Prisoners get 9-hole golf course for wellbeing – but balls zing over walls

Lags are teeing up for games of pitch and putt at a cushy jail dubbed the Savoy of Slammers – although stray balls often zing over the prison walls.

A report into HMP Leyhill, a 460-capacity open jail in Gloucester – where half of all inmates are aged 50+ – stated that its 9-hole course was great for the ‘health and wellbeing’ of inmates.

Inspectors from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said in a recent report that the jail ensured that older inmates had suitable activities to keep them fit and healthy.

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Among the sports on offer at the jail include indoor carpet bowls, table tennis, a crown green bowling lawn, three tennis courts, a footy pitch, a volleyball court – and the pitch and putt golf course.

The jail also offers lags – around three-quarters of which are sex offenders – guided nature walks, karaoke sessions, bingo and cookery classes.

Set in 135 acres of ornamental gardens, the prison is nicknamed the ‘Savoy of Slammers’, with former prisoners including TV presenter Rolf Harris, former MP Chris Huhne and EastEnders favourite Leslie Grantham.

The report states: “In the latter half of the year, plans were activated for an added focus on elderly and disabled prisoners.

“The health and wellbeing of the elderly and disabled prisoners – who constitute over half the prisoner population – has been enhanced by the provision of table tennis, indoor carpet bowls, lawn bowls and pitch and putt.”

The pitch and putt course, however, is known to cause problems – with stray balls often ending up being pinged into the posh De Vere Tolworth Court Hotel next door.

The 190-room four-star hotel, a Victorian Gothic mansion set on 30-acres and previously used as a training school for prison officers, was opened as a hotel in 2001 after a £20m refit.

Balls also often end up zinging across the roads outside the jail, with locals complaining that the lags are ‘trying to be Tiger Woods’.

One local – who lives on Tolworth Road directly outside the jail – complained: “Another day another golf ball zinging across the road.

“Prisoners trying to emulate Tiger Woods, but missing the course completely.”

The jail’s over-50’s day centre, called The Lobster Pot, was also praised for putting on activities aimed at improving the mental and physical health of lags.

It stated: “Nature walks have been conducted for the over-50s where they actively identify aspects of their environment.“

The Lobster Pot puts on karaoke and bingo sessions, as well as being home to an art group, embroidery sessions, cookery classes, and matchstick model-making classes.

A prison source said that Leyhill’s reputation was ‘well known’, with prisoners ‘desperate’ to get a place at the open jail.

He said: “Leyhill is considered the go-to open jail for offenders being moved to the open estate – it has golf, bowls, football pitches and three tennis courts.

“In fact, it’s the go-to jail for most prison officers too.”

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