Global Edition

Greener Greens for Scotland’s Golf Courses

10.55am 22nd October 2013 - Course Development

Machrihanish Dunes Black Sheep
The black Hebridean sheep in our photo come courtesy of Machrihanish Dunes and Southworth Development. A video has also been created and is available at

One of Scotland’s most dramatic golf courses, Machrihanish Dunes, is celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland by herding an unusual bunch of ‘locals’ back onto the course.

Keeping it neatly nibbled during the winter months, the maintenance of this stunning coastal course is a labour of love for these ‘natural lawnmowers’; a flock of 40 black Hebridean sheep.

After swinging back into action on the course this weekend, these woolly wonders are not only a hit with visitors but provide a perfect example of environmentally friendly practice in Scotland, the Home of Golf. So much so, these ‘natural lawnmowers’ can be credited with helping Machrihanish Dunes secure the 2012 Association of British Travel Agents title of ‘Number 1 Eco Golf Course in the World’.

David Southworth, President and CEO of Southworth Development, owners and managers of Machrihanish Dunes, said: “Here at Machrihanish Dunes we are very proud of our eco friendly status and in particular the iconic characters who have helped us achieve our environmentally friendly credentials.

“By using the ‘natural lawnmowers’ to thin out the rough on the course we are able to help preserve several rare and protected species of orchids that grow here on this site and in few other places. The added benefit is visitors can enjoy the company of these unique companions as they play a round.”

VisitScotland Chairman Mike Cantlay added: “These woolly wonders will have people flocking to see them in action, mowing this truly breathtaking golf course. They really are a wonderful endorsement for this, the Year of Natural Scotland.

“Golf in Scotland is now a £1 billion industry and our reputation as the Home of Golf will be reinforced as we host one of the biggest events on the global golf calendar at Gleneagles in 2014 – the Ryder Cup. The green keepers there, however, will have to book our fleecy friends well in advance as I’ve feeling they’ll be a big hit with golf courses across Scotland. ”

Thanks to its eco friendly practices, stunning coastal setting and dramatic Atlantic backdrop, Machrihanish Dunes came in at number 25 in the ‘Golf World’ Magazine: 2012-13 Top 100 Courses in Scotland’.

The black Hebridean sheep in our photo come courtesy of Machrihanish Dunes and Southworth Development. A video has also been created and is available at

Another links course proving its mettle in terms of environmentally friendly practice is Askernish Golf Club in South Uist, which is now hailed ‘the most natural links course in the world’ by environmental experts after it was restored using only traditional design principles. The dunes’ natural contours form the fairways, and no artificial chemicals are used in maintenance. Like Machrihanish Dunes, sheep and cows keep the grass manageable during the winter months without the need of potentially damaging mowing equipment.

At Gleneagles, the host of the Ryder Cup 2014, eco friendly credentials have been boosted by the purchase of three bicycles, used by staff when accessing its 850 acres of greens. With a real focus on sustainability, Gleneagles also grows its own organic grapes for the fruit platters served daily throughout the resort during the fruit season. And although the luxury resort does not take grape growing to the next, alcoholic stage, it does recycle all left-over wine corks by sending them to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for use in its innovative drainage systems.

Environmentally friendly golf doesn’t need to be confined to the greens however, at Dundonald Links on the West coast, bee-hives have been introduced to increase on-site biodiversity. The added bonus is a sweet treat after the 18th hole; homemade Dunny Honey which is harvested by the course’s greens crew.

In 2012, Dundonald also achieved its objective of sending zero amount of waste to landfill and on the golf course green waste such as grass clippings and woody waste are stored and screened for recycling. This has resulted in 3000 tonnes of top soil, which is used for all golf course construction.

VisitScotland has suggested many other places where golf and nature are combined:

Golf in Scotland

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