Scots courses on the comeback trail after Storm Arwen devastation

Forfar Gc

Storm Arwen was one of the most significant weather events to hit Scotland when it struck in November last year. 

Roads were closed, trees were felled and many areas were left without power for days. 

But as communities rallied and got back to normal, golf courses – particularly in the north-east, where the storm was at its most fearsome – were left counting the cost. 

Two of the region’s most historic courses were among those worst-hit by the storm, and are only now getting back on their feet. 

At Forfar Golf Club, the fourth-oldest course in the world and the first-ever 18-hole setup, more than 700 trees were destroyed. 

The iconic venue, designed by Old Tom Morris, was left looking “like a battlefield”, according to club officials.

“I think everyone remembers it was an awful night,” head greenkeeper Keith Law, an eight-time club champion, told the Courier. 

“I got up, saw it was white outside and thought I would go out and put up the ‘course closed’ sign. 

“But I took one look round the corner and knew this was more than just a few trees down.” 

“It was like a warzone and tanks had just driven through the place,” added club manager John Rankin. 

“Most of the fairways were covered in fallen trees. 

“Some of them are maybe 80 or 100 years old – but they were pulled down like feather dusters.” 

In the weeks following, the club has undertaken a massive £30,000 cleanup operation and cleared around 700 tonnes of timber from the course. 

Thanks to the work of staff and members, and assistance from local firm Angus Biofuels, the club is getting ready to welcome golfers back. 

But stacks of felled trunks in the car park serve as a reminder of the damage wreaked.

50 miles or so up the east coast in Aberdeen, another iconic course is also coming to terms with the impact of Storm Arwen. 

Hazlehead’sMacKenzie course – designed by Alister MacKenzie, creator of Augusta National – is the city’s flagship municipal track and since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, has been teeming with golfers. 

But there has not been a shot struck in anger since November after the storm wrecked more than 150 trees, with many falling onto greens and fairways. 

Work to clear the course was finally able to begin last week, with a licence required from Scottish Forestry. 

“This was necessary due to the sheer volume of tree damage and the scope of work required to remedy this,” explained David Selkirk, director of community leisure operations at Sport Aberdeen, which operates the course.

“The initial focus will be on clearing the trees from the MacKenzie course and then undertaking a selective programme of tree thinning around the tees and greens on both the MacKenzie and Pines courses.” 

Despite the extensive damage, Mr Selkirk hopes the course can be reopened “in a matter of weeks”. 

Hazlehead

Back in Forfar, the mood is similarly positive as the club nears the end of its cleanup mission. 

“It has been devastating and it will bring changes to the course,” said Keith. 

“But it will recover. There are young trees in the areas which were really badly hit and they will grow quickly. 

"All the focus now is to get the course back to a high standard in the spring.”

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