Batchwood Golf Course to be redesigned after houses hit by balls
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Google Earth
"Fore!" Neighbours of Batchwood Golf Course could find relief from wayward balls after years of misery.
The ninth hole at the course has been redesigned least twice in the last six years to try to limit the number of stray balls – and legal advice to St Albans district council has warned they need to continue to take steps to mitigate the risk to nearby properties.
Owners SADC said there’s been an increase in balls flying away from the course following the lifting of lockdown, and the latest attempts to amend the course last winter only resulted in the shots hitting a different row of homes.
A neighbour to the course first reported issues in May 2015, and since then no solution has been able to completely stop errant strokes hitting nearby houses – despite natural tree cover, the moving of tees and introduction of fences.
The course has been in place along Batchwood Drive since 1935, but complaints about golf balls leaving the course were first raised after new homes in Alverton Close were built in 2014.
Councillors were due to discuss the problems with the course at a meeting of the public realm committee on Wednesday, but it was postponed after problems with the chamber’s heating system.
According to a report prepared for councillors ahead of the meeting, council officers first visited the affected homes in July 2015. At that time a resident said there was “an average of six golf balls struck the property or landing in the garden per week”.
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Between 2015 and 2017 the council asked course operators 1Life to introduce a range of mitigation measures. These included moving the teeing area for the hole, and a metal fence was also installed in 2018 after the original netting was vandalised.
Both the nets and fence had prevented balls from heading towards the properties. However, council officers said since lockdown restrictions were lifted in May 2020, there had been an increase in balls leaving the course along the ninth hole boundary.
The next attempts to control the problems included moving the teeing area to a temporary position to the left of the hole – which had limited success.
The report said this did stop homes in Alverton Close being hit, with no complaints from the road since.
However, as the report continued: “Unfortunately, this change resulted in a new set of properties being struck by golf balls in Becketts Avenue.”
Last winter, 1Life and the council introduced new measures including improved safety netting, the planting of more trees and preventing play from any other tee apart from one behind the metal protection fence.
Those still haven’t entirely stopped balls flying off the course, with incidents still reported in April, May and June 2021.
Since the summer, the operators, council and golf course have been waiting for the public realm committee to consider what options are available.
According to the report, it’s likely to mean a significant reworking of the course.
Until November 2022 a temporary tee will be used on the current hole, placed nearer to the green.
The council will then decide what action to take, which could include developing the practice hole for play, before permanently changing the layout of the ninth hole.
If agreed by councillors, in the medium term, the existing ninth hole closed, with the 10th becoming the new ninth and the practice hole replacing the 10th. The report notes this would also require the cost of replacing the course’s scorecards once complete.
After the ninth hole is closed, the council can then decide whether to press ahead with a longer term solution, which would include undertaking major groundwork to change the position of the hole’s green, as well as the teeing area. This would direct play to the centre of the course.
The council has received advice and recommendations on the second option from a golf architect, and say this would eliminate all issues of balls striking neighbouring properties.
The report added the funding of remodelling the ninth hole would be sought in a new leisure management contract.
The council said the meeting would be rearranged as soon as possible.