On Friday in Embo, Scotland, Mike Keiser and his partner Todd Warnock will submit final planning documents on what would be a new Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed golf course, located on a 200-acre plot of coastal sand dunes only two miles from Royal Dornoch.
“It would definitely be a dream come true,” says Keiser. “Especially since Dornoch has always been the main model we used for Bandon Dunes. If Americans were willing to make the trip to a remote golf course in Scotland, would they be willing to come to Bandon?”
Five courses on the southwest coast of Oregon later, not to mention two in Tasmania, Australia, two in Inverness, Nova Scotia and now two and a short course in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, Keiser has proven the avid amateur knows no limits when tracking down his ongoing vision of accessible and memorable golf as it was meant to be.
Keiser and Warnock should get a final answer sometime later this year on their course they’re calling "Coul Links," but after two years of working with the Scottish Natural Heritage, which looks after all of Scotland's nature and landscapes, Keiser sets his chances north of 90-percent that Coore and Crenshaw will break ground in April or May of 2018.
The planning application will be filed on Friday. There will be public events on October 22nd and 23rd in Embo and Dornoch, with a final Highland Council planning meeting in mid-January. But Keiser says he wouldn’t have gone this far if he didn’t know every public body, politician and local citizen was solidly behind the project.
“But everyone involved agrees we will not rush this one,” says Keiser. “What I learned with Rod Whitman at Cabot Links is that by giving him an extra year, the course only got quite a bit better.”
Video: Ginella talks Coul Links project on Morning Drive
As for Coore, who was onsite in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, finishing a course for Johnny Morris at Big Cedar Lodge, he too sees building his first course in Scotland a dream come true.
“We are cautiously optimistic that this will get approved,” says Coore. “We’re excited. Ben and I, through 31 years of our golf design, have had opportunities beyond anything we could have ever imagined, and opportunities to work on some truly special sites, but none more special than this one if it’s allowed to be.”
Which is saying something, considering Coore and Crenshaw are coming off Cabot Cliffs, which debuted as No. 19 on Golf Digest’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest.
“Scotland,” says Coore. “What more can I say? It’s not overstated that it would be a dream for anyone in the golf design business to be able to do a course in the birthplace of golf,” says Coore. “And this one being a seaside site, and in such close proximity to Royal Dornoch, one of the best courses in the world, we just hope this comes to pass.”
Don’t we all.
Coore and Crenshaw have already built six courses for Keiser, who fell in love with the work they did for Dick Youngscap at Sand Hills in Nebraska in 1995. Coore and Crenshaw cut their Keiser teeth with Bandon Trails in 2005. Then Lost Farm in Tasmania in 2010. Bandon Preserve, the 13-hole par-3 course at Bandon Dunes, opened in 2012. Cabot Cliffs opened in 2015. The first course at Sand Valley in Wisconsin opened last year, with their short course at the same site scheduled to open next year.
“Mike is very simply the most extraordinary and accomplished golf developer in the world,” says Coore. “He finds extremely interesting sites and he affords the golf architects the freedom to work with those sites.”
Keiser believes Coore and Crenshaw have earned their opportunities. “They’re a notch higher on the trustworthy list,” he says. “Tom Doak has done a lot of great things for me, but Bill and Ben got the nod.”
Coore says the routing is complete on what he hopes “will complement this site and that somehow, as years go by, is perceived as a complement to the heritage of golf in that country. We think that site has that type of potential.”
Keiser says he doesn’t pick favorites when it comes to courses, but if Coore and Crenshaw do the job that everyone would expect them to do, he admits Coul Links has the chance of being equal to or surpassing Cabot Cliffs.
“Bill and Ben will pour everything they’ve got into this site,” says Keiser. “Especially considering its proximity to Royal Dornoch. It’s nice to have that as competition. Will they rise to it? We will see.”
Looks like we will.