Policy and ResearchHoles to Homes

Sustainable development of London's golf courses to help alleviate the housing crisis.

Golf courses take up an extraordinary amount of land: together, London’s 95 golf courses cover an area larger than Brent. In a congested city, this does not represent an equitable use of precious land.

With around 40% of London’s golf courses owned by local councils–many of whom face profound levels of housing need–our speculative Holes to Homes masterplan for Enfield Golf Course demonstrates how councils might make better use of their own assets to address London’s housing crisis and benefit a larger proportion of Londoners.

Following its publication the work received international press coverage, including the printed edition of the Guardian, New Statesman, with discussions taking place on both radio and television.

Golf takes up to 17% of all the available green space in London.

Publicly owned golf courses in London could provide homes for 300,000 people.

The golf course at Enfield offers an opportunity for the creation of 650 new homes alongside new social infrastructure.

"...the council’s draft Local Plan, published in 2021, sets an overall target of 25,000 homes and does not include any allocation at Enfield Golf Club"

Architect defends 'provocative' housing plans for Enfield Golf Club. Enfield Dispatch, November 2023

Making the best use of public land

Around 40% of London’s golf courses are owned by the boroughs in which they are located. Many of these councils are struggling with profound levels of housing need, not least homelessness and overcrowding, together with a rapidly expanding disparity between those in housing comfort, and those in distress.

A surprising number of London’s golf courses are located in highly accessible areas; close to public transport or high streets. Our Holes to Homes masterplan sets out a responsible and more equitable vision for the golf course in Enfield – unlocking 650 new homes alongside new social infrastructure to serve the existing community around it, while also retaining nine holes for golfers.

"Rather than fight to retain their vast land holdings, some stretched club managers are seeing the value in reconfiguring old courses to provide new homes – and fund better facilities that can attract more members."

Building houses on Britain’s vast, exclusive golf courses makes sense for everyone – even golfers. The Guardian, 28 November 2023

As an example of how a typical London golf course could be redeveloped, Holes to Homes presents a propositional piece of work demonstrating how a typical London golf course in Enfield could be redeveloped.

New homes are arranged in a series of villa blocks occupying nine of the fairways and putting greens—not a single tree would be lost. Furthermore, development would enable significant improvements in biodiversity, with remaining areas of the course rewilded, including a new wetland along Salmon’s Brook.

"Such radical plans wouldn’t just help tackle our chronic lack of housing, but also let the sport shed its elitist tag."

Building houses on Britain’s vast, exclusive golf courses makes sense for everyone – even golfers. The Guardian, 28 November 2023

Holes to Homes demonstrates our willingness to offer provocative and creative responses to pressing social issues. Building on previous research by RCKa director Russell Curtis—which investigated the quantity, size and ownership of London’s golf courses—the masterplan demonstrates how Enfield golf course in particular might be used to better serve a borough where 11,000 are living in temporary accommodation, and where a lack of affordable, secure housing is a pressing social challenge.

"Rather than higher fences and membership fees, clubs should collaborate with great architects to create neighbourhoods of affordable homes integrated with wildlife, community facilities and public spaces, all made possible by fewer and smaller – but better and more accessible – golf courses for everyone."

Building houses on Britain’s vast, exclusive golf courses makes sense for everyone – even golfers. The Guardian, 28 November 2023

Repurposing golf courses to connect neighbourhoods

A lack of affordable, secure housing is clearly a pressing social challenge for Enfield, but the repurposing of the golf course provides opportunities to make a positive contribution to the local community.

The masterplan proposes new homes set within a green landscape, linked by a new east-west pedestrian and cycle route that helps knit the surrounding neighbourhood together with new social infrastructure such as retail uses, leisure activities, education and zero-mile food production.

The opportunity to enhance community wellbeing goes further; supporting more sustainable futures through achieving carbon net-zero in construction and use, promoting active modes of transport, avoiding a reliance on private vehicle ownership through the creation of walking and cycling routes and improvements in ecology, biodiversity and urban greening which integrate with surrounding landscape.

Project Team
Russell Curtis
Samuel Letchford
Eden Malik
Tim Riley

Atelier Permain

Project list