Scottish Golf Courses

'This is why we study golf courses all over the world'

Palmer designers Layton and Johnson describe Highland project as ‘every architect’s dream’

Two leading golf course architects from the Arnold Palmer Design Company say it is a ‘dream come true’ to be helping create a new iconic course at the renowned Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands.

The Arnold Palmer Group is collaborating on building a second course - Palmer’s first in Scotland - on the shores of the Moray Firth near Inverness.

Seven-time major winner Palmer, inset, and two of his senior architects, Thad Layton and Brandon Johnson, have been working closely with the Castle Stuart team, including managing partner Mark Parsinen, general manager Stuart McColm and course manager Chris Haspell on plans for the new course, with construction expected to begin in March 2016 pending planning permission being granted.

Layton and Johnson are setting up home near Inverness to work on-site with the local team as the new course takes shape.

“From the day I first travelled to Scotland in 1960 to play in the Open Championship, I have been enamoured with the country and its people,” said Palmer. “The landscape and the history of the game all combine to make it such a special place in golf. To have an opportunity to design and build a great golf course in Scotland is an honour.” 

Johnson added: “This is why we go to study golf courses all over the world, to have opportunities like this. To be able to create something that is fun and creative on such a naturally beautiful piece of property is every golf course architect’s dream. We hope people walk off the 18th green and immediately want to go back to the first tee to play again.”

Layton explained: “We are always looking for great sites to work on and sophisticated clients to work with. That is what this opportunity provides.”

The new project will involve working with a sensitive environment of which the Castle Stuart team have experience. The existing course was created on a 95-hectare site adjacent to the Inner Moray Firth Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area, and the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation. Working with statutory bodies, including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the holes were created and shaped using only materials from the site, which significantly reduced the carbon footprint during construction.

If the proposed timetable goes to plan, the first nine holes of the new course will be completed in 2016 and the second nine in 2017, with the course ready to play a year later, ahead of its official opening.

Routing is almost finalised with at least seven holes having the 17th century Castle Stuart in sight, while ten holes will have sea views and others will have a local burn as a feature.

 “We are playing up the relationship between the castle and the golf course”, said Layton. “We want the castle to be a prominent part of the visual experience. The burn will also be a strategic element of the course. The topography, the castle, the burn and the sea views, all intertwined and in different combinations, will anchor the course’s architecture.”

The new course will be called the Palmer Tribute as homage to Scotland and to recognise the legendary golfer’s love of links golf.

Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart, said: “The second course at Castle Stuart will provide a huge economic boost for Inverness, the Highlands and Scotland. However, we want to ensure it is developed in the correct way, with community backing and with the support of local and national statutory bodies.”

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