ONE of the top golf clubs in the country has been criticised by its neighbours for not closing its doors while the foot and mouth crisis continues to plague the countryside.

Golfers have been traipsing across the 6,809-yard Harleyford Golf Course near Marlow throughout the epidemic, just yards from a footpath that has been closed by Buckinghamshire County Council to stop the disease spreading.

The club also fell within an 8km exclusion zone placed around Bockmer Farm, in Medmenham, for over a week while experts investigated a suspected case of the virus. It was cleared by Government vets last Friday after tests came back negative.

Jane Skinner, of Medmenham, said: "On one side of the Henley Road we have a footpath closed with a threat of a £5,000 fine if you use it but on the other side of the road we have golfers playing golf.

"I would like to know how it is that they have instructed wildlife not to go on golf courses?"

Margaret Stagg, a spokesman for the 18-hole club on Henley Road, said they had consulted the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and were following their advice.

She added: "We contacted them and they advised us we can remain open as long as we put disinfectant straw at the entrance and exits of the club."

Mrs Stagg said there had been no noticeable drop in the number of people using the course since the foot and mouth crisis began.

A spokesman for the county council, which is responsible for closing off footpaths in the area, said: "Golf courses have been difficult to deal with and we have had a lot of calls about them being open. It is the limitation of powers we have got."

Mrs Skinner added: "I just think it is unfair. I do support the closure of the footpaths and I would like to see things taken further to protect wildlife.

"My husband cannot sail and my son isn't allowed to fish, I think golfers should be stopped too."

The 8km exclusion zone around Bockmer Farm has now been lifted.