US billionaire submits plans to build new Highlands golf course

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 9, 2017 13:26

The US billionaire Michael Keiser has proposed building a new golf course in Scotland.

However, several organisations are opposed to the plans due to environmental concerns, according to The Scotsman.

Keiser has submitted plans to Highland Council for an 18-hole course on dunes at Coul Links in Embo, Sutherland, near Royal Dornoch.

An economic report prepared for the developers has estimated the Coul Links project would create around 250 new jobs and generate more than £60 million for the local economy over ten years.

‘But the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Buglife Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Marine Conservation Society claim the development, which includes a clubhouse and pro shop, would be a ‘disaster’ for Scotland, destroying irreplaceable natural heritage and important habitats for rare wildlife,’ states the newspaper.

‘The say rare plants, birds, insects and other animals would be under threat.’

Coul Links, one of the UK’s last remaining coastal dune systems, hosts a dune ecosystem of global significance and is protected by multiple conservation designations.

It is home to a wide range of plants and creatures, many of which are unique to the area or scarce across Scotland and the UK.

These include sea centaury, purple milk-vetch, moonwort and frog orchid, as well as the curlew, whinchat and Fonseca’s seed fly.

Jonathan Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and a former local resident, said: “Coul Links is a truly exceptional stretch of wild, unspoilt coast, valued for its natural beauty by locals and visitors alike.

“It seems extraordinary that this internationally important dune system is under threat from yet another golf course proposal, and it’s vital we protect it for future generations to enjoy.”

A spokesman for the developers said they have employed a broad range of ecological and environmental experts to come up with a golf course layout that would have minimal impact on existing species, habitats and landscape features.

He added: “The project will also protect the site from continued degradation through best practice management and commitments to large-scale habitat management programmes.

“We fully appreciate the special nature of the site and are confident that the proposals, and the Environmental Impact Assessment undertaken as a requirement of planning, demonstrate that the protection and enhancement of the area has remained a top priority throughout.”

The developers have enlisted the STRI to help manage the project.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 9, 2017 13:26
Write a comment


  1. chris November 10, 08:15

    Typical Scotland turndown everything

    Reply to this comment
  2. Wayne November 10, 03:24

    Hope they can get Coul Links created. Would make the great Dornoch area for golf even better.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Edwin November 10, 00:33

    There might be a piece of dunes in The Netherlands to create another stunning Dutch Links golf course. Tulips, Dutch Corenwijn and golf. Fantastic combination. 3 out of 5 Dutch links Courses are among the best in Europe. Food for thought?

    Reply to this comment
  4. Pete November 9, 18:52

    You see friends, we Americans are now exporting the same failed golf trends abroad, that have resulted in hundreds of US golf courses, perhaps thousands now, going out of business. Ask yourselves, who will be playing this sport in the near future, certainly not the new generation golfer, for they have time efficient requirements. Take heed!…and learn from us, or unsustainable golf will surely be your future, should you accept it. Fools gold (or golf) quickly tarnishes.

    Reply to this comment
  5. greenie November 9, 18:10

    i agree with Imac, the site has not been managed for close on 30 years and is changing annually. SNH or the Scottish Government will not spend money on it, (they don’t have any) therefore in another 30 years it will look nothing like it currently does. it may not bring 250 direct jobs but if people can be persuaded to stay longer in the area the spin off in secondary jobs in accommodation and other tourism related areas could easily reach 250 while the neighbouring course such as Golspie, Tain and Brora also reap a spin off. Perhaps the conservation groups opposed to it should put some of their resources into the management of the area outwith the proposed course rather than objecting to the plans

    Reply to this comment
  6. jon November 9, 17:36

    Put me in touch with Mr. Keiser, I have a much better plan …

    Reply to this comment
  7. Imac November 9, 17:21

    Having looked at the plans and attended one of the public meetings, it would appear that this development will enhance the condition of Coull links and its flora and fauna, a win, win situation. The site was declared SSSI in the 1980’s yet nothing has been done to it since. The golf course is good for the area and, in my humble opinion, will be good for the SSSI and help it thrive.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jonee November 9, 17:40

      Imac – the claim that the course will enhance the site is fictitious and not supported by a glance at the science. We saw this kind of PR spin with the Trump course also. Do we really believe that the course will create 250 jobs? Come on!

      Other courses in the area are struggling and perhaps they should think about putting their money into enhancing the golfing experience at Golspie or Brora.

      Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: