Study: Climate change could wipe out St. Andrews by end of century

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf
The Climate Coalition issues a report citing golf as one of several sports in the U.K. that could experience significant future problems due to climate change
The Climate Coalition issues a report citing golf as one of several sports in the U.K. that could experience significant future problems due to climate change

The Old Course at St. Andrews has been challenging golfers for over 450 years, but climate change is threatening the future of Scotland’s legendary links layout.

That’s according to a Climate Coalition report that looked at how climate change could affect sporting venues in the United Kingdom. Rising sea levels combined with fiercer storms are putting any golf course located along a coast in danger.

That includes, but is not limited to, the Old Course, which is in the regular rotation of hosts for the Open Championship. Other courses like Open host Royal Troon could be affected.

“Sea-level rise poses the greatest long-term threat to golf in the UK,” the report reads. “More than one in six of Scotland’s 600 golf courses are located on the coast — including the Old Course at St Andrews, Royal Troon and Montrose Golf Links in Angus.

“‘Links’ are the oldest type of golf courses, developed in Scotland, and located on the coast on ‘links land’ – characterized by dunes, sandy soil and fine-textured grassland. The R&A, the governing body for golf outside the USA and Mexico, recognizes the risk, while only a small increase in sea-level rise would imperil all of the world’s links courses before the end of the century. ”

The report looked at Montrose Golf Links, which first hosted play in 1562 and is considered to be one of the five oldest golf courses in the world. The report states that the North Sea has advanced onto the course 70 meters over the last 30 years.

“As the sea rises and the coast falls away, we’re left with nowhere to go. Climate change is often seen as tomorrow’s problem, but it’s already eating away at our course,” Montrose director Chris Curnin says in the report.

The report says that the golf courses are trying to do their part in, pardon the pun, stemming the tide. All 10 Open championship venues have become certified by the Golf Environment Organisation, a body committed to moving golf courses toward sustainability.

The report also looked at the impact of climate changes on other sports like soccer, cricket and winter sports. It says that by mid-century, half of the past Winter Olympics host cities could be too warm to host outdoor Alpine sports.

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