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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Turf wars over Scottish golf courses
By Colin Blane
BBC Scotland correspondent

All is not well in the home of golf.

Golfers claim ramblers are risking safety by accessing courses

New legislation in Scotland about public access is causing friction between golfers and walkers.

Now the Scottish golf union is pressing for the law to be changed before someone gets hurt.

They say ramblers and walkers are interrupting golf games and behaving aggressively.

Scotland has over 540 golf clubs and so many of them have had problems with the new access legislation they have begun lobbying MSPs.

During a meeting at Prestwick golf club the cross-party golf club heard complaints of dogs fouling greens, shoppers taking shortcuts across fairways and about altercations between walkers and tourists playing golf.

Alastair Morrison, the MSP who chairs the group, said: "There has been a great increase in the number of incidences where people have not been accessing golf courses responsibly."

'Responsible access'

"They've been going to places where they've been compromising their own safety and of those playing golf.

"There is a great misconception in Scotland that people have an unfettered right to roam. That is not the case - they have a right to responsible access."

Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland (RS) said she was disappointed golfers had gone straight to members of the Scottish parliament rather than talk to groups like hers.

We're not trying to stop access, we just want to manage it
Hamish Grey, Chief executive Scottish golf union
She said golf clubs could talk to local authorities to tackle difficulties and RS would strongly oppose any attempts to amend Scotland's new access legislation.

Ninety-nine per cent of people going on to golf courses do act responsibly, says Ms Todd, while ramblers are concerned about the way golf courses are being developed right up to the coast, or right along river banks.

The law has its roots in Scotland's land reform act of 2003 that makes provision for public access to land.

There are exemptions for sports grounds like football pitches and cricket ovals.

'Not safe'

In England and Wales golf courses are included in those places where people don't have a right to roam, but in Scotland walkers are allowed responsible access.

Hamish Grey, the chief executive of the Scottish golf union, said: "We're not trying to stop access, we just want to manage it.

"A golf course isn't a safe place to wander but that's happening more and more."

The MSPs say they will be studying the problem further while the Scottish golf union plans to collect more examples of misbehaviour for ministers to consider.

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