Can I Walk On A Golf Course Without Paying?

Walking on a golf course can be a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. But can you do it without paying? You might think that it’s impossible, but there are actually ways to do it!

With so many rules around walking on a golf course, how can you make sure you’re not breaking any of them? In this article, we’ll explore whether or not you can walk on a golf course without paying.

Can I Walk On A Golf Course Without Paying
Photo Geoffrey Baker – Walkers on a public footpath at St Enodoc

Rules Will Vary By Country

In the UK many courses even private golf courses have public rights of way across them with paths that have possibly been used for centuries. As long as you stick to the recognized pathway you won’t have any problems. But please don’t stray onto the fairways and greens! You are more likely to be hit by a ball if you are somewhere you shouldn’t be. While it’s extremely unlikely any legal action would be pursued you could presumably be fined for trespass. Usually, there will be signs posted at the perimeter of the course telling you where you can and can’t go.

Here are just a few private courses that have public rights of way:

  • Dartmouth Golf Club
  • South Staffs Golf Club
  • Penn Golf Club
  • Saunton Golf Club – East Course
  • St Enodoc Golf Club – Church Course
  • Bude & North Cornwall Golf Club

These are just the ones I’ve been a member of or played recently! There are many, many more across the UK.

In the United States, there isn’t really a concept of public rights of way that has been laid down by centuries of use.  You certainly won’t be allowed to walk across a privately owned golf course. Such courses are for members and their guests. Some may allow non-golfers to accompany players without paying for a round but in some cases, they may charge a fee!

Which Types of Courses Are Off Limits for Walking?

Generally, if you don’t have a membership or pay a green fee, certain types of courses will be off-limits. Private courses often have strict rules and may not allow walking without paying. Even if they do allow walkers it will only be someone accompanying a group of golfers. On the other hand, most public golf courses are open to the public and may offer walking privileges for no charge but again this is usually only going to be in the company of golfers who will make sure the non-golfer isn’t getting in the way of other players.

It’s important to read course rules before attempting to walk on a golf course without paying so that you can determine what type of course it is and if there are any restrictions regarding walking on the course. Additionally, some private clubs may offer discounted rates to people who want to walk on their course without playing an entire round of golf.

So, it pays to research your options before attempting to walk on a golf course without paying.

Bude And North Cornwall
Photo Geoffrey Baker – Bude And North Cornwall

Is There a Non-Golfer Fee?

It is true that some golf courses allow people to walk around without having to pay any fees. This usually applies to public courses, as private ones tend to have stricter rules about who can be on their grounds.

Even for public courses, though, there may be certain restrictions in place. For example, if there are golfers playing on the course at the time, then walking might not be allowed due to safety concerns. It’s best to check with the golf course itself before attempting to walk on it without paying to ensure you’re following all the rules and regulations.

For example, the Old Course in St. Andrews is closed to golfers on a Sunday so no doubt the locals will wander over parts of the course they can’t normally do when golfers are playing.

Additionally, keep an eye out for any signs or warnings that may indicate which areas of the course are off-limits for walking.

For example, Disney charges a fee for non-golfers. Ok, this is for someone in a cart but you get the idea.

Is It Illegal To Walk On A Golf Course?

You may wonder if it’s against the law to walk on a golf course without paying, but the answer isn’t so cut and dry.

While in theory, you could walk on a public golf course without playing golf it’s important to check with the specific golf club first as each institution has its own rules and regulations. Of course, you should also consider the wisdom of walking across a golf course when golfers will be playing! In this age of health and safety, you would be putting yourself at risk of being smacked with a ball. I know only too well how painful it can be to be hit by a golf ball!

If you’re asked to leave by someone at the club, then you should comply with their request unless you happen to be on a public right of way. Wandering down the middle of a fairway isn’t going to endear you to the players!

So if you’re planning on walking through a golf course without paying, make sure that you check with the club beforehand and follow any rules or regulations they might have in place.

Sidmouth Golf Club
Photo Geoffrey Baker – Sidmouth Golf Club

Can You Walk On A Golf Course At Night?

Whether you can take a stroll across the grounds after dark depends on the rules of the club, so it’s wise to check with them beforehand.

Walking on a golf course at night is generally not allowed due to safety concerns.

Depending on where you are golf courses may be on private land and require permission from management before walking on their grounds. It might be impossible for you to access the course anyway if the car park gates are closed and there are private houses surrounding the perimeter of the course.

If you’re considering taking a walk on a public golf course at night, make sure to check with the club first for any special rules or restrictions that may be in place. This will help ensure your safety and respect for private property.

