diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 17, 2020

My local garden centre is still closed, which is a shame because the reopening of garden centres is one of the cornerstones of the leisure-driven economic revival the government announced last week.

I guess there's always tennis, but the courts in Victoria Park are fully booked.

Which means I'm going to have to take up golf.

There are over 100 golf courses in London, covering approximately 3% of the capital by area. The only problem is that there isn't one anywhere near me, and if you live in inner London there probably isn't one anyone near you either.

This isn't a great map, sorry. I've cobbled it together from a geographically accurate map CityMetric published last year, but I refuse to steal theirs so you're lumbered with my somewhat approximate version instead.

Eleven boroughs have no golf courses, including all the inner London boroughs north of the Thames, plus Lambeth and Lewisham to the south. The boroughs of Brent, Waltham Forest and Barking & Dagenham only have one course each. That's quite some golf desert.

Unsurprisingly it's the ring of outer boroughs that has all the golf courses, and if you were to nudge over the border into the Home Counties you'd find dozens more, Land is cheaper out here, or it was when the golf clubs nipped in and bought up large tracts that can't now be used for housing.

The closest golf course to central London is Hampstead Golf Club, whose clubhouse is five miles from Charing Cross. It's set across classic landscaped parkland and was founded in 1893. However it only has nine holes, so if you want the closest proper 18-holer that's Highgate, which is almost nextdoor. Both courses reopened last week, but alas only to members and their guests so I'm not going to get a game at either.

The next-closest, at five and a quarter miles, is the Aquarius Golf Club atop the Beechcroft Reservoir in Honor Oak (but that's 9 holes and currently members only). The 18-hole Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club is five and half miles distant, and allows visitors to play on weekdays, so if you're in the West End they're probably your best option. Fifth place goes to Wimbledon Park at six miles, but they're only allowing members to play during the current crisis (and recently sold up to the tennis club across the road so may not be around much longer).

I've done some mapwork to try to find the place in London furthest from a golf course and I reckon it's Columbia Road in Bethnal Green, where the Sunday flower market is held. This spot is 5½ miles from Hampstead, 5½ miles from Honor Oak and 5½ miles from Wanstead Golf Club in Redbridge. I hope there aren't too many keen golfers in the nearby tower blocks because they couldn't have any further to go.

My closest golf course is the one at Wanstead, which is marginally closer than neighbouring Ilford. But it'd still be a four mile walk, which isn't entirely practical, and also the next available timeslot is at six minutes before sunset on Wednesday which I don't think would be good value for £20. The clincher came when I read the Dress Code...
Golf shoes only, trainers are not allowed. Only recognised golf clothing may be worn. Men may wear smart, full length trousers or tailored shorts, not cargo shorts, with predominantly single colour sports socks. Shirts, preferably with a collar. Football shirts, rugby shirts or T-shirts are not allowed. Shirts must always tucked into trousers or shorts. Trousers must not be tucked into socks. Hats must be worn with the brim facing forward. Shoes should not be changed in the Car Park. Smart denim jeans are allowed in the Clubhouse but not on the Course.
...and suddenly I don't feel quite so bad there isn't a golf course anywhere near me. Hopefully the government will unlock something less upwardly-mobile soon.

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