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Design team rates Coul Links site as potential for ‘one of the world’s great courses’

4.58pm 20th October 2022 - Course Development

The latest plans for a new links course in the Scottish Highlands have received further endorsement during a recent visit to the site by the team that hopes to design and build it.

Michael Keiser, son of course developer Mike Keiser, has told Communities for Coul (C4C) its proposals could see “one of the greatest golf courses in the world” created at Coul Links in East Sutherland.

Keiser’s comment was hailed as a “wonderful seal of approval” by the C4C community group, which is currently finalising a planning application for the project to submit to The Highland Council.

C4C, a not-for-profit company set up by local people, has secured a commitment from Keiser to build the course on the Dornoch Firth with the help of golf designers Coore & Crenshaw, if planning permission is received.

In preparing its plans for an environmentally sensitive course at Coul Links, C4C has focused on addressing concerns raised over a previous, separate bid for a golfing development on the site, with was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020.

Michael Keiser and Bill Coore both recently visited Coul Links to review the planned improvements on the ground.

The site of the proposed new course at Coul Links

Gordon Sutherland, of C4C, said: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome Michael and Bill to Coul Links and even more so to receive a wonderful seal of approval for the plans. They were able to review on the ground all the changes from the previous, unsuccessful bid and pronounced themselves more excited than ever about the possibilities for a world-class, environmentally friendly golf course at the site.

“Michael told us ‘I think Coul Links will be Bill’s finest ever golf course design.’ And he added that, bearing in mind he already has one in the world’s top-ten ranking, ‘this could be one of the greatest golf courses in the world.’

“A huge amount of work has gone into our plans and in addressing concerns raised over the previous, unsuccessful bid and this is a fantastic endorsement by internationally recognised experts in their field as we prepare to submit our planning application.”

A key aspect of C4C’s proposal is a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Coul Links Site of Special Scientific Interest. The group said its commitment to addressing concerns raised over the previous application included four key environmental aspects:

  1. The amount of land to be used as tees, greens, fairways and walkways within SSSI has been reduced by over 40% and now accounts for less than 1% of the Loch Fleet SSSI.
  2. While maintaining the integrity of the design, the path of the course has been altered in places, to avoid the most environmentally valuable areas of dune heath. 
  3. Instead of the fairways being stripped and replanted with new grass, they will be simply mown, preserving the native grasses and lichens and removing the requirement for the use of any fertilisers or nitrates. 
  4. All fairways will be broken up into two or more pieces, preventing fragmentation of small colonies of flora and flora, through maintained connectivity.

C4C said that, as well as perpetually protecting the wild coastal environment, the development would economically transform the area, creating much-needed employment for local people and further enhancing the reputation of the area as a word-class destination for golfers.

A community ballot held by C4C in June 2021 demonstrated a high level of local support for the plan, with a 44.4% turn-out and a 69.2% vote in favour.

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