, added: “All who own large green space in our crowded city centre should share them with those locked down in flats.”

Harriet Harman MP

A council leader in Southwark, where a park was closed down recently because too many people were using it and not observing social distancing rules, has also called upon golf clubs to open up to the public at this time.

However, the general manager at Sittingbourne & Milton Regis Golf Club, Steve Bootes, disagrees. He told Kent Online: “We would not entertain having any Tom, Dick or Harry running around our golf course, that’s for sure.

“The members pay a lot of money for the upkeep of the place and to have people running around it would just be a mockery to be honest, that is why you have parks and places like that.

“I don’t think us, as a private members’ golf club, would be interested in allowing it to be opened up to the general public for that.

“We don’t want people turning up for a walk, thinking it is their hour’s exercise. Exercise should be from home or very close to home.

“People would have to travel here and that would come under the unnecessary travel restrictions. We are trying to deter anyone from coming to the golf club at the moment.

“From a business sense, we would love to have the course back open, so people can come and play, but for that to happen there would have to be some really strict guidelines from above coming down.

“We can do all we can but to police it would be a nightmare. I know Denmark are looking at doing things to play on but would it work here? I don’t think it would.

“The sooner people start bunkering down to the rules the sooner we can see light at the end of the tunnel being nearer.”

His comments come as another golf club has reported that members of the public have been having picnics on the greens.

Recently we reported on Lochwinnoch Golf Club, which said day-trippers have visited the club from miles away and created a mess on the course.

Now, the chairman of Rushmere Golf Club in Ipswich has said people were seen picnicking and sunbathing on the course over the weekend.

Greenkeepers say they have seen up to 75 people on the course. People were seen meeting for bike rides, sunbathing in bunkers and even having picnics on the greens.

Steve Potts told the Ipswich Star: “I’ve heard from our greenkeepers that there were many people out on the common this weekend.

“It is really disappointing to see that some people are not following the guidelines and it is really emphasised at Rushmere Common because a few hundred yards up the road is Ipswich Hospital where nurses and doctors are working hard and sadly people are dying.

“Apparently there were children cycling on the fairways and people having a picnic on a green.

“I know people are allowed to go out for one form of exercise a day, and most people are adhering to those guidelines, there are clearly a minority who are not.”

The golf club has asked Suffolk Police to increase their presence in the area in a bid to discourage revellers from disregarding government advice.

Mr Potts added: “We have contacted the police and asked them to increase patrols.

“Firstly my concern is that people are not adhering to government guidelines. We all want this to be over as soon as possible and the way to do that is to follow the guidelines.

“But we are also concerned that the golf course, which we have just spent a considerable amount of money on, will be damaged by people not using it for its purpose.

“We expect it to be busier on the weekends, but my concern is that, if we are going to have a period of nicer weather, that people will come out during the weekdays as well due to them working from home.”

And another golf course has been vandalised during the lockdown.


Melrose Golf Course’s greenkeeper has reported on Facebook that he found several unrepaired pitch marks on a green, as well as damage to the sixth fairway.

Alongside a picture of damage to the course, the post reads: “Today our greenkeeper came across this on the 6th fairway along with unrepaired pitch marks on the green.

“This truly is a despicable act carried out by someone who has no care to the current government lockdown, respect for the club and the course.”

Club secretary Steve Ervine told the Border Telegraph: “There’s not much action that can be taken. The greenkeeper hasn’t noticed anyone playing – our members are adhering to the closure.

“There are still dog walkers on the course, but we can’t stop that.”

Reflecting on the damage, he said: “It’s not a lot of damage on the fairway – it’s barely a square-metre.

“The damage on the fairway is all in one place where someone has repeatedly hit a ball in the same spot. The damage on the green is from pitch marks.”

