Monday 17 July 2017

What Percent Golf Course is Your Area?

There has been a fairly long-running debate in the UK media about the extent to which golf courses cover the landscape. I've been working on a related topic recently, so when Ordnance Survey last week released an open dataset containing golf course coverage I thought I'd have a go at answering the question myself. The answer I arrived at was that Great Britain is about 0.54% golf course - or about 1,256 square kilometres (about the same area as the whole of Greater Manchester). 

The local authority with the largest area of golf courses is Woking in Surrey, at 10.74%. I originally calculated it at just over 7% but I had to make some edits due to the number of courses that straddle the local authority boundary and weren't being included. I've done the calculation a couple of times and also manually so I'm sure it's pretty accurate.

Woking - 10% golf course

Edinburgh - about 4.2% golf course

Why am I doing this? Do I hate golf and golfers? No, not at all. I used to play golf (a fine game) and have some golf clubs in my shed so I couldn't say I'm part of any anti-golf lobby. The reason is that I like to know things like this, particularly when such figures are used to debate issues like housing and the availability of land in some parts of the country. The fact that Woking appears to be 10% golf course is not a criticism, it just appears to be a fact. But I do find these numbers interesting. Here's the top 20 by local authority - and remember that Ordnance Survey just covers Great Britain not the whole UK so there are no Northern Ireland figures here. I'm not aware of a similar dataset that would allow me to do these calculations for Northern Ireland.

Is this a lot? Well, that depends

I've also done some summary statistics for Great Britain and the different countries within it. From this, we can see that Great Britain is about 0.54% golf course, England 0.74%, Scotland 0.28% and Wales 0.34%. From my analysis of the data, this does seem to include golf driving ranges as well. I'm not sure about crazy golf - don't think that's included but it would probably be a tiny fraction of land. The same goes for 'pitch and putt' type areas

Golf courses take up about the same area as Greater Manchester

If you want to explore the data yourself, I've made it available in a Google sheet - and also added in area codes and region names. According to my calculations, only 10 local authority areas in Great Britain have no golf courses within them, as follows:

  • Tamworth
  • Adur
  • City of London
  • Camden
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Islington
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Lambeth
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Westminster

Finally, at the suggestion of David O'Sullivan, I had a little look to see if there was a correlation between the percent of each area covered by golf courses and the percent voting for Brexit. There really isn't.

Not much of a relationship at all

Data credit: Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2017

Data note: to deal with the issue of golf courses that straddle local authority boundaries, I cut them in two using a local authority boundary file. My original calculations didn't do this and it turns out it makes a bit of a difference in some areas, including Woking, where the courses on boundaries end up not being counted. I'm pretty confident these figures are accurate - based on the underlying data - but of course other people have calculated similar numbers in the past and arrived at different results. Some of these were based on estimates but my calculations are based on the new Ordnance Survey dataset so I'm confident they are at least close to the correct figure.