Major plans for world class golf Highland golf course poised to be unveiled

Major plans for a new world class Highland golf course are poised to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The US developers behind the £6-10 million Coul Links project, businessman Todd Warnock and renowned golf course developer Mike Keiser, could submit their planning application next month.

The investors had been expected to lodge the plans for the golf course – zoned for a site just north of Embo in Sutherland – at the start of this year.

Mr Warnock, who owns the Links House hotel and Carnegie Courthouse in Dornoch, said previously that Coul Links would reverse a present trend of golfers coming to play Royal Dornoch for a day but returning to their Inverness base, without staying and contributing further to the east Sutherland economy.

He also said that his team, led by renowned golf course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, can build the course in an ecologically sensitive way.

But conservationists maintain that the development would have a negative impact on the area’s untouched coastal dune habitats.

The site is in a special protected area and has designated sites of special scientific interest.

East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray, who lives in Embo, said: “It seems that September looks to be the likeliest opportunity for the plans to go in.

“We will need to wait and see what happens, as it will be up to the developer.

“There is a full appreciation of the potential of the site for an international links golf course. I think they believe also that they can overcome the environmental challenges.”

In May, experts from RSPB Scotland, Butterfly Conservation and Buglife Scotland gave public presentations on the ecological importance of the Coul Links dune system.

Residents questioned why so much was being made of the threat to Fonseca’s Seed Fly – a critically endangered species – despite no solid evidence of the species existing on the Coul Links site.

Conservationists said that studies conducted on sites at Dornoch sands and Embo sands showed the presence of the fly which, given the similar habitat, could mean it is present on Coul Links.

But Mr Warnock said previously that when plans are published there will be a clear suggestion that the habitat for this fly would be “preserved, if not strengthened,” and that only 50 acres will be turfed.

Craig Macadam, conservation director at Buglife, said: “Hopefully they have taken into account all the things that have been raised during the consultation period and public meetings.

“I find it very difficult to see how a golf course could be engineered into the landscape without having a detrimental effect on the landscape.

“I am looking forward to seeing these plans after all this time.”