A report from the Climate Coalition shows a bleak outlook on the future of UK golf and our world-renowned links courses


Climate Change Could Wipe Out All Links Courses By 2100

Golf in the UK and our world renowned links courses are in danger.

The Climate Coalition today released a report predicting a bleak outlook on the future of our game on these shores.

The report predicts that our links courses will “crumble into the sea” and every links course in the world will be underwater by the turn of the century if there is just a “small increase” in sea levels.

1 in 6 of Scotland’s courses are links, and the history surrounding courses like St Andrews’ Old, Muirfield, Prestwick et all is at risk of being wiped away.

But it’s not a problem of tomorrow, it’s happening already.

We recently reported that England’s oldest course Royal North Devon golf club had lost 50 yards of land to the sea, and that is just one of many links courses in danger of crumbling away.

Royal North Devon Golf Club has lost land to the sea. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Montrose Golf Links in Scotland, where golf had been played since the 16th century, is now 70 metres closer to the sea than it was 30 years ago.

“As the sea rises and the coast falls away, we’re left with nowhere to go. It’s already eating away at our course,” says Chris Curnin, Director at Montrose Golf Links.

“Last year we reached a critical point, the rock armour protecting our second tee and first green was no longer sufficient and we were in real danger of losing them,” he continued.

“In a perfect storm we could lose 5-10 metres over just a couple of days and that could happen at pretty much any point.

“The course, which is one of the five oldest in the world, has already begun to alter its historic routing to protect itself.

A view of the north sea from behind the 2nd tee at Montrose Golf Links in Angus, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

“It was decided along with help from Angus Council that we would sacrifice our third tee (which is one of the iconic holes) by moving the rocks from there to bolster the rocks at the 2nd tee and 1st green. We are pinning our hopes on being included in the next round of funding for coastal protection.”

“If Montrose do not receive government funding to protect the dunes, we would have to dramatically move the course inland, which mean losing a slice of golfing history we won’t ever get back. Protection for the golf course would also prevent the town of Montrose flooding.”

The report says that six of the seven wettest years on record have taken place since 2000.

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As well as flooding and golf course erosion, climate change is also impacting the condition of courses, the amount golfers play and the revenue of golf clubs.

“It is a fact that increased rainfall and extreme events are causing more disruption in recreational golf,” says Richard Windows of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

With more rainfall, golfers are playing less and courses are closed for longer periods which is hitting golf clubs hard.

In the greater Glasgow area, there was 20% less playing time last year than 10 years prior.

More rainfall means less playing time for golfers and less revenue for clubs. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The report shows that across England and Scotland there has been a 20% decline in golf club membership since 2005.

And whilst other factors have been contributing to this, climate change is having a negative impact on these shores.

Steve Isaac, Director of Sustainability at The R&A, said: “Golf is impacted by climate change more than most other sports.

“We are witnessing different types and timings of disease, pest and weed outbreaks.

“The future threats are very real, with course managers having to show adaptation if we are to maintain current standards of course condition.

“It is something we take very seriously.”

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