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Adam Lawrence

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2022, 10:09:34 AM »

Yes. Here's my story on the scoping application, from March:


https://www.golfcoursearchitecture.net/content/coul-links-project-resurfaces-with-submission-of-scoping-application


I understand, from sources close to C4C, that the application was received very positively by Highland Council, though as the council voted 16-1 in favour of the project the first time round, only for it to be called in and rejected by the Scottish government, we may wonder how important the council's opinion actually is.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Niall C

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2022, 01:21:47 PM »
Adam


Of course the Council's opinion counts but when they make a decision that is completely at odds with national policy then they have no reason to expect they will have the final say. From what I recall of the revised plan it greatly reduces the amount of sensitive ground it is going to use and therefore might have a chance but again don't count on the Council having the final say.


Niall

Brian_Ewen

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2022, 12:20:33 PM »

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands-islands/4505563/coul-links-golf-plan-could-be-submitted-by-early-autumn/


The Coul Links saga continues: Application for world class course could be in by autumn
By John Ross
July 8, 2022

New plans for a world class golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland could be submitted in a matter of weeks.

Communities for Coul (C4C) is pursuing the project after a previous attempt to build a championship course was turned down.

The group lodged a pre-Planning Application Notice (PAN) for the development with Highland Council in June.

Public exhibition for course plans
A public exhibition will be held in Embo Community Centre on July 27. An online presentation will also be held in August.

C4C then hopes to lodge a full planning application by the early autumn.

A crowdfunding campaign has seen the group raise £125,000 of its £150,000 target towards the planning process.

A bid to develop a golf course on the Coul Links site was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020 after objections from environmental groups.

But C4C says it has responded to concerns raised previously in developing the new plans.

This includes a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Coul Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

This, it argues, will perpetually protect the wild coastal environment. At the same time, it will help to transform the area economically, creating jobs and enhancing the area as a world-class golf destination.

C4C director Gordon Sutherland said: “We know and expect we will face further obstacles along the way.

“But, as things stand, we are optimistic we will be in a position to submit a full planning application in the early autumn.

“We have already shown there is overwhelming local support for the project.”

A community ballot held by C4C last year showed 69.2% of people in favour in a 44.4% turn-out.

Planning system ‘favours the wealthy
Meanwhile, a supporter of the project says Scotland’s planning system favours the wealthy and is stacked against communities.

Edward Abel Smith, who owns the land where the course would be built, has plans for a £20 million eco hotel overlooking the proposed development.

Mr Abel Smith, the owner of Coul Farm, says local support for the project chimes with the SNP commitment that ‘the best people to decide the future of our communities are the people who live in those communities’.

But he says statutory consultee NatureScot has to balance its duties to protect the environment with the need for social and economic development.

“There is nothing to say whether one of these three factors should take precedent over another.”

He says if NatureScot objects to the course plan, even with the support of Highland Council, with whom C4C is working closely, the final decision will rest with Scottish Ministers.

They may ultimately decide to ‘call in’ the application and remove the decision-making process from the planning authority. This can lead to an expensive public inquiry.

“Therefore, for C4C to gain planning permission for a highly-desired, locally-led project in their community, they are very much reliant on NatureScot balancing the economic and social impacts with the environmental.

“Poignantly, with this planning policy, the only way that the statement ‘the best people to decide the future of our communities are the people who live in those communities’ can be a reality is if said community has enough financial backing – similar sums that major global developers have – to afford to put their ideas forward.

‘Anyone can engage in development decisions’
“The Scottish planning policy, either deliberately or inadvertently, is only truly accessible to the wealthy, and is so heavily stacked against the people its government represent – locals.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Throughout the planning system, opportunities are available for everyone to engage in the development decisions which affect them.

“Applications are determined in accordance with the development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

“It would not be appropriate to comment on the proposals in case it is seen as pre-empting or pre-judging any future decision that may come before Ministers.”

