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Scientists from the University of St Andrews are set to carry out a study to asses the impact of climate change and coastal erosion on the world’s most prestigious golf courses, including the Old Course in St Andrews.

The R&A has awarded a research grant of £90,000
to the School of Geography and Sustainable
Development for the project “A Blue Carbon Audit
of Coastal Golf Courses: New Opportunities for
Climate and Coastal Change Mitigation and

The research, which will be led by Professor Bill
Austin over a period three years, will investigate
the impact of the changing climate and coastal
erosion on the world-famous golf course. It is
estimated that almost £400 million worth of property
and infrastructure around Scotland’s coastline is at
risk due to the effects of coastal erosion.

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The Coastal Change Action Plan is a key component
of the R&A Golf Course 2030,
established in 2018 as an industry initiative to
consider the impact, both positive and negative, of
the changing climate, resource constraints and
regulation on golf course condition and playability.

Funding for the project comes from The R&A through its Coastal Change Action Plan,
published in 2018, to which Professor Austin contributed as part of the School’s Blue Carbon research impact agenda.


Many Scottish golf courses have found themselves threatened by climate and coastal changes in recent years, arguably none more so than Montrose Golf Links, home to the world’s fifth oldest course.

Its championship layout has already been altered in recent years in an attempt to offset the threat of erosion that has seen the coast creep 70m closer to the course in the last 30 years.

In late 2018, senior figures at the club called for the game’s authorities to pay closer heed to the challenges and threats posed by the changing conditions. It now appears those pleas have been heard.

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“The oceans and seas
that surround many of the world’s top golf courses
play a vital role in their future viability,” said Professor Austin. “Many
are already seeing the impact of coastal erosion and
flooding brought on by more storms and rising sea
levels as a result of climate change. This research
will allow us to consider all climate related
factors that will have an ever-lahsting effect on the ome of golf.

Our research will also look at the blue carbon
opportunities and the role of long-term carbon
storage in Scotland’s coastal habitats surrounding
golf courses. If we can protect these carbon-rich
ecosystems we can prevent the release of greenhouse
gases that would otherwise contribute to global
warming, support their rich biodiversity and improve
their resilience to future sea-level rise.”


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Steve Isaac, the
R&A’s director sustainability, added: “This marks our initial investment in
research, education and communication projects in
support of our Golf Course 2030 initiative. We are
funding these projects to develop best practice in
sustainability and provide solutions to golf course
managers that will help to sustain and improve the
standard of golf course conditions and playability
for the benefit of those who enjoy the sport. 

“The results of the projects being funded will
contribute significantly towards meeting the aims of
Golf Course 2030 and provide insights to the golf
industry as we consider how to address the
challenges and opportunities presented by a changing
climate, resource constraints and regulation on golf
course management.”

Grant funding includes a salary component for a
Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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