Climate Change Could Wipe Out All Links Courses By 2100

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

Climate Change Could Wipe Out All Links Courses

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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Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x