Howard Swan, Chairman of the Golf Consultants’ Association and a professional golf course architect writes
“I am of the opinion that putting safety first must be a priority … Increasing numbers of clubs throughout the United Kingdom are looking to professional consulting advice as a result of concerns over the safety of their golf courses. Many are related to external boundaries which are simply too close to fairways and greens, resulting in serious and often untenable conflict with third party persons and properties. Equally there are many concerns being expressed over the conflicts internally in play between holes where they may not be adequately separated.
Prevention is certainly better than cure in any instance, and hard work is needed to ensure that any new course or holes which are redesigned on the existing course do not create conflicts of safety and heighten concerns, either now or in the foreseeable future. However, it is common to find older courses laid out on a smaller parcel of land than would be considered appropriate today.
They may well suffer from potential safety conflicts that were not apparent at the time of their original development, which may have no obvious solution. In these situations it is essential that the risks are properly assessed and evaluated, with measures being put in place to minimise the conflicts and reduce risk..
Taking professional advice with regard to safety of play on golf courses, with the aim of preventing accidents from happening before they do rather than dealing with consequences of such accidents must be the order of the day. The physical and legal costs of such events, such accidents are well known and unfortunately well-publicised, with golf clubs risking both financial penalty and risking and incurring damage to their reputation if it is shown that they have not acted responsibly and taken due regard of the law… commercially disastrous stuff.
It makes sound sense for clubs to take advice about the safety of their golf courses and undertake risk assessments so that, at every juncture, at every shot, the exposure to the player, the exposure to the club, the exposure to a potential victim of an accident is evaluated and formally identified. From that process measures to mitigate the exposure, to reduce that risk, are conceived , are introduced and are implemented, being monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.
We have gone too long without addressing this issue seriously until it might be just too late. Doing something about it might just be the sensible, the responsible thing.”
Readers are invited to comment upon Howard Swan’s remarks. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org