Mike Keiser, Coore & Crenshaw’s Coul Links Planning Application Resubmitted

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A new planning application has been submitted to build an eighteen hole golf courser at Coul Links in Embo, located in the Scottish Highlands, as first reported in The Northern Times. Communities for Coul (C4C)—the not-for-profit organization behind the application—has revised the proposal that was previously rejected by the Scottish government in 2020 following a public inquiry.

Coul Links 18th hole
Coul Links 18th hole—courtesy Communities for Coul

The file on Coul Links goes back to 2015, with 6 previous applications listed as part of the public record with The Highland Council. This new bid attempts to address environmental concerns raised during the 2020 public inquiry. The area to be developed in the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will be decreased from 14.7 hectares to 1.5 hectares (36.3 acres to 3.7 acres), representing 0.1% of the designated site. Native vegetation will be disturbed only for tees and greens, with the fairways constructed by mowing the existing vegetation. This centuries-old construction method was used to successfully build David McLay-Kidd’s Machrihanish Dunes, which is currently the only golf course to be constructed on a SSSI.

Other differences in the newly proposed plan include a significant reduction of the use of fertilizer and irrigation—limited to tees and greens—as well as reduction in construction traffic under this new approach. 

C4C also states their plans will help to protect the sensitive ecological features at Coul Links. In their opinion, not enough is currently being done in this regard, with the proposed plans equating to a “major dune system restoration project, funded by a low-impact, world-class golf course.”

3rd hole at Coul Links
5th hole at Coul Links

Opposition to these plans include a coalition of seven environmental organizations comprised of Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. To date, their efforts have been successful.  With Coul Links proposed under the dark shadow of Trump International and its poor track record for environmental stewardship, I understand the concern.

Coul Link Site Plan – Courtesy Communities for Coul

If all goes to plan and permission is recieved to build the project, Mike Keiser Sr., alongside the duo of Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw will be involved. Together, the trio have worked on Bandon Trails & Bandon Preserve (Oregon), Sand Valley & The Sandbox (Wisconsin), and Cabot Cliffs (Nova Scotia).

In our opinion, more golf projects should consider this type of lower impact development, regardless of whether environmental restrictions exist. Golf should blend into its surroundings and improve (or at the very least not deteriorate) the landscape. Brambles, another Coore & Crenshaw project in California, is another example of this approach, set to open sometime in 2023.

Beyond The Contour will bring you more on Coul Links as the story develops.


  • Jason Bernardon

    Based in Southern Ontario, Jason is a corporate real estate professional with a passion for golf course architecture, golf history and environmental conservation.

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