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Coastal Erosion Threatens Historic Golf Courses

By: | Tue 27 Feb 2024

The UK & Ireland boasts an international reputation for its seaside links courses, but this ancient form of the game is being increasingly threatened by the impact of coastal erosion - with several revered venues facing a crisis.

Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club, located in the Scottish Highlands to the north of Inverness, was recently damaged by Storm Ciaran in late October 2023. It's a popular course - Highly Recommended on Golfshake - and an enjoyable part of what is an undeniably wonderful region for golf.

The opening two holes of this unique layout - which is positioned on a narrow peninsula called Chanonry Point - were seriously affected by the inclement weather.

"Tragically, our worst fears were realised last October where five to six metres to the left side, in part, were lost, down both the opening two fairways," said Mike MacDonald, General Manager at Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club. 

"It goes without saying, neither the committee nor the club members and our supporters expected the devastating extent of damage that took place during that time."

Fortrose & Rosemarkie

(Image Credit: Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club)

Due to ongoing concerns about the likelihood of storm damage, the club established a 'Coastal Erosion' sub-committee towards the end of 2022, which has created discussions with Scottish Water, the local Highland Council and Nature Scotland to assess preventative measures.

However, such works will require significant expense, something that has been further complicated by the urgent need to remedy the damage caused by Storm Ciaran.

The initial work to restore and protect the opening two teeing areas of the course with rock armour (around 110 metres to cover both tees and the areas around the tees) is estimated to cost £140,000 plus VAT.

Consequently, the club is now seeking donations (through a GoFundMe page) to help re-establish this stunning piece of land to its former glory, ensuring that it remains accessible for generations to come.

"It is why the club kindly seeks your financial support if you are in a position to do so," Mike added. "All monies/donations received will be ring-fenced for carrying out the necessary works to restore these areas to how they once were."

However, it's not just Fortrose & Rosemarkie that faces present and future worries about coastal erosion.

The brilliant Golspie Golf Club - which is around 50 miles north of Fortrose - has been damaged repeatedly throughout the past decade. Storms in 2012 and 2014 forced the club to shut its doors for a period, and those fears resurfaced when Storm Ciaran arrived in October, but local volunteers and the community rallied around to work tirelessly in order to repair this fabulous course.

Golspie Golf Club

William MacBeath, captain of Golspie Golf Club, said: "Just when we thought we had finally got over the big storm in 2012, this one arrived - although thankfully this time there was less damage. I wish to thank all those volunteers who have come to help clear up the mess, and I look forward to working with the Highland Council on repairing the rock armour defences. The club has faced and overcome challenges in the past, and I’m sure it will soon recover from this one."

Few golf clubs have been affected more by coastal erosion than the historic Montrose Golf Links. Back in 1999, a storm took away the sixth tee, a symptom of lost dunes that not only threatens the famous course but the town itself.

The club website notes that in 2018, a Scottish Government briefing estimated that between 35 and 40 metres of beach had been lost to the sea since the early 1990s. It's now believed that the Montrose coastline could wear away by up to 80 metres over the next 40 years.

It's a trend that is ongoing, meaning that Montrose's Medal Course (now called The 1562) has already been forced to move its second, third and sixth holes. Storms at the end of 2013 took another metre and a half off the beach level, and two metres off the top edge of the dunes. During the last six months of 2019, it was estimated that parts of the links eroded by three and a half metres.

As sea levels rise and erosion becomes more pronounced, the risk facing many of our most storied golf courses becomes stark, with research and investment being planned to hopefully ensure these magnificent institutions remain available for the enjoyment of future generations.

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: GOLFERS Golf Clubs Golf daily picks

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