There have been several reports of courses being vandalised despite the government’s pleas for people to stay in doors.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 7, 2020 16:50
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38 Comments

  1. Jimmy May 4, 14:02

    If a golf club furloughs staff and accepts money from the UK government, it should be duty bound to allow free public access during the lockdown. Walkers and cyclists do not generally damage the fairways anywhere near as much as golfers do. Im a cyclist and cause zero damage to courses I cycle on. Elitism in golf is one of the things causing the decline of the game.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Smithy April 14, 10:24

    Members of golf clubs have to pay to play.
    They know the rules of golf and how to behave on the course.
    Members of the public should NOT under any circumstances be allowed on any golf course.
    Golfers should be allowed to return to playing with social distancing measures as soon as possible.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Cliff M April 13, 11:06

    In Arstralia if you don’t have a fence to lock walkers out you can’t by law. Many have a Crown Land lease too… that means you can’t stop anyone using the course for things other than golf.

    Reply to this comment
  4. SusieQ12 April 13, 09:31

    What a stupid idea. There we are with National Trus’s huge parkland areas closed and some women clearly with no idea of the complexity of maintaining a golf course suggested opening up golf clubs to walkers. The members pay for upkeep not the local public. In any event some so called walkers would do damage, leave dog mess, litter etc and have no respect at all for the course. Just ask farmers what damage walkers are capable of, and that is just on rough farmland let alone expensive manicured courses. RIDICULOUS ideas like this do not deserve airtime.

    Reply to this comment
  5. golf2020 April 9, 08:27

    The idea of opening up the courses for “walkers” is ridiculous. My club sent an email out last week as they’d found kids playing in bunkers thinking they were sand pits and also another group of kids playing football on greens.

    We pay a significant amount for our memberships and the courses should be protected, these people wouldn’t be doing that sort of stuff if the course was open and people were playing.

    Get the courses open and limit golf to people from the same household – how is this any different to going for a walk or a cycle. I’ve seen big groups of cyclists regularly but nothing gets done.

    Reply to this comment
    • Mick. April 9, 11:14

      Hi our course is closed, and to let the publick would be a nightmare. Already we have had one mum and dad sitting on the bank of the bunker while the kids play in the sand. Also dog walkers playing ball with their dogs on the green.
      Allowing the public on would additional costs to the club repairing all the damage the public would do.
      The lockdown rules is one exercise per day and prior to the lockdown, the public never used golf courses for their walks.
      So why allow them to use the courses now. NO NO NO.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Kevin April 8, 22:20

    If members who pay to play on them can’t go on them and play be it on their own.. why the hell should the public be allowed.. don’t be so damn ridiculous…..

    Reply to this comment
  7. Johnnyboy April 8, 21:30

    Know this would not work people used our golf club even before all this was happening and they walked across the greens played games like football and cricket on the fairways never picked up the dogs mess never used the bins for there litter. And I know this takes some believing but on one occasion I could hear children playing and when I walked around the corner I could not believe my eyes the children where playing in the bunker and the parents where sitting on a blanket having a picnic
    So no thank you. Our course has never looked so good with the winter we have just had I thought it would take months to get right. So just open the parks which are what they are for and leave the golf courses for what they are for
    And of course we pay a membership if you ask them to pay they would not go near a golf course.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Iain April 8, 17:27

    If we’re banned from playing golf on them what makes it right people who don’t pay fees can walk all over them. Police are constantly reminding us of non essential travel and stopping people driving to the countryside to walk their dogs, it’s all a contradiction regarding the guidelines. Let us play golf on them as we paid our memberships

    Reply to this comment
    • Niftus April 8, 20:02

      I do think the real motive is an anti-male liberal agenda.
      These left wing dinosaurs still think golf is the domain of the privileged class. White male Conservative. When in fact the vast majority are working class, self employed and a mixture of race and gender. They’re so out of touch. Next they’ll want to turn Premier League grounds into playparks, cricket ovals into barbecue areas. The majority of golf clubs are private areas of land.

