Can You Walk on a Golf Course Without Paying?

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Golf courses are often peaceful environments, with an abundance of natural beauty.

But, can you walk on a golf course without paying for a round?

In this article, you will learn whether walking on golf courses is permitted if you aren’t playing the game. You’ll also learn whether jogging is permitted, whether guests can walk the course with a playing golfer, and the etiquette of practicing your short game without paying.

Can You Walk on a Golf Course Without Paying?

You can walk on public golf courses without paying, but private courses are often prohibited. When walking on golf courses, you should consider the risks. Golf balls travel at over 150mph, and there is a chance of being hit from any direction. Also, avoid disrupting play on the golf course.

A picturesque golf course environment

Reasons to Avoid Walking on Golf Courses

There are several reasons why it might not advisable to walk on active golf courses:

It’s Dangerous

Golf balls hit by an average golfer will travel at speeds of over 150mph, with pro golfers striking close to 170mph ball speeds.

It goes without saying that it can be very dangerous to walk on golf courses when balls are traveling at such high speeds. This is compounded by the fact that multiple golf shots are happening frequently, from all different directions on the course.

Often, views on the course are obscured by trees and mounds, plus not every hole is straight. It can therefore be very difficult for golfers to be aware of people walking on the course while they take their shots.

It’s Stressful

There’s no question that golf courses can often be very peaceful natural environments. You can certainly see the appeal of walking through miles of undulating grassland, surrounded by trees and beautiful water features.

However, with the potential dangers of being struck by a high-velocity ball, this experience can be more stressful than you might expect.

On busy days, groups of golfers pass through every few minutes. And, not every shot will perfectly split the fairway down the middle – golf is hard! Instead, you will experience balls flying in all sorts of directions, from multiple spots on the course.

You might argue that walking during quieter periods of play is fine. But, is it worth the stress of knowing where every ball is traveling after it’s struck? Walks should be a relaxing experience, not a stressful one.

It’s Distracting

Golf is a game of precision, with very fine margins. It takes lots of concentration for golfers to hit good shots as they navigate the course.

People walking on the course are a distraction for golfers, who have paid for the privilege to play on the course.

In addition, slow play is the bane of the sport. With groups passing through the course every few minutes, the last thing a golfer wants is to delay play by waiting for pedestrians.

Golf balls can travel upwards of 150mph

When Is Walking on a Golf Course Permitted?

Private courses operate on private land and access for the public is often prohibited. These courses will not allow people to enter the course grounds without playing a round of golf and paying their green fees.

However, there are some circumstances when walking on a golf course is permitted:

Public Courses

You might be wondering, can you walk on a public golf course without paying for a round?

By contrast with private golf courses, public courses are accessible to the general public and you are sometimes allowed to walk on them without paying for a round.

However, you should be aware of the risks outlined previously in this article. Golfers on public courses are likely to be higher handicappers, so there is a high chance that stray balls will be flying in all directions!

You should also check with the golf club directly before choosing to walk on the course.

Public Footpaths

Most notably in the UK, public footpaths can predate golf courses. In this scenario, walking is permitted but restricted to these routes only.

For example, St Enodoc Golf Club in Cornwall, England, features several footpaths which cut through the fairway. This can make for frustrating golf during peak season when many holiday-goers cross the course to reach the beach.

St Enodoc Golf Course, Cornwall UK, features public footpaths

Can You Jog on a Golf Course?

The same rules for walking on the course apply to jogging – it’s prohibited on private courses, and can be permitted on public courses in some cases.

As mentioned previously, people moving on the golf course can serve as a distraction for a golfer taking their shot. For jogging, this only exaggerates the level of distraction, so you should remain aware of your surroundings.

For some courses, there is an issue of liability. Golf courses are often insured to cover damages including the risk of accidents on the course.

Insurance policies sometimes require that only paying golfers can be on the course at any time. When golfers pay their green fees, they are entering a contract that enables this level of accident cover.

When jogging on the course without paying, you might be bypassing this policy and could be asked to leave the premises. To avoid this, check with the golf club beforehand to find out their individual policies before walking or jogging on the course.

can you jog on a golf course?

Are Guests Allowed to Walk the Course With a Paying Golfer?

In short, some golf courses will allow guests to accompany golfers free of charge, some will charge a reduced fee, while others will disapprove of it entirely.

This usually depends on insurance – some form of payment is often necessary to knowingly accept the potential risks of the golf course.

If you’re looking to accompany a golfer on the course, be sure to check with the golf club beforehand. They will be able to inform you of their policies for this.

Related Article: Do Golf Courses Allow Ride Alongs?

Can You Practice on a Golf Course Without Paying?

Most golf clubs feature practice areas where you can work on your short game, from putting to chipping and bunker shots.

You can practice on golf courses without paying, but you should pay for a round or buy a bucket of balls for the driving range every so often as it costs money to maintain the practice areas.

Most public courses will be happy for you to practice as it builds a warm feeling around the course. This can be seen as great marketing for potential players looking to join the club.


In conclusion, walking on a public golf course is legal but walking on private golf courses is often prohibited. On public golf courses, you should avoid walking in close proximity to greens, tee boxes, and along the fairways.

You should make yourself aware of the risks involved in walking or jogging on golf courses – stray golf balls can travel at dangerous speeds of over 150mph from any direction. This can make for a stressful walking experience, which should be considered.

Finally, you should consider the etiquette of walking on golf courses. Golfers have paid for the privilege to play on the course, so you should always try to avoid disrupting play.

If golf courses look appealing, perhaps you should consider taking up the sport!

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Hailing from the South West of England, Jake has been playing golf for over a decade. He founded Pitchmarks with the aim of helping everyday golfers like himself learn more about the game, through instructional content and honest gear reviews. He has a degree in Architecture and a passion for golf course design, along with a lofty goal to play the world's top 100 courses.