You were out golfing the other day with a couple of work colleagues when you came across a glorious pond. Unlike some of the others on this course, it wasn’t manmade, but a natural feature. You even thought that you saw some fish burbling under the surface. Can you make a mental note to come back here and fish later? Is it legal to fish on golf courses?
Golf courses are largely considered private property and thus, you cannot fish on them unless the landowner or groundskeeper explicitly permits you to do so. Foregoing that permission and fishing anyway would be considered trespassing on private property.
This article will be your guide to navigating the tricky situation that is fishing on a golf course. Ahead, we’ll talk about when golf courses are public versus private, how you may gain fishing access to a golf course, and what happens should you find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Let’s get started!
Can You Go Fishing on a Golf Course?
So you want to go fishing on a golf course. You’re far from the only angler that has had this idea, but whether it’s allowed depends on the status of the golf course near you.
Golf courses can be public, private, or semi-private. Let’s explain more and what this means for your fishing aspirations.
Private Golf Courses
A private golf course usually requires membership to even enter the premises. These are the gated courses that make you feel like a VIP if you’re lucky enough to step upon the threshold.
Since only select members are allowed on the grounds, you can ensure the golf course is never overly crowded.
Further, the course is usually pristinely maintained, as the appearance of the course must befit the membership fees that the golfers pay.
As we touched on in the intro, a private golf course is indeed privately owned. Since you were lucky enough to be invited to go golfing on a private course, you just may know the landowner. If so, then you might be able to go fishing if you get can get them to agree to your proposition.
However, if you only gained access to the private course through a friend of a friend (or a colleague of a colleague), then you’d have to meet the landowner and request fishing privileges.
Further Reading: Do I need a fishing license on private property?
Semi-Private Golf Courses
The next type of golf course is a semi-private course. These courses are all at once public and private.
In other words, the public can golf on a semi-private course freely, but those who want access to more exclusive perks can pay a membership fee.
Due to the additional funding the semi-private golf course receives from the paying members, the staff can afford to keep the course looking good. The condition of the course won’t be as nice as a fully private golf course, but it won’t be terrible, either.
Since these golf courses are only semi-private, someone is likely involved in an ownership capacity. Once again then, if you hope to fish on a semi-private golf course, you’d have to find the owner.
Public Golf Courses
The last type of golf course is a public golf course. As the name implies, these courses are open to the public.
From beginner golfers to more seasoned pros, people will converge here because it’s less expensive to golf on a public course than a semi-private and especially a private one.
The condition of the course is not going to be as good due to the large crowds that a public golf course receives. On top of that, funding may be sparser. Even still, if you have your eye on a lake or pond on the public course, you might not mind the condition of the rest of it.
Even if there’s no designated owner like there is with semi-private and private golf courses, a public course still has a groundskeeper. You’d have to go through them before you can start fishing.
How to Get Permission to Fish on a Golf Course
Now you know that no matter which type of golf course we’re talking about, you can’t just traipse onto it with your fishing gear and expect to fish without consequences. You need permission. Here’s how you might go about getting it.
Ask the Right Parties
First thing’s first, and that’s finding the correct parties to inquire about whether you can go fishing.
To recap from the last section, if it’s a privately-owned golf course, then you need to find the landowner. That can be true of a semi-private course, but you might also be able to talk to the groundskeeper.
You’re better off going through the groundskeeper if the course is a publicly-owned one as well.
Here’s another avenue to consider. If the golf course is adjacent to a row of homes, there’s a decent chance that one of the homeowner’s properties overlaps the course. If so, and if that part of the lake or stream is on the homeowner’s property, then you might ask the homeowner for permission to go fishing.
We’d still recommend having the green light from the groundskeeper or landowner as well. After all, it if comes down to a battle over property lines between the landowner and the homeowner, you’ll want your bases covered.
How do you find the people who own or manage the golf course? Well, start with your friend or colleague who got you on the course in the first place. Who do they know?
If they can’t help you, then begin asking around until you find the right person to contact. Even when you have their information, don’t reach right out and ask for fishing permission. Instead, spend some time getting to know them, butter them up a little bit, and then put in your request.
Get a Job at the Golf Course
Or, if you’d rather skip all the pleasantries, what some especially dedicated anglers have done is start working at the golf course. Being an employee of the course does have its benefits, and that could include being allowed to fish where you want on the course.
Okay, but what if you already have a full-time job? Then work at the course part-time or even volunteer! You’re not trying to make a career move here. You just want to go fishing at the golf course.
What Happens If You Fish on a Golf Course Without Permission?
Some resources out there recommend that you wait until after dark and sneak onto the golf course grounds with your fishing equipment. We will never suggest that because it’s illegal!
Sure, maybe you won’t get caught, especially since even the groundskeepers don’t stay on the golf course forever. But what if you do get caught?
Well, then you’d be charged with trespassing on private property provided the golf course is private or semi-private.
By the way, although you don’t hear about it as often, trespassing can occur on public property as well.
Trespassing often encompasses you entering a property that doesn’t belong to you. In many parts of the country, it’s still considered trespassing if the owner requests that you leave but you refuse to do so.
So what happens to you at that point? That depends on how squeaky-clean your criminal record is. Here are some of the punishments you could incur.
If this is your first criminal offense as well as your first time trespassing, then a fine is likely the only penalty you would face at this time. That’s true even if you do have a criminal record but haven’t trespassed on this property before now.
How much the fine costs depends on where in the country you live and the nature of the crime. At the very least, you might be required to pay several hundred dollars, but in other cases, it can be several thousand dollars.
On top of the fines you must pay for trespassing on private or public property, you’d also be issued court costs, especially if your case advances to the courts. The court costs cover the money the prosecutors or court must pay to ensure that the justice system can play out for your particular case.
Admittedly, court costs aren’t overly expensive in most cases and often cost several hundred dollars. Even still, they’re a further walloping on your wallet.
In cases of trespassing on public or private property that are deemed more substantial, you could be looking at probation for fishing on the golf course illegally. A period of probation is 12 months on average, but it’s not unheard of for probation to last longer.
Those on probation must follow specific rules for the term of their probation. Usually, you’ll have to pay court costs and fines in addition to the probation. You’re also expected to not break any further laws during the probationary period.
If you do break a law, trespassing or otherwise, then you could be put in jail, and/or your probation period could be extended even further.
If you’re a repeat trespassing offender or you have a serious criminal record, then you could be put in jail for your crime. Trespassing jail sentences typically aren’t very long, lasting several months at most. Even still, jail time does not look good on your record!
You are not allowed to go fishing on a golf course without talking to the landowner, the groundskeeper, or even a nearby homeowner first. Blatantly disregarding the rules and breaking the law could lead to fines, probation, and even jail time, so please, get the correct permissions first.
Or, even better, find a place where you can fish without legal ramifications!