Easter Ross town of Tain could tee up spin off from new world-class Coul Links golf course at Dornoch, claim owners of luxury hotel
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The new owners of a well-known Highland hotel have said the development of a world-class golf course at Coul Links is an “essential component” of the area’s economic revitalisation.
Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts recently bought one of the Highlands’ largest hotels - the Dornoch Hotel - to add to its portfolio of luxury hotels in famous golfing destinations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Currently closed for renovations, it is expected to have 89 spacious rooms when it re-opens as Dornoch Station Hotel next year.
The company’s president, Phillip Allen, voiced his support for the proposed course at Coul Links, on the Dornoch Firth, in a letter following a visit to the site with members of the Communities for Coul group (C4C), which is behind the plans.
C4C is currently finalising a planning application for the project, to submit to the Highland Council.
“With Royal Dornoch and Coul Links serving as cornerstones of a Highlands golf trip, many of the other courses, such as Brora, Golspie, and Tain – excellent courses in their own right, if not as famous as Royal Dornoch – will also see increased demand from visitors looking to maximize their leisure time and minimize their travel.” - Phillip Allen
The not-for-profit company, set up by local people, has secured the commitment from Mike Keiser to build the golf course, with the help of acclaimed golf designers Coore & Crenshaw, if planning permission is received.
Mr Allen said: “Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts are delighted to add the Dornoch Hotel to our portfolio of golf destination hotels; Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland and Marine Troon, Marine North Berwick and Rusacks St Andrews in Scotland.
“The prospect of a golf course at Coul Links certainly made the prospect of investing in Dornoch more attractive.”
He said: “Many visitors to Dornoch, and particularly those playing golf at the world famous Royal Dornoch Golf Club, currently only come to town for one day and most are not eating, shopping, or spending the night in the area.
“In part, this is because the region lacks sufficient high-quality accommodations, something we hope to help rectify with a complete renovation and reimagining of the Dornoch Hotel.
“But it is also because other parts of the UK boast more ‘brand name’ golf courses that attract golf tourists for longer stays, whereas Dornoch is known almost exclusively for Royal Dornoch.
“A golf course developed by Mike Keiser with architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on the stunning linksland of Coul will immediately change that perception. These three names are synonymous with golf course architecture at its finest and have created some of the best and most coveted golf destinations of the last 50 years.
“With Royal Dornoch and Coul Links serving as cornerstones of a Highlands golf trip, many of the other courses, such as Brora, Golspie, and Tain – excellent courses in their own right, if not as famous as Royal Dornoch – will also see increased demand from visitors looking to maximize their leisure time and minimize their travel.”
Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts have made a £10,000 donation to C4C, helping the group reach its £150,000 fundraising target to help meet the costs of its planning application.
Mr Allen also welcomed C4C’s environmentally sensitive approach to the planned Coul Links development.
He added: “We applaud their decision to respond to the concerns of environmental groups by creating a ‘low impact’ design that preserves the dune heath and establishes fairways and greens simply through mowing, rather than by stripping away the existing turf and planting new grass.”
Gordon Sutherland, of C4C said: “We are very grateful to Phillip and his colleagues at Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts, both for their extremely generous donation and for the full-hearted backing of our plans for Coul Links.
“Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts and C4C share aspirations of playing a part in revitalising the Sutherland economy in a sustainable way and creating good employment opportunities for the people who live here. We look forward to working together.
“We also look forward to seeing their exciting plans for the Dornoch Hotel take shape over the coming months.”
C4C said that, along with the proposed eco lodge hotel at Coul Links, which is currently the subject of a planning application, the relaunch of the Dornoch Hotel would add significant growth to the area.