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Dog Walkers on the Course

Council is aware of members’ understandable concern about dog walkers on the course, and guidance has been requested as to how members may assist in dealing with the situation.

It would be incorrect for Council to recommend approaching or speaking to dog walkers, and it would be for members individually to decide whether it is appropriate to do so in an any particular circumstances. However, members may find it helpful to know in outline, about the rights of responsible access established under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, commonly known as “Right to Roam”, which came into force in February 2005.

Do members of the public really have unfettered rights of access over our golf course? The answer is “No”!

Golf courses, other than greens, are not exempted from “Right to Roam”. Whilst it is believed that the exemption for greens was possibly intended by those who drafted the legislation, when using the phrase “golf green”, to mean the entire course, unfortunately that interpretation has not yet been upheld in court decisions. However, what is abundantly clear from legislation, is that rights of access must be exercised responsibly, which means that anyone exercising rights of access must do so without interfering with the rights of any other person, including the landowner. That means that walkers are not allowed to interfere with the game of golf being played on a golf course!

The 2003 Act makes reference to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which is regarded as the main point of reference for determining what constitutes reasonable exercise of rights of access, and in the case of a golf course, the Code seems to make it clear that access should be limited to crossing the course to get from one place to another. In other words, walkers cannot wander about a golf course at random.

Another important point is that animals must be kept under control, therefore allowing an animal to chase wildlife would be a definite breach of rules of responsible access.

The foregoing may be of interest to any member who finds himself or herself engaged in conversation with dog walkers on the course.

Gerard Clark
Green Convener

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