Golfers and dog walkers have always had a rather uneasy co-existence. In fact on some golf courses they drive each other barking mad.
But up on Berkhamsted Common there is harmony since the golf course opened again.
With over 500 acres of natural heathland criss-crossed by public footpaths the Common has been shared by golfers and members of the public for over 125 years. But since March 24th the cries of FORE! no longer echoed around the trees: ramblers and dog walkers were able to take their daily exercise without needing to exercise caution when crossing Berkhamsted’s world-famous golf course – including many first-time visitors making use of the deserted fairways.
Finally, after seven weeks’ closure during the COVID-19 outbreak, Berkhamsted Golf Club members were allowed to play once more on their beloved golf course, which is ranked inside England’s Top 100 best.
In mid-May the golfers were back and, perhaps surprisingly, their return was welcomed by regular visitors to the beauty spot.
Dog owner Gerard Sampson, 74, who walks Tilly his seven year-old Cavapoo dog on the golf course each day along with his wife Chris, said: “It is nice to see things are back to normal because golfers and walkers generally get along very well up here on the Common.
“After almost two months’ absence it was good to see the return of the golfers. I think we all want to feel as if life is returning to the way it used to be, however gradually. The Common is a fantastic place and we have been so blessed to have it on our doorstep to use during the lockdown, while others haven’t been as fortunate.”
But with golf balls whizzing about again, don’t the dogs and the golfers get in each other’s way?
Berkhamsted’s Club Captain-Elect Ian Carlile said: “During the COVID crisis many more people than usual have been getting their exercise on the Common, including the golf course. When golf restarted, many of these newcomers weren’t used to the safety aspects of walking across an active golf course.
“So we had marshals out on the golf course for the first fortnight, for people’s safety, just to warn them which way to look at key points. Plus, our members were wonderfully patient and extra-vigilant. It was a wonderful “restart”, and hopefully our new friends up here on the Common will continue to co-exist with our golfers in perfect harmony!”
“There is frequent banter between golfers and walkers of course, but everybody shows each other respect” said Gerard Sampson. “Like many dog owners who use the golf course we have trained Tilly to act properly when golfers are nearby: she stops while they are playing a shot, she doesn’t run on the greens, and she sits very still while golfers are trying to hole a putt!”
And Berkhamsted has also avoided one of the more negative aspects of lockdown, namely damage to the golf course – which has been widely reported elsewhere.
Howard Craft, who manages Berkhamsted Golf Club, said: “We would like to extend huge thanks to the local community for the careful way in which they used the golf course while we were closed for play. During the lockdown period our greenkeeping staff didn’t see a single instance of damage, anywhere, and we are so grateful to the public for being so wonderfully considerate to our historic golf course.”