British architect Martin Hawtree has been hired by developer Donald Trump to design the proposed Trump Golf Scotland course amid the dunes of Menie Links, north of Aberdeen.
"Martin Hawtree brings a distinct vision and flair to every course he touches," said Trump, making the announcement of Hawtree's appointment. "His work is impeccable.
He and I share such a passion for links golf and the tradition of the game is evident in the golf courses he designs." Hawtree told GCA: "For over 12 months I have been a consultant on the project, assisting Tommy Fazio with translation of his ideas into the Scottish links context. I was appointed on the basis of my work on links courses throughout the British Isles. This year Tommy has been very busy finishing another project for Trump at Bedminster in the US and I have taken over the reins for the Menie project. I am intrigued by balance in the composition of a golf hole, trying to ensure that the wider landscape surrounding a hole, in the case of this project towering dunes, is fully balanced by great playing interest within the fairway and green; that the one does not dwarf the other and that the interest is in some way generated by and in complete harmony with the surroundings." Shortly before GCA went to press, Aberdeenshire planning officers recommended that the scheme should be granted planning permission: councillors are expected to vote on the proposal within the next month. If permission is gained, the Trump organisation has said construction will start in the new year.
"Had that report been negative, we would have had a real uphill battle," said Trump managing director of international development, George Sorial. "It was a fairly overwhelming positive endorsement." On a recent visit to the UK, Sorial also told reporters it could be several years before any houses were built, and that the first priority was the golf course.
"The site is an outstanding area of linksland and if permission is granted will make an equally outstanding course," Hawtree said. "It has the best of Royal Aberdeen, The Island, Lahinch or Ballybunion for landscape drama and background, magnified a good few times.
My work has been to keep an eye on the relationship of the layout to landscape features, traditional links golf, and as a specific interest of mine, to the overall length of walk: it is a long thin tract of land and very substantial dunes have sometimes made it difficult to prevent every category of player walking forward for the next hole and having to walk the same length as the back-tee length. The concept is of a traditional links without cart paths. Since becoming more substantially involved my work has been to refine the layout in relation to the site." Stabilisation of the large and mobile sand dunes is key to the success of the project from a golfing point of view. "The planning application process has involved a long period of environmental survey and analysis and development of mitigation methods," said Hawtree.
"Because of my secondary role in the project up until now I have not been involved in the engineering and scientific analysis of the means of stabilising a section of dune occupying a northern section of the site. But the best scientific brains are being applied to the solutions." If planning permission is granted then the intention is to start work as soon as possible in the new year. But environmental campaigners still hope to block the project on the grounds that the dune system is of national importance for conservation. Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive Simon Milne said: "The highly sensitive and dynamic dune ecosystem is recognised as one of the top five dune habitats in Britain. The recommendation makes a mockery of having designated areas."