May/June 2016 www.GolfIncMagazine.com 29
Country Club, in New Jersey, have long
been plagued by flooding. The Olympic
Club, in San Francisco, has been combating water-related problems for years.
On Kiawah Island, off the coast of South
Carolina, 550,000 cubic yards of sand have
been moved to help protect the 17th and
18th holes of the famed Ocean Course.
On nearby Isle of Palms, Wild Dunes Golf
Club has twice been forced to shorten the
finishing hole of its Links Course.
Trust us: The list could go on and on.
And as oceans rise and storms become
more powerful, developers are thinking twice about building coastal courses.
Owner Mike Keiser has been addressing
erosion issues at Bandon Dunes for longer
than he cares to remember. As a result, he’s
carefully assessing the risks he faces with
Coul Links, his first course in Scotland.
The property — “a fabulous site for golf,”
he calls it — flooded last winter, so this
year Keiser dispatched Bill Coore, the
course’s architect, to meet with hydrologists to gauge the effects increasingly rough
weather might have on his investment.
“I understand that the Dornoch area [of
Scotland] may at some time in the future
be under water,” Keiser said. “So the ques-
tion becomes, ‘Do we go forward, or do
we conclude that the ocean is too close?’
It’s maybe the most important question we
have to answer.”
Anyone who loves links golf or is smit-
ten with a cliffside green already under-
stands that this issue is no mere tempest in
a teapot. As so many owners of coastal golf
properties have discovered, a battle against
nature is hard to win.
Though oceans are rising and storms
have become more damaging, the chance
of a truly important coastal course being
lost to the elements is virtually nil. If a
course has great historical and economic
value, its owners will do whatever is necessary to sustain it.
Consider the city of Amsterdam: It’s 6
feet below sea level, and it survives just fine.
“People always say you can’t fight Mother
Nature, but we’ve been doing it for centu-
ries,” said Steven Traynum of Columbia,
S.C.-based Coastal Science & Engineering.
“In places where there’s simply too much of
value to abandon, people will try to engi-
neer their way out of their problems. It’ll
cost a lot of money, but it’ll be done.”
The good news is that so far, cruel
weather has inflicted only relatively minor
wounds on coastal golf properties, and it
appears that course owners have come to
view repairs as just another cost of doing
business. The Trump Organization, for
example, describes the fixes it’s doing in
Aberdeenshire as part of a “normal winter
The operators of Wild Dunes see their
situation similarly. The 18th hole of the
resort’s Links Course started out as a par- 5,
was forced by erosion to become a par- 3,
was restored to a par- 5 and is now again
a par- 3. The resort’s operators are hop-
ing beach re-nourishment will eventually
enable them to get their par- 5 back again.
“It’s part of living on a coast,” said Jeff
Minton, the club’s director of golf. “You
learn to deal with it.”
Keiser has likewise learned to deal with
it. The sixth hole on the original course
at Bandon Dunes had to be fortified soon
after its debut, and the track’s 16th green,
the resort’s most photographed hole, could
very well start disappearing at some point.
Keiser considered locating the green a
bit farther inland, but he knew the ocean
views would be unforgettable.
“Between them, the Bandon Dunes and
Pacific Dunes courses have eight greens on
the ocean, and we’re well aware that a 100-
year storm can affect them,” he said. “We
designed the courses with our eyes open.”
These comments suggest how opera-
tors of coastal courses intend to tackle the
harsh realities of climate change. It may be
difficult, if not ultimately impossible, to
fend off the mayhem caused by storms and
crashing waves, but the golf industry isn’t
going to give up without a fight.
“Golf adapts,” Andrew said. “When
courses have to move tees or greens,
whether it’s due to water damage or pres-
sure from urbanization or a safety issue,
they do it. You do what you have to do.”
The Medal course at Montrose Golf Links
in Scotland has lost an estimated 50 to
60 yards of dunes, as shown in the before
photo at top and the after photo at bottom.
A battle against nature is usually a losing
battle. Really, most coastal courses would
be delighted to fight the oceans to a draw.
For those looking to keep score, though,
Traynum estimates that remedies to oceanfront erosion typically last for eight to
10 years. So, with such a term in mind, a
course owner can do a cost-benefit analysis. Financially speaking, if a course can
keep its head above water for a decade, the
costs of repairs can be justified.
“As long as property values outpace the
cost of protection measures, you have a via-
ble enterprise,” Traynum said. “But over the
long term, if oceans continue to rise there’s
only going to be one outcome.”
Naturally, the owners of coastal courses
hope that day never comes. If it does, they’ll
cross that bridge when they come to it.
Robert J. Vasilak, one of Golf Inc.’s
contributing editors, is publisher of the
World Edition of Golf Course Report.