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'World class' Easter Ross golf course vision has history behind it as Nigg farmer reveals plans for major development which could tee up boost for local economy

By Hector MacKenzie

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Farmer Robert Mackenzie is looking at a world-class 18-hole golf course development on land he owns near Nigg and is poised to start the planning process this week. Picture: Callum Mackay
Farmer Robert Mackenzie is looking at a world-class 18-hole golf course development on land he owns near Nigg and is poised to start the planning process this week. Picture: Callum Mackay

EXCITING plans for a world-class 18-hole golf course in Easter Ross could help tee up a substantial boost for the local economy and put the county on the radar of visitors from around the world.

Proposals being drawn up would also see the creation of two nine-hole courses, a driving range and practice area and a clubhouse with pro-shop, restaurant, bar and accommodation, potentially creating up to 25 full-time jobs and driving a supply chain boost that would ripple through the Highland economy.

Long-established Easter Ross farmer and businessman Robert Mackenzie is looking at the scheme for his Pitcalzean Mains farm at Nigg.

The development would see a part restoration of the historic Nigg golf course, which occupied the site between 1890 and the 1960s, with interruptions during the World Wars. It was thought by some at the time to be one of the finest natural courses in the world.

Mr Mackenzie says he has entrusted the job to a world-class golf course architect, who says of the site: "It has the potential to produce a golf course that would be a compliment to Scotland and to golf. Both will benefit if his dream comes true."

He is now set to submit a request for an Environmental Impact Assessment Screening & Scoping Opinion from Highland Council.

Keen to encourage sustainable tourism, he notes that unlike recent Scottish links developments at Machrihanish Dunes and Trump Golf International –and the rejected Coul Links project at Embo – the site is not designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Mr Mackenzie said: "The really exciting thing from my point of view, loving history, is the fact that it was a golf course. It already has over 130 years of history to start with."

If all goes according to plan, he believes the course could become an attraction for locals and visitors alike, forming a natural link with existing world class courses at Royal Dornoch in neighbouring Sutherland and Castle Stewart outside Inverness.

A large portion of the land he owns is presently zoned for industrial development in the existing Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, which is currently open for public consultation. It overlooks the Cromarty Firth and the Nigg Energy Park.

Mr Mackenzie said: "I am of the opinion that the proposed new industrial allocation for Nigg allocates a generous amount of land for possible future expansion of the Nigg Energy Park, while creating a wonderful opportunity to enhance the landscape at Nigg, grow sustainable tourism - alongside a successful industrial port - and strengthen and diversify the local economy, which will be essential to the post-Covid recovery of the Highlands."

Of the juxtaposition between land uses, Mr Mackenzie said: "Everybody that has come onto the site has thought that it adds to the interest. There's always something going on in the Firth and it is changing all the time. People who have looked see no reason why a world class golf development couldn't fit there. I believe there's great potential to create jobs and prosperity.""

He said he had originally bought it as a working farm but the potential for diversification was always an attraction. He would like to protect and enhance core paths and stresses the design will be sensitive to the environment.

He will present his plans to the local community and could be prepared to submit an application by early summer. With a fair wind behind it, groundworks could begin in winter and the first golfers on the course by April 2023.

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