Recent analysis by CityMetric estimates that London’s golf courses alone could provide 267,400 family-sized homes accommodating around one million people.
The average golf course occupies between 30 to 60 hectares which is approximately the equivalent of one and a half to three green parks.
CityMetric’s investigation highlights the fact that land around London is finite and expensive. Golf courses are taking up land and space that could be used for much needed housing, employment or schools.
In the London Plan, even at the lowest housing densities discussed of 35 homes per hectare, a small golf course could offer land sufficient for over 3,500 homes.
In 2017, the London borough of Lewisham did close Beckenham Place Park, one of the city’s oldest courses, to remodel it as a proper public park. The closure of the publicly-owned course was greeted by an outcry from those who wanted to play golf but couldn’t afford membership at expensive private clubs.
Surrey – more golf courses than housing
CityMetric’s analysis says that within the M25 there are 189 golf courses covering 76.4 sq km (29.5 sq mi) which is 3.3% of the total land.
Surrey boasts over 140 golf courses and for the past few years, it has been argued that more of its land is taken up by golf courses than housing. The county’s average house price stands at £570,703 (Zoopla) indicating that there continues to be a shortage of affordable homes.
John Elledge, editor at CityMetric, said: “While some golf courses are open to the wider public, many are not. It means that huge chunks of land are reserved for rich peoples’ leisure time. I think it’s worth asking whether, in the midst of a housing crisis, this is the best use of a scarce common resource.”
Glasgow’s plans for reforestation
Glasgow has mooted a plan to reforest its golf courses. The Herald local paper reported: “The city council earlier this year announced a climate emergency and an aspiration to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It has also launched a consultation on the future of six of its public golf courses, key green space smack in the middle of Scotland’s most densely populated areas.
“A group of councillors has called for the courses – including the 18-hole Littlehill, Lethamhill and Linn Park – to be transformed into forests, wetlands or even allotments.”
Golf courses not so ‘green’
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has flagged the fact that golf courses ‘are not terribly green’, requiring vast quantities of water and herbicide to maintain.
Elledge said: “We’re never actually going to do this, of course, and even if we could we probably shouldn’t: even if golf club memberships are falling, some courses will survive, and anyway open space is a good thing. But the point is clear, all the same: London is keeping a lot of land free for golf.”