One of the earliest established golf venues in the world could lose some of its historic holes if it can’t hold back ravaging tides.
For more than 450 years golf has been played on the links of Montrose but changing seas and coastal erosion is threatening to destroy part of the course which was created 455 years ago and can boast features laid down by Old Tom Morris.
In research published in 2016, Dundee University post-doctoral researcher, Dr Fraser Milne, estimated that the North Sea has crept 70 metres towards Montrose within the last 30 years.
The championship course has already been altered to take account of recent devastation.
Montrose Links is now looking at funding options to install £5 million-worth of rock armour alongside three of its seaside holes.
Failure to find a solution would mean a “massive realignment exercise” inland – amalgamating the existing championship and Broomfield courses into one.
Andrew Boyd, chairman of the board of directors at Montrose, said: “The erosion has been ongoing for the past 25 years and we’ve realigned the 2nd, 3rd and 6th holes to minimise the damage but now we’re running out of room.
“If you get that perfect storm you can lose 5-10m over a couple of days.
“We are lucky in that we have two 18-hole golf courses at Montrose Links but if we can’t find a solution we could lose nine holes.
“We’d have to carry out a massive realignment exercise and effectively build a new course over the existing 36 holes to save what we have.”
Mr Boyd said it would be a “shame to end up with one course”.
He said: “The weather is the biggest unknown factor – we could lose a lot of holes very quickly or we might not lose anything.”
Mr Boyd said they’ll have to find the £5m themselves for the rock armour but amalgamating the courses could cost just as much.
They are looking at government grants and even the possibility of a crowdfunding campaign as it doesn’t meet the criteria for “emergency funding”.
Mr Boyd said: “The town of Montrose isn’t affected at the moment but if the dunes are breached then it becomes a flood plain and suddenly the funding would become available as it would be classed as an emergency.
“It’s galling – Rome can’t be fixed once it’s burned.”
Experts say the conditions that led to the development of beaches and dunes have now been reversed.
Sediment is running out so beaches are getting thinner and the shoreline is moving landward and cutting into dunes.
The second issue is rising sea levels which are beginning to impinge on sections of coastal land formerly not affected.
These effects are working together to make the shoreline move landward and erode whatever is at the bank.
North East Scotland Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “It is alarming to hear even the suggestion that holes at this historic course could be lost.
“The club – and indeed the town – simply cannot afford for a major incident to happen before action is taken.
“At that point, it will be too late, and we will be talking about damage limitation rather than prevention.
“I am committed to doing all that I can as a local MSP to establish the most effective course of action and explore possible funding options.”