      Reply to this comment
    • Rusty April 9, 08:42

      Yeah let them walk after they have paid the same fees £100s of pounds as the members,!!!!!!!!!!! Stupid idea,, obviously not a golfer!!!!!!!! Keep everyone off the course or allow Golfers to return and enjoy their sport and exercise,,,

      Reply to this comment
  9. Gasty April 8, 15:43

    Will the green party cover insurance costs if someone injured or cover costs any damage caused.

    Reply to this comment
    • Chardon April 8, 16:26

      What is the difference between someone taking exercise walks on a golf course and my hitting a golf ball as I walk round a golf course? I come into close proximity to far more people during my exercise walks, during the lockdown restrictions, than I did while playing a round of golf before the lockdown.

      Reply to this comment
      • Dave April 8, 19:49

        Who are you to tell me what to do on my golf course. I pay, as a member, to maintain my course, the public pay nothing. If you want to go for a walk do it in a public space.

        Reply to this comment
        • Kenny April 9, 07:06

          I fully agree.I do not have a lot of spare cash.i pay membership fees to golf,£800 yearly.i not drink or smoke.i am 63.private course means private.the upkeep is expensive for our club.public should be on public grounds.this virus is a killer.stick to rules.we can not golf fine. Everyone stau away then.
          We still paying.if government want to use our course have them pay.

          Reply to this comment
      • Robert April 8, 20:14

        If this is the case then we should open all football stadiums to the public for the same reason which will never happen lol

        Reply to this comment
      • Dave B April 8, 23:45

        It seems odd that this idea of creating more open space for people to exercise apart from each other is not being focussed on the National Trust, Forestry Commission and RSPB, all of which have closed public access to open space near where I live. We now are forced to take any exercise on narrow pavements and country lanes. If golf courses are now considered a safe place to exercise why have they been forced to close anyway? The logic of all measures to prevent passing the virus between households is undeniable. Some of the deployment of this policy has been idiotic and counterproductive.

        Reply to this comment
    • Stew April 9, 08:15

      Why should I pay £800 of my hard earned money for my golf membership and then find people walking all over the course. Open up the play parks and the walkers and dogs can leave all their litter and dog mess there.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Stevie - v April 8, 11:19

    Theres no way people should be allowed to walk on a private golf course members play a lot off money to play golf and it takes a lot of hard work and money to keep a golf course in good condition before you no it they will be having barbaques and kids playing football and there is no way people will keep there distance from each other keep the public parks open they are easeir to police

    Reply to this comment
    • Jimbo April 8, 12:08

      We have had several buggies vandalised. Politicians who know nothing about golf coming up with the ideas. If the course is the only one in the area it could get flooded with people which defeats the object and could cause vast damage.

      Reply to this comment
      • Dave April 8, 16:51

        If the people want to use the golf course they should pay the annual golf fee plus any other costs associated with membership or they could pay the daily golf fee to use the course. They will also need an induction on what they can do and not do when using the course
        Personally I do not think it’s a good idea

        Reply to this comment
        • Niftus April 8, 20:00

          I do think the real motive is an anti-male liberal agenda.
          These left wing dinosaurs still think golf is the domain of the privileged class. White male Conservative. When in fact the vast majority are working class, self employed and a mixture of race and gender. They’re so out of touch. Next they’ll want to turn Premier League grounds into playparks, cricket ovals into barbecue areas. The majority of golf clubs are private areas of land.

          Reply to this comment
  11. Tim K April 8, 10:57

    We have one long path across the course, having walkers on course at this time can be beneficial as it can limit the nasty little cherubs who come on with a spade and attack your greens whilst the course is empty , but it won’t fit all , and the problem will be when golf reopens , stopping the ramblers then will be very problematic and potentially dangerous .

    We are embracing our walkers as the path has been there for ever and links up two old small villages .

    Reply to this comment
    • Jimbo April 8, 12:06

      We have had several buggies vandalised. Politicians who know nothing about golf coming up with the ideas. If the course is the only one in the area it could get flooded with people which defeats the object and could cause vast damage.

