A CONCERNED man has questioned a golf club over its safety standards after spotting stray golf balls on the neighbouring dual carriageway.

Andy Stewart, a scaffolder from Eastleigh, is “gobsmacked” that balls from Winchester Golf Academy are flying onto the A34 and potentially endangering motorists.

However, the driving range in Down Farm Lane, in Headbourne Worthy, believes that the course is safe, with “only a handful of balls” out of a possible 90m making it onto the carriageway in the nine years since the academy opened.

Mr Stewart, 44, believes his windscreen was smashed by a golf ball in May 2022 when driving along the dual carriageway. When he phoned the golf course, Mr Stewart said he was told that “this could not be possible” so he took their word and dismissed the issue until recently.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Andy Stewart picked up balls by the carriagewayAndy Stewart picked up balls by the carriageway (Image: Andy Stewart)

Mr Stewart, of Shakespeare Road, spotted golf balls lying by the carriage when he was driving on the A34 on Tuesday, February 13. He phoned the club and Mr Stewart said he was told that “it happens occasionally”.

Concerned about the safety of drivers and passengers, Mr Stewart re-visited the A34 the following day to collect stray golf balls and speak to the manager.

He said: “I only walked a few metres and picked up a load of balls. I imagine there are thousands in the hedge.

“It’s like Russian roulette. If you get hit by something like that you are going to slam on your breaks or if you’re on a motorbike you could be dead.

“I’m pretty gobsmacked by the academy’s response. For it to happen even once a day is dangerous. I felt like I was being paranoid but this shouldn’t be normal.”

Gary Booth, manager of Winchester Golf Academy, said the nets are 20m high and are consistently reviewed for safety and that it would be “almost impossible” to get a ball over.

He said: “We review the netting every month. We have made lots of changes throughout our nine years here including heightening the nets and we have changed the bays so they are directed away from the A34.

“I have spoken to Andy and we both agree that safety is the priority here. It’s almost impossible for a ball to get over. We were quite happy to talk to him about it but he already had his mind set before he came in.

“We’re talking about a very small chance here. The highways authority, police and insurance company have all come in and deemed it as completely safe.

“We’ll be reviewing it again next week. Hi-Nets who specialise in reviewing net safety will be here. We document all the changes we make too.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Netting by the A34Netting by the A34 (Image: Google Maps)

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The question of safety was raised back in 2015 when the site was being developed. However, the Highways Agency made no objections to the planning application in 2013.

An email from an objector Robin Moriarty to Winchester City Council’s planning authority read: “Although high catchment nets have been installed I was amazed to think that the local planning council had granted permission for this to go ahead on the close proximity to the trunk road.

“I feel it will not be long before a mishit ball will come into contact with a vehicle on the A34. I cannot understand why it could not have been facing an easterly direction, which would have been facing away from the A34, this would then not affect the traffic using the A34.”

Mr Stewart shared his concerns and videos of the balls he found on Facebook page Winchester Rants. Others commented that they’ve seen balls and even nearly been hit when walking through the nearby paddock, while others shared that they’ve had their bonnets dented by what they believe were golf balls.

However, one person commented: “Can’t hit it over that net by accident, only on purpose. The golfer is at fault.”

A spokesperson for National Highways said: “The golf club is responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent golf balls from reaching the road, in line with their planning consent.”

“We can collaborate with the golf academy to ensure they maintain reasonable measures to minimise the risk of errant golf balls. If a significant issue arises, National Highways can explore options under the Highways Act."

A spokeswoman for Hampshire Police said: "I can’t comment about who is at fault while enquiries are ongoing, but I can confirm that we have received a report in relation to a number of golf balls seen in the central reservation of the A34 in Headbourne Worthy.

"It was also reported that a golf ball had previously hit the windshield of a car causing damage, although an exact date for this was not reported.

"This report will be reviewed by our roads policing unit."