London’s golf courses could house over 300,000 people, according to a new report from Russell Curtis, an architect and founder of RCKa, an award-winning architectural practice specialising in community projects.
When thinking of golf courses, you may imagine the wilds of Scotland or the rolling Home Counties countryside. In fact, 5% of the UK’s golf courses are located in Greater London, despite the conurbation taking up just 0.65% of the UK’s total land area. The Golf Belt reveals that the capital contains at least 94 full size golf courses, excluding driving ranges and courses with fewer than nine holes. Other sources place that figure even higher – golfing website yourgolftravel lists no fewer than 131 courses as being in the capital.
Curtis’s report says that if the golf courses were a London Borough in their own right, they would be the capital’s 15th largest at 4,331 hectares. That’s slightly bigger then Brent, with a population of 330,800. Even just the the 43 publicly-owned golf courses in London take up just under 1,600 hectares of land in Greater London, more than the entire area of Hammersmith & Fulham, which has a population of 185,000.
The report doesn’t go into such detail as to cover the whole nation, but it’s worth noting that over one quarter of Europe’s golf courses are in the UK, which makes up only around 0.02% of Europe’s land mass.
Curtis insisted at the report’s launch that he was not declaring war on golf, but simply questioning if there may be a more effective use of some of the land given over to golf courses. The ability of parks to serve more people than golf courses, for example, is starkly illustrated in The Golf Belt. The report calculated that an 18-hole course can only accommodate 72 players at any one time, allowing a maximum of 216 players a course on a typical summer’s day. If the 166 hectares of Regent’s Park were to become a golf course, it could only be used by 314 people in a day, yet the park received more than 26,000 visitors each day in 2007.
“There surely has to be a way of improving the social utility and accessibility of golf courses to benefit the wider population. The redevelopment of golf courses is always presented as a binary choice between beautiful green fields or concrete, but there’s a model in the middle where you could provide new homes and social infrastructure while achieving biodiversity gain,” Curtis said.
Image courtesy Pixabay.