Pure links golf courses are among the game's rarest and most fragile type. They're also increasing in popularity among golf travelers. And according to a recent report, they could very well vanish within a few generations.
An article published by BBC revealed a recent study that is predicting a dire future for many sporting venues in the U.K., from coastal golf courses to cricket and football pitches — all of which will be lost in the coming years as sea levels rise.
The gist of this doomsday report for U.K. golf and sporting enthusiasts can be summed up in this particularly dire sentence:
"Only a small increase in sea-level rise would imperil all of the world's links courses before the end of the century."
While I have my doubts that ALL links would be affected (my guess is clifftop Pennard Golf Club is pretty safe), it's certainly not a stretch to say that those lower-lying links courses around the world are a vulnerable breed. The report specifically mentions Montrose Golf Club, one of the oldest clubs in the world and just up the road from 2018 Open host Carnoustie, as one that is dealing with rising seas right now:
Research published by Dundee University in 2016 showed the North Sea has crept 70 metres towards Montrose within the past 30 years. Chris Curnin, director at Montrose Golf Links, said: "As the sea rises and the coast falls away, we're left with nowhere to go. Climate change is often seen as tomorrow's problem - but it's already eating away at our course. "In a perfect storm we could lose 5-10 metres over just a couple of days and that could happen at pretty much any point.
Many links golf courses in the U.K. and Ireland have been well aware of their ecological fragility for years. A few years back when I visited one of England's oldest links, Royal North Devon, members I played with were well aware of erosion eating away their beachfront holes. The BBC profiled the club's risks last month).
Then there is the much more high-profile case of Trump International Golf Links Ireland (formerly Doonbeg), which recently received permission to install a 1km coastal erosion wall among other pieces of infrastructure to combat the seas on this rugged piece of the Emerald Isle. In 2014, a harsh winter storm devastated the coastal holes and had to be redesigned.
(The Climate Coalition is an advocacy group that describes themselves as such: "Along with our sister organisations Stop Climate Chaos Cymru and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, we are a group of over 130 organisations — including the National Trust, Women's Institute, Oxfam, and RSPB — reaching across the UK to show our love for all the things we want to protect from climate change, and to ask politicians to put aside their differences and commit to doing whatever is necessary to protect them.")
A Coul Links update
So where does Coul Links, the proposed new links golf development in the Scottish Highlands near Royal Dornoch by Mike Keiser fit into all this? Despite high optimism last year that the project was a go, environmental concerns over local wildlife and the site of special scientific interest have slowed progress. But all things considered, it appears from several reports in January from U.K. like this Scotsman report, that ongoing negotiations are moving forward and Keiser and his associate Todd Warnock remain optimistic the Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw-designed links will get the green light.