There are more than 130 golf clubs in London and, while no golf has been permitted on them since March 23, they have had their uses. Many have opened up to allow members to walk on them during the UK lockdown, enabling hundreds or even thousands of people to be able to get some exercise in an environment that’s perfect for safe social-distancing. And the odds are that, perhaps unlike the case with members at clubs outside a metropolis, the amount of time spent exercising on them in this way has been greater than the time spent driving there…in line with official government policy, of course!

At least one club, Caversham Heath in Berkshire, agreed to make its course available for the enjoyment of non-members who could stroll, run or walk their dog. According to a story in the Sunday Times last month, “opening all 3,087 of Britain’s golf courses would give an extra million people easy access to green space”. The newspaper pointed out that there are about 480,000 acres of public green space in Britain. Golf courses would add 310,000 acres to that figure. It noted: “In the unlikely event that every Briton took to the nation’s golf courses simultaneously and were evenly spaced, each would have nearly 210 square feet in which to self-isolate.”

Food for thought there. For two reasons. First, if the coronavirus should increase its spread of infection before we get it under control, which is a serious fear, and before we get a vaccine, maybe more clubs could do as Caversham did. Second, for golf itself. Granted some clubs have delicate wildlife-management programmes which could be jeopardised by doing this, but what better way to introduce people to the game than they get to see a golf course for free? I cannot think other than that some people would be inspired to try it by that experience alone.

Unlike the aforementioned dogs, some creatures do not require human intervention to get them on to a golf course. Sandilands Golf Club in Lincolnshire, founded in 1901, recently closed due to a lack of members. It is being turned into a nature reserve to encourage the population of rare birds. And late last month it was reported that a cuckoo had flown the 4,000 miles from Liberia to the UK in seven days. After arriving back over Blighty, it flew over the golf courses at Dulwich & Sydenham Hill, Farnham Park and Burnham Beeches.

Said Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology: “Carlton II [that’s its name; don’t ask] won’t have flown over the golf courses by accident. He will have been looking for an attractive and suitable habitat after his long journey.”

Now golf courses are opening up again, in continental Europe and, with effect from tomorrow (May 13), also in England, although not as yet in other parts of the UK. I am looking forward to playing golf again. Given all that has been and is going on in the country, I also appreciate that I am lucky to be able to do that.

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