Scotland’s golf courses are being eaten away by erosion. Clubs are desperate for funding for repairs

Scotland’s golf courses are being eaten away by erosion. Clubs are desperate for funding for repairs
Scotland’s golf courses are being eaten away by erosion. Clubs are desperate for funding for repairs
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Mike MacDonald is the manager of Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club, located near Inverness, Scotland. Right now, on “his” golf course, he is thinking about how to shape the opening shot from the tee. Heading to the right side of the fairway. If he aimed the shot to the left, he would risk the ball ending up on the beach. Or worse, in the cold waters of the Moray Firth.

“The shot has never been this hard,” admits the golfer. The course’s recent storms have taken away soil on several fairways. “Now we’re spending a lot of time figuring out how to pay for all the repairs,” he says. However, MacDonald is not alone in dealing with this dilemma at the moment. According to most forecasts, nature will bite more and more from the coast. The information was brought by the Bloomberg agency.

According to a 2021 survey, 34 Scottish golf clubs have a problem with coastal erosion. Another eleven admit that they are threatened by this phenomenon. By 2050, the problem is expected to affect as many as a hundred golf courses, more than half of which are currently located within sixteen kilometers inland, forecasts say. The potential economic impact is significant. Just ten years ago, Scottish golf courses employed more than 20,000 people.

For smaller golf clubs, particularly in the north of Scotland, after more than two years of falling income due to covid, it is a battle they cannot afford to lose. Their courses are often a popular destination, especially among visitors from North America. Well-known premium courses, such as Royal Dornoch, Cabot Highlands or Trump International near Aberdeen, are at the top of the list of those for which wealthy tourists are happy to pay extra.

Where to take the money

Golspie Golf Club in the Highland county can be taken as a typical example of the mentioned changes. His playground is about four hours north of Edinburgh and has around four hundred members. The club had to close the course temporarily between 2012 and 2014 after a series of storms swept over the course and damaged some of the holes. Storm Babet ravaged the fairways in October, followed by Storm Ciaran a few weeks later. The fix won’t be cheap.

Repairs of erosion damaged areas usually start with a stone wall. Boulders are placed near the coast in such a way as to disperse the force of the waves. According to the club’s manager William MacBeath, however, the contractor claimed three quarters of a million pounds (CZK 20 million) for carrying out these works. “As a small club, we cannot afford such high costs,” says the manager.

A little further along the coast is the Brora Golf Club course, which has been played since 1891. The dunes protect it from the south-east, so the recent storms haven’t hit it as hard. But in its recent three-year strategic plan, the club identified climate change and coastal erosion as the biggest threats to its existence. The vision of the management is to increase the total income from membership to 300,000 pounds (CZK 8.1 million) by 2026. The club intends to more than double player fees and also expand the sponsorship base.

Also on the Scottish peninsula of Fortrose, where at the beginning of this article his manager was looking for a suitable surface for the impact of his drive, he is now deciding how to prepare the course for the future. The coastal course covers about forty hectares and golf has been played here since 1793.

Fortrose & Rosemarkie offers Lifetime Membership to new overseas and cross country players. After spending £140,000 (CZK 3.8 million) on new dressing rooms and a terrace, he is now focusing on flood defenses as a priority. In some places, the sea took up to six meters of land after the autumn storms. “We were doing really well, but then this blow hit us,” MacDonald said.

Adding a massive strip of stone walls along the first and second fairways will cost the club around £100,000. The manager is also looking for other ways. The club has so far raised more than £22,000 on the GoFundMe page. “We just want to protect the pitch for future generations, nothing more,” explains the manager.

It works somewhere

Not even the world’s most famous and oldest golf course and the home of golf, Scotland’s St. Andrews, is not immune to nature. According to Alistair Rennie of NatureScot, which is responsible for improving the natural environment in Scotland, half a million cubic meters of sand moved here during Storm Babet alone. Nature thus devalued the work of greenkeepers in seven years. The St. The Andrews Links Trust is now seeking grants that could be used to offset the damage caused by nature, for example by planting more resilient grasses. But money is not enough again. “It is not possible for us to pay for all the work ourselves with the income we generate,” admits the spokesperson for St. Andrews David Connor.

Dornoch Golf Club has teamed up with the local university and NatureScot to find out how to stop erosion without resorting to rocks or gabions. After trying chestnut wood fences, they used biodegradable coconut fiber rolls here. These have the task of mitigating the tide, breaking the waves and supporting the repopulation of the salt flats. As a result, Dornoch was awarded Sustainable Project of the Year at the Golf Environment Awards in February.

“We are now managing the risk of erosion in a natural way,” boasts the club’s CEO Neil Hampton. With the storms in Scotland very likely to persist, clubs need to come up with strategies to cope with them. “If the weather stays the same, we have to be the ones to change,” concludes the manager, according to Bloomberg.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Scotlands golf courses eaten erosion Clubs desperate funding repairs

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