Third Party Access on the Golf Course
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Public access to golf courses must be considered. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland access can be by using public footpaths, bridleways and other public rights of way. Public access is not allowed on golf courses (other than on public footpaths) as they are classed as excepted land and third parties do not have the right to access these areas, even if they appear on a map of open access land. More information on this subject can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/open-access-land-management-rights-and-responsibilities
Public access in Scotland is different due to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003; guidance under this Act is contained in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (www.snh.org.uk). In Scotland, individuals can exercise access rights to cross golf courses for the purposes of getting from point A to point B, providing they exercise these rights responsibly.
These third parties must keep off golf greens at all times and not interfere with any golf games or damage the playing surface. In exercising these access rights third parties should:
- Allow players to play their shot before crossing a fairway;
- Be still when close to a player about to play;
- Follow paths where they exist; and
- Keep dogs on a short lead.
To avoid damaging the playing surface, cyclists and horse-riders need to keep to paths at all times and not on any other part of a golf course. When fertilisers or pesticides have been used, the duration of any hazard depends on the material used and the head greenkeeper or course manager should display signage on accessible footpaths to highlight these hazards.
Those accessing golf courses must keep off golf greens at all times, must not interfere with any games of golf nor damage any of the playing surfaces. Regardless of the means of access, all those who intend to cross a golf course will need to be made aware of the potential risks of injury from flying golf balls and work activities. It may not be obvious to a walker that he/she is about to enter a golf course and there may be a need to provide notices giving advice; golfers may also need advice on the location of a public access point, including guidance on priority.
The main requirements to manage third party access on the golf course are:
- Completion of a general risk assessment of course hazards.
- Raising awareness of both staff and players on the course of potential hazards from third parties on the course.
- Displaying signage to warn both third parties, players and staff of any associated hazards of being on the golf course.
- Installation of safety netting when possible to prevent wayward balls going past a certain area.
- Making alteration to affected hole(s) to prevent or reduce chance of injury.
- Prevention of unauthorised access to course through securing and repairing any gaps in fences or gates.
Questions to Consider
- Is there a log book of any near misses or incidents involving third parties?
- Has your insurance company been informed of potential risk of injury to third parties?
- Is signage clear and easily identifiable?
- Is protective netting in good condition?
The above guidance provides an introduction on the main requirements needed to adequately manage this health and safety topic. If you require further guidance, risk assessments or template documentation on this subject please consult your relevant full guidance health and safety website (BIGGA, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf). If you do not hold the log in details for this website, for your club, please speak to your golf club management team to identify who the account administrator is and request the details.