Controversial banker to build golf course3rd September, 2012 by Colin Victor
A controversial Australian hedge fund manager has ignored the advice of the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and decided to build a new golf course in Scotland.
Greg Coffey, 41, who is worth nearly half a billion pounds, bought the 12,000-acre Ardfin Estate, which includes Jura House Garden, a unique walled garden that, as a tourist attraction, had played a pivotal role in the Isle of Jura’s economy, for £3.5 million in 2010 and closed it down within a year.
Several local people protested against the decision, while Coffey received personal criticism as it is believed he has only visited the island twice since the acquisition.
Coffey has now revealed that he will be building a golf course on the seafront site, to be designed by Australian architect Bob Harrison, and will be renovating other properties with the aim of encouraging shooting tourists.
The course will be built on the site of the former Ardfin Farm, which is no longer in agricultural use. The routing will be arranged in two loops along the edge of a series of elevated bluffs – despite the SGU’s calls for fewer courses featuring two loops of nine holes in the country.
“We aim to preserve all the existing burns that cross the fields, and the large areas of sensitive wilderness, such as wetlands, even where they lie within the playing areas of individual golf holes,” said Harrison.
“Ancient stone walls on the site will be incorporated into the design, while new walls along with the beautiful cliffs will dictate the strategy for many holes by asking players to choose a brave line if they hope to reach a short par four or gain a better angle of approach.”
The development team plans to use grasses that resemble the current pasture grasses used for farming and to have no irrigation.
However, the decision comes less than a year after the SGU announced that the country already has too many golf courses and any more could put too much pressure on existing facilities.
“The reality is that in the past 20 years there has been almost a 20 per cent growth in golf courses throughout Scotland,” said a spokesman.
“Yet, after the impact of the economic downturn, there are no more people playing than there were before this growth in facilities.”
Earlier this summer the SGU also revealed that 89 per cent of Scottish clubs are actively seeking new members and half have not made a profit in the last 12 months.
“We don’t need any more 7,500-yard championship courses,” said Andy Salmon, the SGU’s development manager. “If there are going to be new courses, there’s a need for shorter courses such as six holes, or three loops of six holes instead of two loops of nine holes.”
Golf Course Architecture magazine states that ‘the project is believed to have the support of the vast majority of Jura residents’, although feedback from Jura websites and social media suggests that many residents are concerned that the golf course will not be open to the public.
That sentiment has been echoed by the journalist Deborah Orr, a frequent visitor to Jura, who earlier this year wrote: ‘It’s a great shame so few people even knew these gardens were there in all the years that they were open to all. It’s outrageous that hardly a soul knows or cares that this man Coffey has bought them and closed them.’
When hearing of the news regarding the golf development, she tweeted: ‘YAY! Greg Coffey, who bought and closed Jura House Gardens, is building a golf course for himself and his guests!’