Climate change threatens St. Andrews, birthplace of Golf

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland. The rare golfer doesn’t worry about the weather washing away a round or hungry long shots.

But along the North Sea on the windy outskirts of Scotland, hailed for centuries as the birthplace of golf, greenkeepers of this era fear a much more dire prognosis. In this nightmare, what they call a perfect storm will break out, hit at high tide and carried by the east wind, which is likely to accelerate coastal erosion.

“Year after year, we just get apprehensive,” said David Brown, general manager of Montrose Golf Links, who is 460 years old.

“You’re really kind of fighting the unknown,” he said. “We might not have that perfect storm for the next 10 years, and then quite easily in one winter we might have that perfect storm three times. And then how much land are we losing?”

Montrose, which the government estimates has lost tens of yards of shoreline over the past few decades, is considered one of Scotland’s roughly 600 most endangered golf courses, with more than one in six of them coastal. However, researchers believe that as a sign that only a limited margin of safety can give world prestige, St. Andrews, home to the world’s oldest course and host to the 150th British Open, will face an even greater threat of flooding over the next 30 years.

Scientists don’t think the Old Course will be underwater forever so soon. road pit forever swallowed by the sea. But golf had no choice but to start weighing its role in changing of the climate – primarily because of the vast, lush and thirsty fields that sometimes replace trees and then require fertilization and mowing – while puzzling over how to save fairways and greens around the world.

Scientists have been warning for years how a warmer planet, which could lead to more severe storms and rising sea levels, could change the sport. Referring to climate change, the president of the International Olympic Committee said that the organizers of the Games “may have to look at the overall calendar and figure out if there should be a shift.” In the future, winter sports will compete on artificial snow, while activities such as dog sledding and fishing will transforming in the Arctic.

Golf will be no exception.

“Some of our most historic, famous and revered golf courses are in danger, and this is something every coastal course needs to seriously think about,” said Tim Lobb, president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, who predicted this kind of acceleration. turf reduction efforts that have already begun in some fields.

Scotland’s longstanding affinity for golf as a cultural and economic giant makes the issue particularly relevant in the region, where the Open is due to conclude on Sunday. At St. Andrews Links alone, six public courses including Old Course, together host about 230,000 rounds a year near West Sands, within walking distance of some of the most revered holes in the world. (The seventh course of St. Andrews Links, opened in 2008, is located elsewhere in the area.)

It is generally considered that alignments in the east of Scotland, with low sediments that can be easily destroyed by erosion, face more imminent danger than alignments along the west coast, where the geology is less vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

But the answers are getting massive.

Royal Dornoch, a favorite course in the north of Scotland, is trying to revive a swamp that has been eroded and threatened the fairway. Lundin, about half an hour from St. Andrews, has added £100,000 in erosion protection fencing, and R&A, organizer of the Open, has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants to “develop solutions”.

However, there may be limits to what courses can do, their options are sometimes narrowed down by money, location, the severity of the threat, or the ambiguous consequences of acting in one area. Some people worry that resources that might be available for a place rich in history and international significance like the Old Course might not be available elsewhere.

“There are concerns about golf courses, but we will help protect golf courses if we do the right thing to protect the environment, mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, in an interview by the sea . on Friday. “We have done a great job in Scotland for this. It’s not just about protecting golf courses, but in places like this, there’s no doubt that it’s also a key part.”

She added: “The climate is changing but we in Scotland are really focused on protecting what matters most to us when we face these challenges. And especially in this week of the year, it’s very clear how important golf is to Scotland.”

Some experts, including Professor Bill Austin of the University of St. Andrews, expect more technical fixes to come in over the years, balanced by more natural solutions, which may include the possibility of controlled sea intrusion.

However, one of the persistent questions is whether these efforts will be implemented quickly enough.

At Montrose, Brown runs a course that has been a temporary business lately, voluntarily, not not: tees have been lost, holes have been shortened and rerouted, and fairways have been reseeded. However, there is not much money, and climate-related modifications consume about a third of the field’s budget for greenery.

“Without government protection, we could see 50 years of comfortable golfing — or a perfect storm two or three times in one winter, 10 years,” he said.

Anxiety around St. The Andrews aren’t that terrible yet, but they’re growing. In a particularly grim opportunity outlined last year in report from a Scottish government projectpart of the West Sands could come closer to connections by about 750 meters by 2100 if there are high emissions and a “do nothing” approach to coast management.

The Climate Central research team, based in Princeton, New Jersey, predicts that by 2050, the Old Course and its environs will become more susceptible to temporary, albeit torrential, floodwaters.

Austin, based at the School of Geography and Sustainability in St. Louis. Andrews also expects flooding to threaten the Old Deal and said disruptions “may be inevitable.” Further improvements to the dunes, especially at the end of the mouth, could provide more protection for the route, he said, building on years of work done in St. Louis. Andrews Links already did.

The government report also suggested beach nutrition efforts and the possibility of redesigning courses “to ensure sustainable golf play in St. Louis.” Andrews for 2100.”

How long, exactly, is unclear.

“I’m sure the 200th Open will be held on something very similar to the current Old Course, but there could be some engineering behind the scenes,” said Austin, who received research funding from R&A. in a coffee shop on st. Andrews on a rainy morning last week.

In addition, however, his prognosis is more foreboding.

“If you were to ask me about 300, I would say that the Old Field has moved,” he said, “but there is still something left in St. Louis. Andrews, which has the feel and, I think, the legacy of the Old Deal.”