Golf Course Architecture - Issue 54: October 2018

ON SITE 48   Golf Course Architecture Architect Clive Clark and his crew are not hanging about and are trying to get the new Dumbarnie links in Scotland built and grassed in one season. Adam Lawrence paid a visit T here is, as the rather unpleasant saying tells us, more than one way to skin a cat. Similarly, it has become clear in recent years, there is more than one way to build a new links course in Scotland. In the last two decades, a small but significant number of new links have opened – Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart, Trump International and Machrihanish Dunes being the highest profile – and a number of others have been mooted, notably the planned Coul Links development in Sutherland. It might seem odd for such a small sample, but really if we want to understand those projects, we need to consider each in turn and look for similarities and differences between them. The two Mark Parsinen projects, Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart, might best be identified as ‘constructed links’. Parsinen and his team looked for sites that offered great sea views and had links characteristics, even if the ground itself was denatured, and not classical sand dune territory. He judged this approach to be preferable to the inevitably difficult planning process that would accompany any attempt to build a course on a natural, untouched area of sand dunes. Machrihanish Dunes, Trump International – and Coul – by contrast involved just this kind of virgin linksland, and naturally all three had complicated planning histories. Machrihanish Dunes, the first course to be permitted within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), achieved its planning consent by signing up to an incredibly tough list of environmental constraints; Trump International, on the other hand, was forced through planning by way of brinksmanship and political influence (Coul Links, still mired in planning, seems closer to the Machrihanish Dunes approach, though unarguably it is suffering from buyer’s remorse on the part of some people who were involved in getting planning for Trump, and now regret it). Dumbarnie might seem, at first glance, to be a hybrid of the two models. On closer examination, though, we see differently. The Dumbarnie Links SSSI is there, but the golf course does not venture onto this sensitive terrain, instead occupying land right up to the fence line that marks the edge of the SSSI. A visit to the site, which GCA paid during Open week in July, demonstrated this even more clearly. Though the crew, led by architect Clive Clark and project manager Paul Kimber, had mobilised on site less than two months previously, shortly after Fife Council voted to approve planning Dumbarnie Rapid build for new course Photo: Iain Lowe Photography