London’s golf courses are an area larger than the Brent Borough, and new research shows that there is enough space in public spaces for 300,000 people.
Nearly half of the capital’s 94 active golf courses are owned by London boroughs or other public bodies such as the Church Commissioners, yet serve a tiny fraction of the capital’s 9 million residents.
Russell Curtis, architect and author of Golf Belt, a new study on how London’s golf courses could help address the housing crisis, did not call for all of the capital’s golf courses to be converted into apartments, but for some courses to be more accessible to residents of the capital are made when they become allotment gardens, species-rich green spaces, sports facilities or even urban farms.
“This is not a war on the Gulf,” said Curtis. “There must certainly be a way to increase the societal benefits and accessibility of golf courses in order to benefit the wider population. The renovation of golf courses is always presented as a binary choice between beautiful green fields or concrete, but there is a model in the middle where you could create new housing and social infrastructure and at the same time achieve a gain in biodiversity. “
London’s golf clubs cover an area larger than Brent
According to the study, a quarter of all golf courses in Europe are in the UK and one in 20 is in London, although the capital makes up just 0.65% of the UK’s total land area.
The 43 public golf courses in London occupy almost 1,600 hectares of land in the greater London area, larger than the 185,000 residents of Hammersmith & Fulham.
The Enfield borough alone has seven golf courses, but Enfield Golf Club receives only £ 13,500 annually for the Enfield Golf Club to rent its 39-acre golf course – less than the typical annual rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the area.
Enfield City Council is currently deliberating on a controversial local plan that includes releasing a green belt for 6,000 homes, including at least 3,000 homes around Crews Hill train station, which currently includes open fields, garden centers and a golf course.
Building at a density of 60 homes per hectare on public golf courses falling in areas identified by the London Mayor’s local plan as suitable for further development – for example near train stations – would provide a home for 101,700 people – more than half of the 178,000 people in London live in temporary accommodation. Curtis said the area currently occupied by a single golfer could house around 380 people.
Activist Guy Shrubsole launched a petition to open city golf courses to the public during the initial lockdown. In 2019, Lewisham City Council transformed a golf course in Beckenham Place Park, a new public space for Londoners with a swimming lake, wildlife habitats and a 3-mile running and cycling path.
Enfield Golf Club
Shrubsole, the author of Who Owns England? Said: “Lockdown has clearly shown the unequal access to green space in our cities. With so much of London devoted to golf courses that are only used by a small segment of society, the councils should certainly repurpose more of them as public parks and nature reserves with open access for all. “
The ability of parks to serve more people than golf courses is illustrated by the Golf Belt Study, which calculated that an 18-hole course can only accommodate 72 players at a time, allowing a maximum of 216 players a course on a typical summer day .
If the 166 acre Regent’s Park were to become a golf course, it could only be used by 314 people in a day; In 2007 the park received more than 26,000 visitors a day.
According to information from England Golf, the umbrella organization for amateur golf, 40,000 members play in the 94 London clubs and up to 160,000 other people use the courses on a pay-as-you-play basis.
Matthew Draper, England Golf Senior Manager, Club, County and Membership said, “Golf is beneficial to the financial, environmental and social well-being of the communities in which it is played.
“Sport offers people a variety of physical and mental health benefits, with courses that allow access to open green spaces, a break from everyday stress, a social community and a gentle source of exercise for over 3 million people of all ages and everyone Ability enjoyed.
“The analysis shows that, compared to other sports, a high percentage of golfers depend on the sport for their physical activity, especially in densely populated areas.
“In addition, golf courses provide a natural habitat for wildlife and plants and, as governing bodies recognize and emphasize the importance of sustainability, they have a role to play in positively impacting the environment and the communities in which they live.”
Although councils like Enfield are trying to open green belt land for residential use, zoning regulations protect most London golf courses from development as they are either green belts or designated as “Metropolitan Open Land”, a form of protection that only applies to the capital.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has signaled his determination to protect the green belt, but Curtis, one of 50 design advocates appointed by the Mayor to support truly sustainable development, questioned whether golf courses are the definition of correspond to urban open spaces.
The criteria for metropolitan open space include the provision of open-air facilities that “serve either all or substantial parts of London”, contain features of national or city-wide value, and are part of a strategic corridor of green infrastructure. The only criterion that golf courses clearly meet is their ability to be distinguished from the surrounding buildings.
Curtis said changing the use of some golf courses and consolidating some golf clubs could help clubs in trouble and build better facilities for their communities.
“I hope that this will lead to a discussion that also includes the clubs,” he said. “It’s pretty difficult and emotional because it’s not just about planning, it’s also about property and, let’s be honest, it’s also about class. This country could be imagined more creatively. “