Can You Go For A Run On A Golf Course

Going for a run on a golf course can be a great way to get in some exercise, but it’s important to make sure you do so in accordance with the rules of the club. Before heading out for your jog, check if the course is privately owned or public and whether running is allowed.

If so, most clubs will only allow running around the edges of the course, away from tee boxes and greens, as golf balls can travel further than one might expect.

Here are a few other tips to help ensure your run is both safe and enjoyable:

  • Respect any signage that may be posted: Many courses have signs that indicate where runners should not go due to safety concerns or limited access rights. Follow these directions carefully.
  • Be aware of others: As much as possible, keep your distance from golfers playing on the course – they may not see you coming!
  • Dress appropriately: Wear bright colors that are easy for players to spot in case they don’t hear you coming. This helps prevent any potential accidents.

Running on a golf course can provide an exciting change of scenery while getting some much-needed exercise and fresh air – just be sure you’re following all applicable rules and regulations!

Golf Ball Hunting

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of whether or not you can go for a run on a golf course, let’s take a look at another activity that is popular among people who like to hang around public golf courses: golf ball hunting.

It may be tempting to walk around the grounds of public golf courses in search of stray balls, but it’s important to remember the legalities surrounding this activity before attempting it. While some courses will allow walking on their property without paying, others do not and it’s important to know the rules before venturing out onto the course.

If walking on the course is allowed, stay away from areas where players are actively playing and avoid taking any balls that appear as if they are still in play.

Make sure the course itself hasn’t banned the practice of ball hunting or the sale of balls to members.

Why Non-Golfers Should Avoid Golf Courses

The big problem with non-golfers is they aren’t necessarily aware of the dangers of being hit by a golf ball. Some people have been badly injured so it’s best to keep clear of golf courses unless you have your wits about you.

I’m reminded of a couple of occasions where this really hit home. About 30 years ago I was a member of Patshull Park Hotel & Country Club. The 8th hole happened to be an uphill dogleg hole. A bell was sited next to the green so players could let the group behind know that the green was clear.

I happened to be playing one day and after playing to the green I got over the brow of the hill to find a family of guests from the hotel who had decided to have a picnic on the green! It was such a lovely spot they said! I pointed out the folly of their chosen picnic site and suggested they might want to move before they got hit by a golf ball!

Unfortunately, this course closed a few years ago.

A more recent incident occurred at Penn Golf Club just after the covid lockdown. Since the course runs across what was Penn Common many of the locals believe they have free run of the place although there are specific rights of way and a bridal path that walkers should be sticking to. One day I found a family had decided to have a picnic in the middle of the 13th fairway at around the point drives would be landing!

On reaching them I pointed out the danger of what they were doing but was met with the usual “know-it-all” attitude. I suggested they take a look at the signs on the perimeter of the course to bring their knowledge up to date!

Can I Walk On A Golf Course Without Paying: Conclusion

You may be able to walk on a golf course without paying, but it’s important to check the rules before you do.

Many courses require you to pay a non-golfer fee if you want to walk around and even then you should only be there in the company of a golfer who can make sure you observe the etiquette of the game. 

Overall, if you’re looking for an outdoor activity that doesn’t cost anything, walking on a golf course could be a great option – just do your research first.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Can you just show up to a golf course?

Generally speaking, you could not. While a member can just turn up at his or her club even there they will be subject to tee-times and may have to wait for a vacant slot. At a public course, you should phone ahead or check online to see if there are free tee times.

Can a friend just come along to watch me play golf?

Many golf courses will allow you to bring along a non-playing partner but they might charge a fee – especially if they are riding in a cart. This is to cover the cost of the cart and possibly insurance too!

What stops people from sneaking onto a golf course without paying?

Well, it is illegal to start with so if you are caught you could be prosecuted. This is sufficient to stop most people. Many courses have perimeters that aren’t accessible so you can only gain access by going past the pro shop where you might get noticed. You might come across a course ranger who checks if you have a members tag or a green fee ticket.

Is it rude to jog on a golf course while people are playing?

Serious golfers and even non-serious golfers will probably be put off by people moving in their field of vision. You might think that you aren’t in the way if you are 200 yards away but the fact you are there will prey on the minds of most golfers and put them off. Since a lot of golf courses are private you probably shouldn’t even be on the property!

How should a golfer handle people walking randomly across the course?

Depends on whether they are on a public right of way. If not then ask them politely to vacate the area to avoid getting hit. If they won’t then report it to a course marshall or the pro shop.

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