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As a golfer of long experience of golf on Arran – I was introduced to the game in Whiting Bay in 1958 – and as a member of Machrie Bay since 2013, I was initially uplifted by the report in last week’s Banner of the proposal to expand the course to 27 holes and to upgrade it and the facilities. Certainly any improvement from the current changing rooms in the toilets of the tea room would be welcome.
The possibility of a first class course in this location could enhance Arran’s attraction as a golfing destination and provide the possibility of the 3 Ms’ golfing trail by road and ferry: Machrie Bay, Machrihanish and Machrie (Islay).
However, after further thought I have significant doubt on the practicality, financial probity and social desirability of such development.
Machrie Bay is located on the edge of Machrie Moor – and there lies the clue to to the quality of the ground. It is peaty and boggy. It retains water for a long time. It is not in my experience ‘the sandy and well drained’ ground described in the report. Many times I have seen a well placed drive land in the middle of the fairway, never to be seen again as the ball was swallowed up by the soggy Machrie turf.
In contrast the greens are always immaculate and this is testimony to the expert care of the current greenkeeper who achieves this against the odds and with a friendly spirit. It seems to me unlikely that there is any practical way of creating this excellence in the fairway and rough areas of the course due to the water retaining nature of the soil.
If I had £20 million to invest, I would expect a return of at least 4 per cent, ie £800K. So this begs the question as to how many golfers need to be attracted to cover this and, say, £500K of running expenses for 27 holes -this is a conservative estimate based on my membership of two championship clubs in Perthshire.
A revenue of £1.3m from an average round of say £50 would need 26,600 golf rounds. This average green fee takes account of published top rates and group discounts and is about double the other Arran courses. If we assume this to be achieved in the five visitor months of May to September, ie 150 golfing days, this would require 173 rounds per day. Going out in 3’s every 8 minutes would need 8 hours a day, every day, hail rain or shine for five months. I do not think that this is likely.
Such a course would need about 12 skilled green keeping staff – where would they be sourced from and where would they live?
While I believe that it is unlikely to attract the 173 golfers a day for five months solid, one has to ask where they would come from. There isn’t the pool of hotels on the west coast of Arran to provide this. The traffic issues over the String Road therefore have to be considered in terms of wear and tear and the impact on the general tranquillity of the area that many other visitors seek.
I think it would be more prudent and achievable to upgrade the current 9 hole course to a dry state, if that is technically possible, and build a club house along the lines of the Tee Room at Shiskine. Nine hole golf is more in line with current trends for shorter periods on the course. Rather than 27 holes at Machrie Bay I would prefer 9 dry holes.
In my view this project is over optimistic in its ambitions and expectations of technical and financial success. I think it will bring unwanted busy-ness to the west coast and the investors cash will disappear, like so many of my drives, into the bog of Machrie Moor.
Ian A Brown
So pleased to see Mark Russell’s bill bringing in 20 mph for all residential roads, Arran Banner February 2.
Here are a few facts relating to the speed of vehicles and our health.
If you double vehicle speed then the energy and the ability to kill goes up four times . This is because the energy is related to the velocity squared . A car doubles its energy between 20 and 28 mph .Reducing speeds to 20 mph will immediately halve the KSI (killed and seriously injured) rate and adds only 2 minutes to the average commute.
Apart from reducing the KSI rate this reduction will resurrect the most powerful factor improving physical and mental health and this is wild child’s play.
Thirty years ago 10 percent of children were driven to school and now this is 90 per cent and 30 years ago the roaming distance of a six year old from their house is now matched by a 10 year old. We must do all we can to give children a chance to run , play and explore outside and this reduction will greatly help. Perhaps one day we could even see our streets taken back as play and social areas by children with the creation of Dutch Woonerfs or Home Zones where cars have 10kph speed zones weaving between swings and outside BBQS?
Dementia is frequently in the news these days, where once it was never mentioned. Often there are stories about a miracle scientific breakthrough, a new medicine, or a special diet that will make it go away. Although such headlines are mainly incorrect, there is no reason to give up hope.
Professor June Andrews is the adviser to the Dementia Services Development Trust (DSDT) a Scottish Charity that works world-wide to improve the lives of people with dementia. She is the author of Dementia the One Stop Guide, the best-selling book on dementia. It describes what dementia is, how to delay it, and what to do if you or someone in your family is affected.
On Tuesday February 19 Professor June Andrews will give a presentation based on her book. It will take place in St Molios church, Shiskine at 2pm. All welcome.