Walkers using the Fife Coastal Path this summer are set to be diverted for a week – to stop them being struck by golf balls.
A 2.6 kilometre stretch of the well-travelled route will almost certainly be closed at Kingsbarns Links from Monday July 31 to Monday August 7 after an application to temporarily exempt the area from public access rights was submitted to Fife Council.
The move coincides with the running of the Ricoh British Women’s Open, one of the major championships played in women’s golf, which will be staged on the world-renowned Fife course from August 3 to 6.
If the application, which has been made by sports marketing company IMG under section 11 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, is rubber-stamped as anticipated, an alternative route inland – stretching 3.66km through Cambo Estate and following field edges and paths – will be put in place for the duration of the event.
Grant Ward, head of the council’s area services, said the ability of the organisers to run the event would be “compromised” if the local authority did not proceed with the order.
“The event is in the school holidays and at the busiest time of the year for the coastal path,” he explained.
“There is a balance to be struck between the needs of the general public and the organisers of the event.
“By providing an alternative route for the coastal path and ensuring it is of sufficient quality for walkers, this balance should be achieved.”
Event organisers say the main aim of the exemption request is to protect the public, given that the Fife Coastal Path follows the golf course closely and could put walkers in danger of being hit by wayward shots during the championship.
However, they also say the move is to beef up security by only allowing ticketed personnel on site, help monitor overall attendance, facilitate random bag searches to monitor what people bring on site, and enforce a policy of no dogs or animals on the site.
Organsers of the event have similarly applied to Fife Council’s assets, transportation and environment service to close the public car park at Kingsbarns and Back Stile/Sea Road access to the shore from 6pm on Sunday July 30 to 6pm on Monday August 7.
Mr Ward pointed out that walkers will also be denied access to the public toilets at Kingsbarns beach, with organisers asked to make alternative arrangements for coastal path users.
“Although Fife has hosted many major golf tournaments since the passing of the Land Reform Act without any of the organisers requesting a section 11 order to stop public access, this competition is different from these,” he continued.
“It is a very large and prestigious event where there are significant security concerns both for players and for the crowds of spectators.
“The competitions on the Links Trust courses, such as the Old Course, are covered by separate legislation which pre-dates the Land Reform Act.
“This allows them to control public access without having to use the provisions of the Land Reform Act.”
Local councillors this week have given consent for the order to proceed to statutory consultation and ministerial review, and anyone wishing to object or make representations have 21 days to do so.