David_Tepper

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2022, 11:47:41 AM »

Brian_Ewen

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2022, 02:03:06 PM »

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands-islands/4557904/group-behind-coul-links-golf-plans-issue-challenge-to-critics/


Coul Links: group behind golf course plans issues challenge to environmental critics
By John Ross
July 19, 2022

Conservation bodies have been challenged on how they would protect the natural habitat they say is threatened by a planned Coul Links golf development.

Communities for Coul (C4C), which is behind revived plans for the golf course, says current management of the Sutherland site poses the greatest risk to the coastal environment.

It argues that its plans would see the area restored and protected.

What are the conservation bodies’ concerns?
Last week an alliance of seven environmental organisations raised concerns over the new plans for a world class course.

The Conservation Coalition’s fears remain that a development of the type and scale planned would impact on national and international protected areas.

It encouraged “anyone concerned about saving nature” to contact their local MSP.

A bid by a previous group to develop a golf course on at Coul Links was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020 after a public inquiry.

Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) were among the objectors.

C4C lodged a pre-Planning Application Notice (PAN) for its renewed plans with Highland Council in June.


A public exhibition will be held in Embo Community Centre on July 27 and an online presentation will also be held in August.

C4C then hopes to lodge a full planning application by the early autumn.

The group says it has responded to concerns raised previously in developing the new plans.

This includes a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Coul Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the shores of the Dornoch Firth.

This, it argues, will perpetually protect the coastal environment and help transform the area economically and create jobs.

Natural features ‘will be largely destroyed’
The Conservation Coalition argues the new plans don’t appear to address the environmental concerns that were part of the previous refusal.

It says concern remains that the development would result in “irreparable harm to the complex dune habitat which is home to a wide range of wildlife”.

However, C4C has hit back, saying environmental experts have predicted natural features at Coul Links, cited in the wider Loch Fleet area’s designation as a SSSI, will be largely destroyed within the coming decade under existing management arrangements.

It says one expert botanist said the vegetation of the dune slacks is “now mostly indistinct from roadside ditches” and the dune heath is “turning into nondescript scrub.”

The scientist warned that “soon there will be nothing much left worth preserving.”

C4C says a changing climate and increasing nitrogen deposition have promoted the spread of invasive species and other changes that reduce the diversity and distinctiveness of the links.


This means it is no longer sufficient just to protect the links, the area must first be restored, it says, and “that costs real money.”

The group claims the golf course, on 1% of the SSSI, would provide the funding and manpower for the full remediation and sustainable protection of the entire Coul Links section of the protected site.

The courses owners say they are committed to working closely with NatureScot to achieve that goal.

C4C director, Gordon Sutherland, said:  “The knee-jerk reaction of these powerful and influential charities is disappointing and it is noticeable that they offer no alternative solutions for the long-term protection and stewardship of this beautiful area.

“We would be very interested to hear what they have to say on that important issue, as I am sure many of their supporters and others would.”

Two sides could work together ‘in an ideal world’
He said the organisations have been “very selective” and “far from accurate” in what they have told supporters.

Mr Sutherland said in an ideal world C4C would work with the conservation bodies for the long-term benefit of the Coul Links area “rather than just being the target of their latest well-resourced, but one-sided campaigns”.

“At the very least we would hope their supporters take some time to look beyond what they are being told.”

A community ballot held by C4C last year showed 69.2% of people in favour of the course in a 44.4% turn-out.

Kenna Chisholm, for the coalition, said it is hoped the two sides can have a “meaningful discussion” about the plans.

“While there aren’t detailed plans available yet, from the information in the PAN it seems the area of proposed development is the same and as such we are deeply concerned.


“We are currently in both a nature and climate emergency and it should be clear that a damaging development on a site protected for nature, such as Coul Links, isn’t acceptable.”

She said SWT managed the site under an agreement with the landowner for 25 years and NatureScot now has a similar arrangement.

“This means that developing the site for a golf course is not needed to deliver improvements and is much more likely to cause irreparable harm to the dune system.

“We look forward to discussing our concerns with C4C directly.”

A NatureScot spokeswoman said it has some concerns about the golf course being located within Loch Fleet SSSI.

