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Top golf architect enlisted to design course on Jura

THERE will be no clubhouse, no hotel and hardly any players but Scotland's next 18-hole golf course could be one of the best in the world.

ISLAND DREAM: Australian financier Greg Coffey is consulting Jura residents about building a golf course and creating several jobs. Pictures: Rex
ISLAND DREAM: Australian financier Greg Coffey is consulting Jura residents about building a golf course and creating several jobs. Pictures: Rex

Millionaire Australian financier Greg Coffey, who retired this year aged 41, has been consulting with the 200 residents of the Hebridean island of Jura about his plans to build the course on his recently acquired Ardfin Estate.

Official plans will be lodged with Argyll and Bute council in early January.

The course will be Scotland's first since Donald Trump's controversial development at Menie, Aberdeenshire, but those behind Mr Coffey's project are confident it will create none of the animosity witnessed in the north-east.

The Jura course will be Mr Coffey's own private retreat, to be played only by himself and selected guests, but, despite the elite nature of the development, locals appear to be broadly in favour of the project – because crucially it will create about four full-time jobs in the fragile Hebridean economy.

Willie MacDonald, estate manager at Ardfin, said the new course would be "not at all" like Mr Trump's project, with residents largely positive about Mr Coffey's plans.

He said: "It's not going to have a huge impact on the locals and although it will be built on a big piece of land, it won't be a commercial project, there will be no hotel and there will be no clubhouse.

"There will be hardly any landscaping required. Although there is a serious amount of work to be done in terms of improving the land, such as drainage, there won't be a huge level of construction involved. There will be very little visual impact either. The community are very relaxed about it.

"There is a percentage of the community who are excited about it and want to see anything on Jura that can be considered an improvement."

The course is being designed by golf architect Bob Harrison, based in Sydney, who will transform disused arable and grazing land on the old estate farm into undulating greens with sea views over to Islay and the Mull of Kintyre,

Mr Harrison, who is considered in the top 12 in his field and specialises in creating courses on poor-quality land and difficult sites, was dispatched to the island to discuss his proposals with locals.

Mr MacDonald said: "He explained what the course was about and I think people now realise, in reality, it will make very little difference to them. My understanding is that is to be a very challenging course and the intention is to build something of a very high standard."

He added: "The investment and the employment being created is far more important to residents than being able to play the course. There aren't a lot of golfers on Jura.

"One job on Jura is massive and if we are going to create three, four or even five, that is massive."

Mr Coffey, who as a hedge fund trader was nicknamed the Wizard of Oz, retired this year with an estimated fortune of £430 million. He announced in February that he was ending his 20-year career to spend more time with his wife and children.

Mr Coffey, known for his private nature, is a regular visitor to Jura but has not met locals directly about his proposals.

Mr MacDonald said: "He is very pleasant, he likes the island and enjoys coming here.

"I found him to be very genuine and I think he will fit in well with the community.

"He is not here to cause trouble. What he is here to do is take an estate that has been allowed to disintegrate and rehabilitate it into something that will be very beneficial to the island."

Some were opposed to his closure of Jura House Gardens, one of only a handful of tourist attractions on the island. Mr MacDonald said the gardens, which are still staffed, were too close to Mr Coffey's house to be open to the public, with added issues of health and safety in the grounds.

Given the scale of the golf course development, it is almost certain it will be the Scottish Government that ultimately rules on the proposals.

There won't be a huge level of construction or visual impact ... The community are very relaxed about it

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