Several golf clubs are fighting coastal erosion

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 10, 2024 12:27

Several major golf clubs, particularly in Scotland, are fundraising and working to combat coastal erosion after an autumn and winter that saw heavy rainfalls.

Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club is looking to raise more than £100,000 to combat the erosion that has taken place around the course over recent months.

The 15th oldest golf course in the world says it has seen five to six metres of erosion around some parts of the course since October.

The club had already set up a sub-committee to combat erosion due to a number of previous issues, and has decided that the primary initial focus should be on the teeing ground areas at the first and second holes.

With costs projected to be £140,000 plus VAT, the club has launched a GoFundMe with the hope of recouping a six-figure sum.

It is also offering a lifetime overseas golf membership to help pay for protection against storms.

“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.”

“At Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club we need to think of our members, the many visitors who travel to play here from around the world and for future generations to come,” said the club in a statement.

“We also have to think about members of the public being able to gain access to the left side of the first and second holes as they walk towards Chanonry Lighthouse to either watch the dolphins, to walk their dogs or just to enjoy the stunning scenery this area offers.

“From a golfing perspective, the areas between the first and second tees will also be a priority going forward but with no real support, this is proving to be really difficult.

“The associated costs to restore and protect this unique area of land will run into the tens of thousands so we hope that you will support us in this project. All monies / donations received will be ring-fenced for carrying out the necessary works to restore these areas to how they once were.”

This comes after a very wet autumn and winter in Scotland, in which Peter Smith, course manager at Bathgate in West Lothian, recorded that between October 2023 and January 2024, 611mm of rain fell on the course – the equivalent of 2.5 average-sized swimming pools.

Golspie Golf Club – which is around 50 miles north of Fortrose – was famously hit by storms in 2012 and 2014, which it recovered from, but was also damaged by a storm last October.

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.”

In recent years Caldy Golf Club has also maintained existing rock armour coastal defences while Montrose Golf Links has said the venue may have to be moved inland as it is currently losing at least 1.5 metres a year.

Coastal clubs in England have also faced difficulties recently.

In 2022 Hartlepool Golf Club in Durham submitted plans to redevelop several holes on its course as they were ‘at high risk of being lost to coastal erosion’, while last year Grange-over-Sands Golf Club in Cumbria experienced flooding due to high rainfall and volunteers moved thousands of sandbags to help protect Carholme Golf Club near Lincoln, which may have been hit by half a million pounds-worth of flood damage.

This all comes as Royal Dornoch Golf Club captured the ‘Sustainable Project of the Year’ accolade at the Golf Environment Awards held in January.

Royal Dornoch was hailed for the club’s commitment to halting coastal erosion which has been threatening an area of the Struie Course.

Scott Aitchison, deputy course manager, highlighted the key roles played by Green Shores, the University of St Andrews and NatureScot, along with volunteers and youngsters from Dornoch Academy, in supporting the greenkeeping team’s innovative strategy to protect degraded saltmarsh habitat.

“It’s a case of patience finally paying off and it has been very much a collaborative effort since trials began seven years ago,” said Scott.

“Nature-based solutions are increasingly necessary to help the natural resilience of our coastlines and buy time for longer term planning.

“In our case we are determined to conserve and enhance the natural links land to ensure world-class golf can be played at Royal Dornoch for generations to come.”

Rather than install gabion baskets of stone to prevent erosion which had been threatening the salt marshes, the club cast around for natural solutions to the threat posed by the Dornoch Firth.

“It wasn’t an overnight success, but the club funded research by Dr Clare Maynard at the University of St Andrews and along with Dr Alistair Rennie, the project manager with NatureScot, and Green Shores we stuck to our guns. Now we are seeing very real signs of progress,” explained Scott.

“We began with a band of chestnut fencing to mitigate the effect of high tides and encourage repopulation of the salt grasses with native plants being grown and planted out by staff and youngsters at Dornoch Academy.

“We changed tack when that wasn’t working as well as we’d have liked, and we have been rewarded after installing staked out, biodegradable coir rolls to provide wave breaks and encourage regeneration.”

Dr Maynard said: “Saltmarsh is recognised for its role in protecting valuable land from coastal flooding and erosion, storing carbon to help combat climate change, and providing habitat to a range of wildlife.

“We are pleased to continue the vital restoration work with the club, along with the Nature Restoration Fund, and other partners.

“Last but by no means least, thanks also to the dozens of volunteers from Dornoch Academy and the local community, without whom the work is not possible.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 10, 2024 12:27
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