Scotland, where golf originated in the 15th century, has many of the UK’s most beautiful courses (including links courses) and boasts no fewer than seven world-famous championship locales. In the UK, there are public (municipal) and private courses, and although golf is a relatively expensive sport, you don’t have to be a millionaire to play (unless you spend all day at the 19th hole). No membership is required to play on a public golf course, although it’s advisable to book in advance. In some areas, there are few public courses – or indeed none at all – but private clubs may allow visitors to play, although only during weekdays, and provided that they’re members of a club elsewhere and can produce a handicap certificate.
It isn’t necessary to purchase a set of clubs, as they can be hired for around £7 for 18 holes. Second-hand beginner’s sets of clubs can be purchased for as little as £50, while new sets start at around £230. Green fees (the cost of a round) are reasonable at most public golf clubs, averaging around £5 to £10 per round (18 holes), although fees at top private courses are from between £30 and £50 a day. Fees are usually increased by around 20 to 25 per cent at weekends and on public holidays. Green fees are reduced for nine-hole courses and many municipal courses allow juniors (under- 18s) to play at a cheap rate. Fees may be reduced in winter.
The top private golf clubs are often extremely difficult to join and expensive (there’s huge snob appeal attached to belonging to a fashionable club). However, membership at most clubs is available from around £200 to £3,000 a year. Private clubs usually have strict dress rules and don’t allow jeans or T-shirts on the course (players are also requested to observe golf etiquette and not to strike their opponents or dig holes in the greens). Many private golf clubs are part of a larger country club or hotel sports complex, the facilities of which may include a luxury hotel, restaurant, bar, tennis, squash, swimming pool, snooker and clay pigeon shooting.
Many golf clubs have golf nets and covered driving ranges, and most also have professionals (instructors) to help reduce the number of balls you lose. (Beware of courses with lots of water which have a voracious appetite for golf balls). Driving ranges are also provided in most areas with all-weather floodlit bays, practice bunkers and putting greens. The big advantage of a driving range (apart from the reasonable cost of £2 or £3 for a basket of 50 balls) is that you don’t need to go and find your balls in the undergrowth or buy new ones when they land in the water.
Crazy golf, approach golf, pitch and putt and putting greens are available in most areas for those who set their sights a little lower than winning The Open. They’re often features of public parks.
Visit Britain publishes an annual booklet, Golfing Holidays, containing a list of golf events in the UK, hotels and inns offering golfing facilities, and golf holiday organisers. Numerous golf books are published, including the Sunday Telegraph Golf Course Guide to Britain and Ireland, Pocket Golf Rules by Jonathan Vickers (Harper Collins), Britain’s 100 Extraordinary Golf Holes by Geoff Harvey and Vanessa Strowger (Aesculus Press), The AA Golf Course Guide 2004 and The Thinking Man’s Guide to Golf by Colin Montgomerie (Orion). Excellent websites include www.golf-uk.co.uk, www.golfingguides.net and www.golf.co.uk.
This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.