It has met with C4C to discuss reducing potential impacts, including advice on surveys and assessments needed to support a new application.

“We have also entered into a management agreement with the owner of Coul Links and are working closely to control areas of invasive scrub and weeds.”

David_Tepper

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2022, 02:33:20 PM »
Brian -

Thanks for the post of this article.

DT

Brian_Ewen

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2022, 01:36:10 PM »

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands-islands/4589695/coul-links-revived-golf-course-plans-go-on-display-to-the-public/


Coul Links: revived golf course plans go on display to the public in Sutherland
By John Ross
July 27, 2022

Plans for a world class golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland have gone on display to the public.

A bid by a previous group to develop a golf course at Coul Links was first revealed in 2015, but was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020.

Communities for Coul (C4C) revived the plans in 2021 and lodged a pre-Planning Application Notice (PAN) with Highland Council in June this year.

The group hopes to submit a full planning application by the early autumn.

Exhibition picketed by opposition group
C4C opened the exhibition of plans in Embo Community Centre but an opposition group Not Coul picketed the event and handed out leaflets to people as they went in.

C4C says it has responded to concerns raised previously in developing the new plans.

This includes a comprehensive proposal to restore and protect the Coul Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the shores of the Dornoch Firth.

It says the amount of land used for tees, greens, fairways and walkways in the SSSI has been reduced by over 40%.

This, it argues, will perpetually protect the coastal environment and help transform the area economically and create 175-250 jobs

Nicola Drummond, a planning consultant for C4C, said the exhibition is part of the planning process which requires community consultation.

She said invasive plants are taking over the SSSI: “We see this as symbiotic relationship in terms of the development, bringing forward a quality golf course but also enabling the SSSI to benefit from long-term appropriate management.

“By reducing the footprint of the golf course….we feel we have gone a long way to addressing the concerns Scottish Ministers raised.”

One of those handing out leaflets was Tom Dargie, ecologist for Not Coul.

Opponents say they will fight the plans
He said: “I had a careful look at the exhibition and its much as I expected. But we are pretty sure on three grounds we will be fighting hard against this development.”

Mr Dargie said he doesn’t accept the economic case with the workforce not available. He said last month there were 30 vacancies in hospitality businesses and the care sector in Dornoch.

Not Coul also has doubts over the quality of the planned golf course and concerns about  environmental damage.

Lynn Redfern, who runs a local caravan site in Dornoch with husband Darren, said: “I am completely against it and haven’t seen anything that has changed my mind.

“Are they are saying the jobs will be good enough to encourage people into the area?

“Even if they do come to the area, they can’t afford housing now. If you create a golf course that’s going to become more popular for second homes and put the prices up again.

“We are in that cycle already and its going to get worse.

“And this whole thing about managing the area. That’s been there well before we have and it’s taking care of itself. People should leave it alone.”

Retired banker Brian Munro from Dornoch is in favour: “I was very disappointed when it was turned down. The council approved it, the community council was supportive and the community was supportive.

“It then got called in and coincidentally the week it was turned down was the week they were trying to get their budget through with the Green Party, it stinks.

‘I think it would be good for the area’
“To me it’s a natural area for a golf course. The people who are shouting about protecting the plants are not dong a thing to protect them at the moment.”

James McGillivray, from Dornoch, said: “I am in favour of the course. I think it would be good for the area. The site is run down and needs to be done up.”

Another visitor, who gave his name only as John, said he is “ambivalent” to the plans.

“I can see both sides of the argument. You can see the job opportunities but you can also see the environmentalists’ concerns as well.

“But the biggest problem will be getting planning permission.”

Earlier this month an alliance of seven environmental organisations raised concerns over the new plans for the golf course.

The Conservation Coalition’s fears remain that a development of the type and scale planned would impact on national and international protected areas.

The group, that includes the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland, encouraged “anyone concerned about saving nature” to contact their local MSP.

C4C hit back challenging the coalition to explain how they would protect the natural habitat they say is threatened by the golf development.

