Are You Allowed to Fish on Golf Courses

Every angler who has played a round of golf has also probably dreamed of fishing in the golf course pond.  We all hear stories of lunker bass just waiting to be caught along the fairway and plenty of Youtube anglers have proven that monster bass exist in these ponds.  

Before you grab your rod and clubs, we need to answer this question:  Are you allowed to fish on a golf course?

Fishing on a golf course is allowed and legal only if you first get permission from the course management or greenskeeper.  Golf courses are private property and subject to trespassing laws.  Fishing without verbal or written permission is definitely not recommended.  Most golf course ponds are open year-round but check your local regulations for specific seasons in your area.

Getting permission to fish a golf course pond is a challenging feat.  With a bit of effort and politeness, you may find yourself with golden-ticket access to your own honey hole.  Read on to see how you can get proper permission to legally fish on a golf course.

Always ask the greenskeeper and management

The greenskeeper’s job is to maintain the beautiful grounds and the ponds that are on it.  Getting on the good side of the greenskeeper is probably your best bet for a free pass to fish.  Any greenskeeper worth their salt will also know when, where and how you should fish each pond for maximum success. 

Even if the greenskeeper gives you verbal permission to fish, always seek out a written letter of permission from management.  That way if you are confronted while fishing, you have proof.  

Public courses vs. Private courses

Access to private courses are usually reserved for members and their guests.  This pretty much gives you two options if you want to fish at a private course.  

Your first choice; make friends with a member.  A member of a golf course can help you learn what kind of fishing opportunities are available and whether or not fishing is prohibited.

The second choice; become a member.  Before you shell out the annual dues, make sure a membership comes with fishing privileges.    

Public course are open to anyone for golf and they usually require only a greens fee to play.  Be aware that just because it is a public course, it may still be private property.  If it is on public land, the course is probably only open to access during daylight hours and activities could be restricted to golfing or walking only.  

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can avoid trespassing fines on a public course.  I suggest you play a round and talk to the head golf pro for more information.  Either way, always get permission.  Better safe than sorry.  

Trade work for fishing privileges

For those of you obsessed with bass fishing, working a day or two each week at a local golf course is not an unreasonable trade for gaining fishing privileges.  Offer to do the less desirable tasks and you will quickly make friends and impress the management. 

Wash golf carts, caddy or even help clean the facilities.  If you can prove your worth, they will have a hard time saying no to your request.  

Play some golf and bring the rod

It costs money to maintain a pristine course and fishable ponds.  Your best shot at getting on a course to fish is to also play a round of golf.  A paying customer is more likely to be granted permission for fishing access.  

Load a fishing rod and some basic bass tackle in your golf bag and you’re set.  Let the staff know you are interested in making a few casts as you play.  Respect their decision and if they let you fish, show proper etiquette to other golfers.  Don’t hold up other people’s game just so you can make a few more casts.  

Other common questions

Do all golf course ponds have fish

Not all golf course ponds have catchable fish and you might need to ask around before you waste your time.  However, most golf course ponds are often stocked with fish to keep aquatic growth down and maintain a natural balance in the water.  

While some courses may outright prohibit fishing on the course, others stock fish to entice anglers to play a round.  Not all golfers are fishermen but a die-hard angler is more likely to play golf at a course that also has monster bass lurking in the water hazard.

The first step to determining if your local golf pond has fish is to ask the management at the course.  They will have first hand knowledge of the water and the type of fish.  Largemouth bass are most common but panfish or catfish could also be present.  

Is it safe to eat fish from golf course ponds

It is generally not recommended to eat fish caught from golf course ponds.  Chemical sprays, fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides are all used to keep golf course grass in tip-top shape.  The runoff from rain washes these chemicals into surrounding ponds where the fish live.  

Local health departments are unlikely to perform environmental monitoring of fish in golf course ponds so take the safe road and just catch and release.  

Do golf course ponds have fishing seasons

Most private ponds on a golf course are likely open year round without restrictions set by the fish and wildlife department.  If the pond is part of a stream system then fishing regulations probably apply.  Golf course management also may have rules of their own and you should follow all instructions they give you.

Fishing seasons are set by local fish and wildlife departments.  Always check your area’s rules and regulations before heading out to fish.

Do you need a license to fish on golf courses

License requirements on private or public golf courses vary from state to state. Our in depth article about fishing license rules on private property will help you answer that question where you live.

Best lures for golf course fishing

Getting on the golf course to fish is challenging but picking the right lure doesn’t have to be.  The tactics and lures you use to fish golf ponds are similar to your other fishing holes.  First, you need to know what species are in the pond.  Most commonly it is bass and golf ponds can grow some giant largemouths. 

Keep in mind that ponds on a golf course experience less pressure than other public fishing spots and bass may not be as picky.  However, small, shallow ponds require some degree of stealth when you approach.  Minimal cover makes for some skittish bass.  Cast to the near sides from a few yards back before stepping right up to the edge to fish further out.  

Here are the lures that make up my golf course tackle kit:

  1. Plastic worms

Plastic worms are always my first choice for small ponds.  Try a wacky rigged Senko along weed edges and lily pads.  No weeds?  Then just cast it out and use a slow retrieve.  Pause frequently to let the worm sink a bit.  The subtle presentation of the wacky rig won’t spook fish and few bass can resist the natural look and taste of a Senko.  

If getting right to the bottom is your aim, try a Texas or Carolina rig.  Pond bass can get fat and lazy, so work your bait slow and try to cover every inch before moving on.

  1. Spinnerbaits

Sometimes the bass are too fat and lazy and only big commotions will get their attention.  Spinnerbaits fit the bill.  There’s nothing like the splash and vibration of a spinnerbait to entice a strike from irritated bass.  You can also cover lots of water fast which make it a good choice of bait when your fishing between tee-offs.  

  1. Poppers

If you are able to get on the course at dawn or dusk, then you should definitely try a popper.  A largemouth is going to have a hard time resisting a popper worked slowly along the surface of calm water.   

  1. Jigs 

Larger or deeper ponds may call for a swim jig tipped with a plastic craw.  Fish it through the weeds or grass where fish are holding tight to cover.  Use a finesse jig if there is any structure in the pond.  Take your time and cover some ground.  The bass may not be highly pressured but they also are not as aggressive in golf course ponds.  Jigs are great for getting the hook right in their face.

  1. Live bait

Not all golf courses will allow live bait but if they do, then by all means give it a try.  A simple bobber setup with a live worm never fails.  

Summing it up

Put in the leg work and with proper permission, you too may find yourself fishing premier bass waters on a golf course near you.  Not all courses will allow you to fish no matter how much effort you put in.  Don’t take it personally though.  Keep asking around at all the local courses.  The payoff for your efforts will be greatly rewarded!