1. Built environment
October 11, 2019

Letter: The case for developing metropolitan London’s golf courses

By Nicholas Goddard

Editor’s note: Last month, I wrote a piece arguing that London should consider turning some of its many, many golf courses into housing estates. In it, I professed to be ignorant about exactly how many golf courses London had, let alone how much space they took up or how many homes you could fit on them.

Helpfully enough, though, and not for the first time, a reader has been in touch with an answer…

Dear Jonn

I read your original golf course piece at work the other day whilst I was literally working with the exact data sets at the time and I thought – I could work that out. So I did. I was proudly searching the site for your contact details when I discovered someone’s dad had beaten me to it.

I used a slightly different method though: inside a 30km buffer from the Greater London boundary, there are 22442 hectares of land which make up 478 golf courses:

I read your reader’s dad’s analysis and thought it was potentially too car orientated. So I thought I’d avoid doing proper work my day-job for a little longer, and I generated a 2km circle round each train station within 30km of London to see how much golf course is within approximately a half hour walk of a train service.

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So how much space is that? The answer is 16033 hectares, or 160km2. That’s enough land for 641,320-961,980 homes at medium densities of 40-60 dwellings per hectare.  

A relatively minor tweak to national policy, or local interpretation of that policy – you could to argue that golf courses are “previously developed land” – this is potential a route through existing greenbelt policy.


Nicholas Goddard


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