|SAFETY STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE GOLFERS ONLY|
On the plane to England, I read in BA's High Life magazine about how much of England is now covered in golf-course. The English county of Surrey (1,663km2), the article said, is now home to 420 golf courses. (Poland, by contrast, a country of 312,679km2 - the size of 188 Surreys - can boast only 20 full-size golf courses and maybe another ten or so nine-hole ones.)
But Surrey is not the most intensively golfed English county. The record holder here is Merseyside, where over 2.5% of its surface is actually covered in golf course. Although the High Life article did not have access to data from all English counties (Scotland, home of the sport, was not included), the conclusion was that around 1% of England lies under fairway, bunker or green.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Golf courses are well-maintained, their groundsmen stewards of the countryside, ensuring the grassland, hedgerows, coppices, ponds and streams thrive sustainably, buttresses against the onward march of housing, shopping malls, roads and assorted eyesores. Golf courses offer the chance of exercise to large numbers of middle-aged people who'd otherwise be flopped out in front of the telly and thus burden the health service.
On the other hand, golf courses are aesthetically unnatural; they can deprive walkers of access to the countryside, they are haunts of middle-class folk who drive miles in their SUVs around narrow country lanes to enjoy the privilege of knocking a golf-ball about. Badly needed housing cannot be developed because so much land is owned by golf clubs.
On balance then... taking all the above factors into consideration... (and speaking as someone who's obviously not a golfer, who's not swung a club for over 16 years)... a good thing. I would certainly like to see far more golf courses appear across Poland - and not just exclusive clubs, but ones set up and run by local authorities, as in England, where the sport is far less elitist than in Poland.
Before swapping London's suburbia for Warsaw, our house found itself within 5km of no fewer than eight golf courses, public and private, 9- and 18-hole (Perivale Park, Ealing, Brent Valley, West Middlesex, Horsenden Hill, Sudbury, Northolt and Hangar Hill).
If Poland were to have the same saturation of golf courses as Surrey, it would need another 80,000 golf courses. Having said that, half of Surrey's golf courses are under water as I write...
As I turned back into Duffield to walk along urban pavements rather than rural footpaths, a fluorescent-yellow golf ball whizzed past my ear, sailing over the wall of an adjacent house, then rolling down the lawn into the flower bed. I decided not to tell the golfer where his ball had landed and continued with my walk. "You're obviously not a golfer..."
This time two years:
Everybody's out on the road today
This time three years ago:
50% off and nothing to pay till June 2016