Dunedin golf club fed up with public, wants to ban them

Dunedin's Chisholm Links has warned that it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured by a golf ball. Photo / iStock
Dunedin's Chisholm Links has warned that it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured by a golf ball. Photo / iStock

A fight is brewing over public access to Dunedin's Chisholm Links golf course after its board called on the city council to ban non-golfers.

Members of the public who use the course for exercise, to access St Kilda Beach and to walk their dogs are up in arms after a submission from the club's board on proposed council changes to dog bylaws called on access to be restricted to members only.

The backlash has resulted in signs being put up at entrances to the course, which is on council-owned reserve land, warning users about the club's stance.

The club is basing its argument on the threat posed by "marauding dogs off leash" and the potential it could be liable if someone was injured by a golf ball when the Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force next month.

"It is only a matter of time before a member of the public is seriously injured or killed through being struck by a golf ball," its submission said.

The submission also referred to an incident in January when a volunteer was attacked by "two very aggressive" dogs and was "fortunately" able to fend them off using branches.

The amount of dog faeces left behind was also a concern.

"Dog excrement is frequently found on the fairways and rough of the links.

"Shoes, trundlers, golf carts and green-keeping equipment are continually soiled and the board does not believe that .. members or green-keeping staff should have to experience this pollution."

Matthew Lovett, who lives in Tomahawk Rd and takes his newborn baby and dog for walks on the course and also uses it for running, said he was "absolutely fuming" at the club's "totally selfish" stance.

"I've been using the area ever since we moved to Dunedin over three years ago and I've never seen one incident of dogs running about uncontrolled bothering golfers."

Tina Wright, pictured walking on the golf course, is concerned about the push to ban the public. Photo / Gregor Richardson
Tina Wright, pictured walking on the golf course, is concerned about the push to ban the public. Photo / Gregor Richardson

The course was a well-used piece of public land that was "there for us all" and not just golfers.

He had been approached by quite a few concerned people while on the course in recent days.

"It's certainly upset quite a lot of the local residents," he said.

"It's really got people's backs up."

The extension of the coastal protection measures would defend Middle Beach, he said.

It was also hypocritical of the club to complain about dog excrement when club members regularly left rubbish, including beer bottles, around the course.

Chisholm Links board chairman Dave Watson told the Otago Daily Times the club's main concern was the potential for it to be held liable if someone was hit by a golf ball, which was a "grey area" in the new legislation.

"People who walk on the golf course simply cannot protect themselves from golf balls," Mr Watson said.

Asked if he thought there was a solution which pleased everyone, he said: "Until the liability issue is cleared up, I don't think it can be resolved."

He did not believe the club was guilty of hypocrisy when it came to its complaints around dog excrement, saying its members were generally "pretty tidy".

Club member Steven Armitage made a separate submission, saying he was "extremely disappointed'' at the club's "kneejerk response" to two incidents involving dogs on the course, which he said were not serious.

He questioned the relevance of the board's submission, which was more about health and safety concerns than the changes being proposed to the council's dog control bylaws.

"The board's submission is attempting to use a proposal to ban dogs from council-owned marked playing sports fields ... as means to ban everyone who is not there because of golf," he said in the submission.

The council will hear verbal submissions on proposed changes to the city's animal rules next week.

- Otago Daily Times

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