Planning submission for new Coul Links project to be presented this week

  • Lovely Golf Course

    If approved, the new course is to be designed by Coore & Crenshaw

  • Lovely Golf Course

    An aerial photo of the site of the proposed course

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A planning submission for a new 18-hole links golf course is to be presented to the Highland Council this week.

Coul Links would be located on a site north of the town of Embo in the historic county of Sutherland, and golf course developer Mike Keiser, business entrepreneur Todd Warnock, land owner Edward Abel Smith and the Embo Trust have developed plans for the course.

Keiser, whose previous golfing developments include Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley in the US, has brought in golf course architects Coore & Crenshaw to draw up the courses design. Coore & Crenshaw designed the first course at Sand Valley, and the Bandon Trails course at Bandon Dunes.

“In 31 years, Ben and I have been blessed to work with some truly special sites but none more special than Coul Links,” said Bill Coore of Coore & Crenshaw golf course architects. “To work with this site, in the birthplace of the game we revere, is an honour we accept with great humility, dedication and appreciation.”

The golf course will be constructed in and outside the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The new course will have a total footprint of 22.7 hectares, with only 14.0 hectares of this being located inside the SSSI area.

Extensive ecological and hydrological surveys have been carried out to help inform plans for the course, and developers have gone so far to say that the site will in fact by environmentally enhanced by the project. They have also identified and established a series of specific strategies aimed at ensuring this enhancement comes to fruition. These include the development and funding of a long-term site management plan, and the comprehensive remediation and management of invasive species. The Coul Links SSSI would also be expanded, as would public access to the site and environmental education in the area.

A full economic impact statement, put together by BiGGAR Economics, was also been commissioned as part of the proposal process. This estimates that Coul Links could generate as many as 250 new jobs and over £60 million gross value-added to the local economy during its first decade of operation.

Due to the golf tourism possibilities in the region, these figures could be even larger when applied to the wider Highlands economy. The economic impact statement points to the possibility of approximately 450 new jobs and over £85 million gross value-added to the wider regional economy.

The plans have also received local backing, with the Embo Trust to be and equity investor and partner in Coul Links. This means that local representatives will serve on the project’s board moving forward.

Keiser has moved to bring in Chris Haspell to the Coul Links project team. Haspell formerly worked as course manager at Castle Stuart Golf Links and led the on site development of the course. Located near Inverness, Scotland, and opened in 2009, Castle Stuart shares many similarities to Coul Links, such as an SSSI, dune heath and migrating birds.

“Coul Links will present one of the most memorable golf experiences in the world,” Keiser commented. “Its location, less than 1.5 miles from legendary Royal Dornoch Golf Club with nearby Tain, Golspie and Brora Golf Clubs as well as The Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle all just minutes away combined with Castle Stuart Golf Resort, Nairn Golf Club and several others a short drive away, will likely establish a third major destination of Scottish golf.”