Mach Dunes earns GEO certification


Sean Dudley

Machrihanish Dunes has become the first eighteen hole golf course in the UK to be certified by the Golf Environment Organization for creating and maintaining a sustainable golf agenda.

Since joining GEO’s OnCourse programme in 2009, the management team at Machrihanish Dunes has achieved preset standards across the key areas of landscape & ecosystems, water & waste management, turf maintenance, energy conservation, education awareness and management planning. Machrihanish Dunes will be re-certified every three years to maintain GEO status. 

“While it was commonplace for golf to be established in pristine coastal habitats during the early 1900s, the industry now widely accepts that some sites are too sensitive for development,” said Benjamin Warren, GEO Communications Director. In the case of Machrihanish Dunes, careful planning, design and construction, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, have established an ecological legacy that will be continually improved through sensitive long-term management. 

The land that Machrihanish Dunes inhabits is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the course is the first to be built entirely on SSSI land. The site is home to five rare types of orchid, requiring the course to monitor the growth of the flowers, which have flourished with the active removal of trash and non-native pests that had begun to inhabit the space. Course architect David McLay Kidd altered just 7 of the course's 275 acres during construction.  

“At Machrihanish Dunes we took minimalism to the extreme; if Old Tom Morris himself saw how the course was created it would not have been a shock,” said Kidd. “Machrihanish Dunes is an outstanding example of how it is possible for developers, architects, contractors and operators to work together with all facets of the environmental lobby both public and private in pursuit of a common goal and succeed.” 

Today, maintenance of the course is also done in an environmentally collaborative manner: sheep are brought on in the off-season to help keep fescue grasses in check and no chemicals or irrigation systems are used on the fairways.  Machrihanish Dunes serves as a model for responsible stewardship of the land and offers visitors a wonderfully natural golf experience.

Andrew Campbell, Scottish Natural Heritage operations manager said: “It comes as no surprise to hear that Machrihanish Dunes has been awarded GEO certification, knowing how carefully and sensitively the green keeping staff look after the course - it's great news. We hope that this will encourage other golf courses to adopt some of the environmentally sensitive techniques used here.”