By John Steinbreder
The St. Andrews Links Trust received permission March 30 from local planning authorities to build a controversial seventh golf course just outside that ancient ecclesiastical center in Scotland.
Work on the $11 million course, designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd, architect of Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast, is expected to start this summer and be completed by 2006. Once opened, the new layout, which is to be carved out of former farmland on St. Andrews Bay, will join that noteworthy stable of courses managed by the Links Trust – among them the Old, New and Jubilee.
Trust officials say they are delighted with the decision, but many St. Andreans adamantly oppose the seventh course. Critics say the course is an unnecessary addition that further commercializes the self-proclaimed Home of Golf and enhances what some critics believe is empire-building by the Trust, which was created by an Act of Parliament in 1974 to manage the St. Andrews links (Golfweek, Nov. 15-22, 2003).
“This is good news for the tens of thousands of golfers making their pilgrimages to St. Andrews,” Links Trust general manager Alan McGregor said in a statement. “Our courses are just about at capacity, which is putting both golfers’ access to the courses and their enjoyment at risk. The seventh course will ease this unrelenting pressure and ensure that the quality of the golfer’s experience is maintained.”
Enthusiasm for the new layout is not shared by all. For example, an article appearing in a local newspaper the day after approval for construction of the seventh course was granted had an accompanying headline that read: “Anger Over Golf Course Planning Consents.” And there were quotes aplenty from area residents concerned about things such as traffic flow and whether the development would encroach upon the so-called “green belt,” environmentally sacrosanct land in Britain that is not to be touched. In addition, St. Andreans questioned the validity of figures regarding current course usage provided by the Links Trust.
“That was unbelievable,” St. Andrews golfer and longtime Trust critic Colin McAllister told the St. Andrews Citizen when he was asked about the approval of the seventh course. “They (trust officials) didn’t prove the unmet demand or take account of the main issues.”
Links Trust officials disagree with such contentions and insist the new course is desperately needed. They also say it will be constructed with the utmost care and consideration.
“We have to fulfill 28 conditions as they relate to things like waste management and the height of buildings on the property,” said Peter Mason, external relations manager for the Trust. “And we are also legally bound to an agreement regarding traffic flow.”
In other business, local planning authorities gave preliminary permission to development of a 36-hole private golf complex at Feddinch Mains in St. Andrews. The facility will be located in the northwest part of town, away from the coast and near the existing Dukes course. To go forward, the club must sell £7 million (approximately $12.72 million) in membership commitments.