Esme Clelland, from RSPB Scotland, who attended the exhibition, said it is hoped to have meaningful discussions with the applicants and consultants on the plans

“We still have concerns about the fact it still overlaps the designated site but it’s been good to chat to people and we will take that away and have a think about it.”


Adam Lawrence

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2022, 03:15:21 PM »
Tom Dargie, who served as the (obviously paid) ecologist on the Trump Menie development, which has destroyed a significant mobile dune system, to the point where its SSSI has been removed. Just a tad hypocritical.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Marty Bonnar

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2022, 04:29:15 PM »
We’re heading up to Dornoch on Saturday for a few days. Be interested to see/hear what the ‘locals’ are saying in the pub. Might cost me a pint or five!
F.
Assembled in Michigan from foreign parts.

Niall C

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2022, 07:48:23 PM »
Tom Dargie, who served as the (obviously paid) ecologist on the Trump Menie development, which has destroyed a significant mobile dune system, to the point where its SSSI has been removed. Just a tad hypocritical.


Adam,


Would he have been hypocritical if he advised Trump not to build a course on the mobile dune system ?


Niall

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2022, 02:27:14 AM »
I know what he advised but imo if you sleep with the devil you get tainted by him.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Niall C

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2022, 05:30:18 AM »
Adam


I absolutely agree that he's somewhat tarred by his previous association and pretty sure he rues the day that he was retained by Trump to provide professional advice. In fact I seem to recall him saying that Trump misrepresented the advice he had given at the planning meeting.


I suggest therefore that he was more "unfortunate" in his choice of client rather than being a hypocrite. And in fairness to Dargie, if you recall at the time, Trump was known in this country as being a colourful wealthy American businessman and wasn't at that point the toxic figure (to some) that he has become. It should also be said that other solid reputable firms acted for Trump on his Aberdeen development.


Niall

jeffwarne

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2022, 06:47:54 AM »
Adam


I absolutely agree that he's somewhat tarred by his previous association and pretty sure he rues the day that he was retained by Trump to provide professional advice. In fact I seem to recall him saying that Trump misrepresented the advice he had given at the planning meeting.


I suggest therefore that he was more "unfortunate" in his choice of client rather than being a hypocrite. And in fairness to Dargie, if you recall at the time, Trump was known in this country as being a colourful wealthy American businessman and wasn't at that point the toxic figure (to some) that he has become. It should also be said that other solid reputable firms acted for Trump on his Aberdeen development.


Niall


Any reasonable amount of due diligence at the time would've provided Dargie and the Scottish government all they needed to know about Trump and his heavy handed and deceitful practices as a developer.
To say nothing of his garish taste.
I'm neither pro or con Coul Links, but it's a real pity that a (potentially)worthwhile project has been thus far tainted/scuttled due to a project that NEVER should have been done, not only for environmental reasons on a very rare and special site, but especially due to the prior track record and conduct of the developer in question.
A real stain on Scottish golf and government, American development, and golf in general.
I say remediate the Balmedie site back to nature as a good start-then go from there.

I was anti Trump golf(everything about his courses is the antithesis of what I seek when playing) long before he got into reality TV or politics, having played exactly one Trump course in 1999, and have never had a desire to play another.
Nothing in the last 23 years of his golf involvement has done anything except cement that opinion.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2022, 06:52:07 AM by jeffwarne »
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2022, 07:34:25 AM »
Sounds like he is a solicitor! Many of their ethics are louse-like.


Getting very hard to get planning for golf these days. I am working on a 2 hole extension and have come up against the planners wanting:
1. A land classification survey
2. Desk top Archaelogical assessment
3. Heritage statement
4. Landscape visual impact assessment
5. Tree assessment (they are not being moved)
6. Flood risk assessment (the lower land is the present course)


and have run into trouble with a footpath that currently can't be accessed because of a crop that would be if it was grass.


Most of these I have ever been asked to do before or are stupidly OTT nonsense.


But it just seems to vary depending on which authority you use. I have never paid the same planning fee either, always changes!
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Niall C

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2022, 09:57:14 AM »
Adrian


We really should meet up again for a drink and then we can compare "war stories" !


