Coul Links project resurfaces with submission of scoping application

  • Coul Links
    Chris Haspell

    The plan to build a golf course on the Coul Links property in the Scottish Highlands has resurfaced

  • Coul Links
    Communities for Coul

    The new plan reduces the amount of land within the SSSI for greens, tees, fairways and paths by over 40 per cent

Adam Lawrence
By Adam Lawrence

The plan to build a world-class golf course on the Coul Links property close to Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands has dramatically resurfaced.

Communities for Coul (C4C), a grassroots organisation of locals, which was formed after the original plan was rejected by the Scottish Government after a public inquiry in 2020, has submitted a scoping application to Highland Council, a precursor to the filing of a full planning application. C4C spokesman Gordon Sutherland said: “Following close collaboration with our planning consultants and dialogue with NatureScot, Communities for Coul is pleased to have reached this milestone.”

C4C said its new plan was focused on addressing the concerns expressed in relation to the original application, specifically its impact on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Coul Links, and that the plan incorporated a comprehensive scheme to protect and restore the SSSI.

The new plan reduces the amount of land within the SSSI that would be used for greens, tees, fairways and paths by over 40 per cent, and the entire golf course would now account for less than one per cent of the overall Loch Fleet SSSI.

Under the new plan, the only disturbance to the ground in the SSSI would be at greens and tees. The fairways, which were originally planned to be stripped and regrassed, as in a normal golf construction, would now be mowed out of the native grasses.

Mowing out fairways in this way is very unusual; about the only courses where this has been done in recent years are the links at Machrihanish Dunes and Askernish in Scotland, and Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes in Oregon. A spokesman for the project said: “The beauty of the mow-out is we get to keep all the micro-undulations that are there. It would be a progressive process of refining the turf to make it playable for golf, but we have studied Machrihanish Dunes closely and we are confident it can work at Coul.”

The new plan would see a reduction in the annual water usage on the course from 15,000 cubic metres down to 2,500, with the watered area going down from 22 hectares to 2.2. No herbicides or fertilisers would be used anywhere on the course except for greens and tees.

The denatured parts of the Coul Links SSSI, which for many years have been covered in felled non-native trees, would be restored under the project. A fully funded management plan for the site has been created, involving the removal of all invasive species, the expansion of dune heath and creation of new habitats. C4C is now launching a crowdfunding scheme to raise the estimated £150,000 it needs to submit the planning application.