Coronavirus: UK courses asked to open for exercise

Caversham Heath Golf Club

A campaign to open golf courses for public exercise has been launched in the UK, backed by a leading Green Party politician.

More than 5,000 people, including Caroline Lucas MP, have signed a petition calling on golf clubs and courses, currently closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, to give the public access to green spaces.

An article in The Times newspaper (April 12) highlighted the story of Caversham Heath Golf Club in Berkshire, which is welcoming local people, as long as they practice social distancing.

The club’s general manager, Gary Stangoe, told The Times: “It was obvious to us that social distancing can be difficult for people on the street whereas we had the space. We have a retirement complex next door, and its residents can now go for a walk and feel safe.

“It’s quite strange for our members, but they see that people are respecting the property. These are exceptional times and our members were keen to help the community.”

Analysis by The Times indicates there are approximately one million people in the UK who live in an urban area, without access to a public park or green space, but within 500m of a golf course.

The report also states there are 481,000 acres of public green space in the UK. If the UK’s 3,087 golf courses opened their spaces, an additional 311,000 acres would be made available.  

While some in the industry are not keen on the idea and have raised concerns about damage to turf, Gary Stangoe said damage by walkers and runners has been minimal.

He said the club’s experience had been “99% positive”, the only problem being dog walkers who, “pick up their pet’s mess, but then leave the bag around.”

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