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By Hugh Boag
Ambitious plans have been unveiled for a brand new 18-hole golf course which could bring a £20 million investment to the island.
And with the legendary Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam one of the course designers, along with partner English professional David J Russell, it would seem it has some serious credentials.
The owners of Dougarie Estate have hired the RAW golf design agency to come up with plans for the new links course, which at 6,785 yards would easily be the longest of all the courses on Arran.
The development would be on the existing Machrie Bay Golf Club, extended to surrounding agricultural land to create the new course, driving range, practice facilities, clubhouse, parking and lodges.
However, the estate’s Jamie Gibbs, who was on Arran last weekend, told the Banner that the present club members were fully aware of the proposed plans, which are still at an early stage, and support the concept. They say they are looking at the possibility of providing a new nine-hole golf course for the members of the existing Machrie course to mitigate the loss of their facility to the east of their present site.
Certainly a considerable amount of preparation work has already been carried out by London and North Berwick-based golf design team and a request has now been made to North Ayrshire Council planners to have an environmental impact assessment carried out – which would proceed any planning application.
In a statement in support of their request for the screening option, the course designers say: ‘The site has enormous potential for a golf course. It is of the requisite size for a modern-day facility and associated amenities, it is gently undulating with predominantly sandy soil and free draining. It affords the opportunity for the routing to wind down through the site towards the coast and offers fantastic views out over the Kilbrannan Sound towards the Kintyre Peninsula.’
The company says that following discussion with both Scottish Natural Heritage and North Ayrshire planning on site the have taken recognition of the protected areas in and around the site and redesigned their original proposal to remove any elements of the project from within those areas.
The company state: ‘Our intention is to develop a low intrusion golf course only in the areas outside the protected areas, with a minimum of ground disturbance, maintaining wild grassland areas, and a management regime which respects character of the site. This approach will both reduce the impact on the protected areas and help replicate the character of traditional Scottish golf courses which take advantage of the natural features of the landscape. This will be a core design principle and it is our intention that once completed the course should appear as though it has always been there.
‘We will continue to engage with North Ayrshire Council Planners, SNH, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland throughout the course of the development to ensure that the project is sympathetic to the site and becomes an asset to the island.
‘This proposal would represent a considerable investment in the tourist infrastructure of Arran and present a range of employment and economic benefits to the island. It is estimated that the development could attract up to £20 million investment, with substantial projected annual income to
the course and the surrounding area annually.
‘It will provide a range of employment opportunities on site, and associated employment on Arran itself. It will also bring increased spending power to the area and increased numbers of golfers to the other golf courses on the island. The aim of this development is to create a high standard 18-hole golf course and associated facilities, which in conjunction with the existing courses on Arran, will establish the island as a high profile and viable golfing destination.
‘We are excited about this opportunity, the quality of the site, the views it affords, the potential the island holds and we look forward to working closely with all relevant agencies in helping deliver this project.’
Dougarie is a 27,000 acre sporting estate which has been in the Gibbs family since 1972. Original owner Stephen Gibbs died in November 2017 aged 88, but before then his son Jamie had taken over the day to day running of the estate.
Jamie said: ‘We are currently undertaking a feasibility study of expanding the golf course at Machrie. This is to safeguard golf here for future generations for both islanders and visitors. We will continue to work closely with the MBGC committee who are fully aware of our proposed plans and are supportive of the concept and outlined drawings. We will look to update everyone on any progress as and when we have more detailed information.’
Arran of course already has six other courses, 18-hole Brodick, Lamlash and Whiting Bay, 12-hole Shiskine and nine-hole Corrie and Lochranza.
Unfortunately the new course cannot be called The Machrie Links. That course already exists on Islay and was designed by the same team at work on Arran.
Sheep graze in the fields which would become part of the new golf course at Machrie. 01_B05machrie01
A map showing the proposed layout of the new course and the location of the new 9-hole members course. The Machrie Moor road is on the left. NO_B05machrie02