Beckenham Golfers

Ongoing series, London.

The portraits in this series depict the golfers of Beckenham Place Park, home to the last publicly-owned golf course in London, which faces closure in December 2016.

Golf has been part of Beckenham Place Park for almost a century. Once the 'most played public golf course in Europe' (according to the Guinness Book of Records), more recently it has endured years of disinvestment, poor maintenance and growing uncertainty around its future.

In 2015, Lewisham Council announced the golf course would close as part of a significant re-landscaping project using Heritage Lottery Fund money. No mention of the golf course's existence was made in the council's application to the HLF. Following a brief consultation, and despite a high profile campaign and petition of over 6,000 signatures opposing its closure, the plan to remove the golf course was green-lighted.

Considerable opposition remains among golfers, and non-golfers. Many long-standing members cannot afford the expensive green fees of other local clubs. Questions about the long-term impact of the loss of ancient woodland and the maintenance costs of the re-landscaping have not been adequately answered. There is no guarantee that the forced removal of one diverse and dedicated user-group will yield another. Some users fear that parts of the new ornamental park will eventually be portioned off and sold for development.

When the course closes, the social cohesiveness of Beckenham Place Park - where club members, visiting golfers, dog-walkers and other users have co-existed for decades - will inevitably be lost. Its fate is intertwined with a range of issues which characterise our austere contemporaneity: cuts to local Government funding, the exorbitant cost of living in London, increasing property values and the housing crisis, the privatisation of public space, political disenfranchisement, the growing obesity epidemic, golf's decline as a national past-time and the legacy of the 2012 London Olympics. 

Golf is that rarest of sports: it can be played and enjoyed from childhood to old age. Equal parts relaxing and infuriating, it encourages courtesy, consideration and etiquette among its players, yet it is often maligned as the preserve of the well-heeled and entitled.

As these dignified, democratic portraits show, Beckenham Golf Club is the antithesis of that perception.