A deal struck between Royal Dornoch Golf Club and Highland Council could pave the way for a multi-million-pound clubhouse being built at the world-renowned club.
A new 99-year lease has been agreed for the use of more than 200 acres of Common Good land.
It will see the club’s annual rent rise from £150, agreed in the 1970s, to £25,000. That’s a more than 16,000% increase.
This will increase further to £50,000 on a sliding scale depending on visitor numbers.
Why was a new deal needed?
Complex negotiations began before the pandemic when the club was advised changes would be required if it intended to build a new clubhouse on Common Good land.
Royal Dornoch had previously lodged proposals for a twin-gabled building to replace the original clubhouse built in 1909.
Now the new lease has been signed, members will be consulted shortly on the potential of a new home.
The new deal was done with support from the Dornoch Area Community Council.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club captain Professor David Bell said: “This represents an important chapter in the history of a golf club which dates to 1877, although we know golf was being played on the links land overlooking the Dornoch Firth long before then.
“Our previous lease ran to 2072. But, four or five years ago, we were advised that some changes would be required if we intended to build a new clubhouse on the Common Good Land at any stage.
“It is very early days, but we can now, with confidence, go to the members and say we are allowed to build a new clubhouse should that be the route they wish the club to take going forward.”
Demand from international golfers to play Royal Dornoch
Prof Bell said the club has been thrilled with demand from visiting golfers from around the world since travel restrictions were lifted.
“The club certainly anticipates paying the £50,000 figure each year and that money will be dispersed for the benefit of the Dornoch community through the Common Good Fund.
“It’s great news for the town and the club will continue to support local groups and organisations with our Community Fund grants, which totalled more than £12,000 last year.
“Golf tourism plays a huge role in the local and regional economy and the town’s sporting facilities have already benefited substantially from measures designed to make certain there is scope for any new clubhouse.”
Parking at Royal Dornoch has already been improved by moving the bowling green onto the old tennis court.
The club also donated £100,000 to create a new multi-use games area at Dornoch Academy.
The new lease has been welcomed by Provost and Dornoch Community Council chair Paddy Murray and local councillor Jim McGillivray.
Mr McGillivray said: “This new lease is the culmination of three years of negotiation between the Royal Dornoch club management, Highland Council as trustees of the Dornoch Common Good, and the Dornoch Area Community Council, representing the interests of the residents of the burgh.
“What has been delivered is fair, pragmatic and realistic and reflects the best interests of the Ancient Royal Burgh of Dornoch, and the present and future wellbeing of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club.”
Benefits for club and community
Provost Murray added: “I am so pleased that we have been able to come to an agreement that satisfies the aspirations of all three parties.
“We can all now look forward to a future whereby the world class reputation of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club and the thousands of visitors it brings to the area can be harnessed to maximise the benefit to both the club and the wider community.”
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