      Reply to this comment
    • BRIGHTON - Belle April 8, 15:07

      People are not sticking to the rules in open parks, you open up golf courses you are asking for trouble. I don’t play golf but my husband does and he pays a fortune for his fees which maintains the course. People are ignorant and will vandalise these. If you want to open up the courses you might as well abolish lockdown as people will have to use cars to get to most of them. I am sure none of you people have any brain cells working at the moment who think this is a good idea

      Reply to this comment
  12. Simon April 8, 10:56

    My opinion is that courses should be open for walking. Members clubs should have the choice to restrict this to members only as its their private property but i see no reason people walking in grass should fo any damage. Make sure you pick up your doggy do though, not much fun picking that out of your FJ’s!

    Reply to this comment
    • Jimbo April 8, 12:10

      We have had several buggies vandalised. Politicians who know nothing about golf coming up with the ideas. If the course is the only one in the area it could get flooded with people which defeats the object and could cause vast damage.

      Reply to this comment
  13. chris April 8, 10:29

    Are the mps gardens and estates open to the public?

    Reply to this comment
  14. Alexander F April 7, 17:55

    Our course has 4 public footpaths so we are used to people walking. It means they can exercise safely and let’s us connect with people who may not have used the facilities otherwise

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim K April 8, 10:58

      We have one that runs across the 6 holes and apart from going of Piste it can actually help to reduce the bad lads doing damage , although we might need a local rule re dog pop untils all gone.

      Reply to this comment
    • BRIGHTON - Belle April 8, 15:08

      People are not sticking to the rules in open parks, you open up golf courses you are asking for trouble. I don’t play golf but my husband does and he pays a fortune for his fees which maintains the course. People are ignorant and will vandalise these. If you want to open up the courses you might as well abolish lockdown as people will have to use cars to get to most of them. I am sure none of you people have any brain cells working at the moment who think this is a good idea

      Reply to this comment
  15. Peter April 7, 16:18

    Of course !! During good times operators keep courses closed to walkers for many reasons and liabilities, understandable !! However, even then, more should allow walkers !! In these times of crisis, walking alone or with a family member, distanced from others, is the recommended exercise, not golf !! I “get” and understand how hard operators and grounds supervisors work at building and creating a great landscape and worry about it being destroyed overnight !! Do it anyway !! With very careful planning, communication and awareness, we could and should let people know the work involved and consideration needed to keep it that way !! Opening will pay dividends in good times !! Closing to the community will “ping” a clubs reputation and culture, not good !!

    Reply to this comment
    • Jimbo April 8, 12:12

      We have had several buggies vandalised. Politicians who know nothing about golf coming up with the ideas. If the course is the only one in the area it could get flooded with people which defeats the object and could cause vast damage.

      Reply to this comment
  16. Phil April 7, 16:15

    no chance should be open for walkers
    no respect for the greens etc

    Reply to this comment
  17. Scott J April 7, 15:36

    We face this challenge at our Club on a daily basis. While the opportunity to open closed courses up for walking and other activities seems like a good use of green space now, I’m fearful of how one ever gets away from that habit/policy when courses reopen? With six courses our staff could not continually patrol in the evening hours. How are other clubs in the US addressing this challenge?

    Reply to this comment
    • chris April 8, 10:28

      Are the mps gardens and estates open to the public?

      Reply to this comment
      • Neil April 9, 10:39

        If that’s the case, I hope Caroline Lucas will open her garden( if she has one)to the public, most golf courses are private property. That means the owner, owners decide who uses that land, the so called Green Party acting as communist party, she will want us to give access to our homes to people soon, grow up and get a real job.

        Reply to this comment
    • Parksey83 April 8, 23:01

      No problems with the golf course being opened to the general public. Just watch out for my sliced drives.

      Reply to this comment
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