Jeff


If you thought Balmedie was a non-starter for environmental reasons then I'm puzzled how you could avoid coming to the same conclusion on Embo.


But that aside, you should realise that in this country the planning permission "goes with the property" and not the applicant. In other words if Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock had got their planning permission first time round then they would have been at liberty to sell the ground lease (subject to the wording in the ground lease), complete with planning permission, to Donald Trump or anyone else they wished to. That goes for any planning application/consent. Consequently it is the merit of the application that is considered and not the merit of the applicant, which is entirely logical when you think about it.


That said, I tend to think the damage has already been done. What the first application did and this second application continues to do is unite the anti-golf lobby. You may think the country is 100% full of golf nuts but there is in fact a growing contingent of people who consider the sport to be elitist; sexist; and bad for the environment amongst other things. This proposed development just provides grist to the mill. So while at the end of the day we might end up with another lovely high-end golf development for mainly overseas golfers to play, golf in this country will have to fight that little bit harder to convince the non-golfing community that golf actually can be good for the environment. Just saying.


Niall 








Thomas Dai

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2022, 10:36:54 AM »
Out of curiosity what is the land of the proposed Coul course site currently being used for?
And if no course is built what will the land most likely be used for in the years to come?

Atb

Niall C

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2022, 11:03:43 AM »
David


There are several lengthy threads on Embo already. You'll find all in there if you don't already know the answer to your question.


Niall

jeffwarne

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2022, 01:31:42 PM »
Adrian


We really should meet up again for a drink and then we can compare "war stories" !


Jeff


If you thought Balmedie was a non-starter for environmental reasons then I'm puzzled how you could avoid coming to the same conclusion on Embo.


But that aside, you should realise that in this country the planning permission "goes with the property" and not the applicant. In other words if Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock had got their planning permission first time round then they would have been at liberty to sell the ground lease (subject to the wording in the ground lease), complete with planning permission, to Donald Trump or anyone else they wished to. That goes for any planning application/consent. Consequently it is the merit of the application that is considered and not the merit of the applicant, which is entirely logical when you think about it.


That said, I tend to think the damage has already been done. What the first application did and this second application continues to do is unite the anti-golf lobby. You may think the country is 100% full of golf nuts but there is in fact a growing contingent of people who consider the sport to be elitist; sexist; and bad for the environment amongst other things. This proposed development just provides grist to the mill. So while at the end of the day we might end up with another lovely high-end golf development for mainly overseas golfers to play, golf in this country will have to fight that little bit harder to convince the non-golfing community that golf actually can be good for the environment. Just saying.


Niall


Niall,
In no way was I giving the environmental seal of approval to Coul Links as I know nothing of either site from a science point of view. I also mentioned I was neither pro nor con Coul Links, and I doubt I would beat a path to its door to play it, with so many available gems to be had in Scotland. For example, I've yet to play Castle Stuart or Balmedie.
But, despite the Scottish law you explained, I would go to the wall saying that DT's involvement, black eye and charade at Balmedie did no favors for any group to follow elsewhere on a sensitive site.


The law may say that the merit is in the application, but not the applicant, but in practice I seriously doubt that's actually the case.(and common sense would suggest it shouldn't be given what went down)
Regardless of whether we agree on that detail, I'm sure you are correct in that the anti-golf contingent grew significantly stronger after the Trump show hit town. And justifiably so.
And I'm not all that convinced golf "can be" good for the environment, unless we're comparing it to a more disruptive alternative.

"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Kalen Braley

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of) New
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2022, 03:28:58 PM »
Edited:  I misread that Dargie was working on behalf of C4C, as opposed to the opposition group, which seemed egregious after working with Trump.

But as Adam points out still seems odd.  Perhaps he feels the need to pay penance of sorts for his previous sins!
« Last Edit: July 28, 2022, 04:27:31 PM by Kalen Braley »

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Coul Links Lives (sort of)
« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2022, 03:56:24 PM »
To pick which guy?
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

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