AMONGST golfers, it has gained almost mythical status and next year several will get the chance to play the famed Old Course in St Andrews in reverse.

As if golf isn’t complicated enough, is appears they now want us to play it backwards. What could possibly go wrong? To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the St Andrews Links Trust, which looks after the course, a week-long event will allow players to play the course as it was originally set out as an 18 hole course in 1764.

In 1870, old Tom Morris split the first green from the 17th hole and introduced the current anti-clockwise playing of the course.

Now, next March for six days, golfers will be able to play the course in its current form before switching to the ancient clockwise course which was first developed in the 15th century.

The Trust is hopeful that it will become an annual event and allow even more golfers the chance to partake in a slice of history.

Keyboards are no doubt clicking away from Kansas to Kuala Lumpur with dedicated golfers keen to take part and with a price tag of £575 per head, it will also prove quite lucrative to the Trust.

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Fair play to the Trust management for thinking up such an innovative money spinner.

Scotland, of course, has an abundance of world-class links that attract hundreds of thousands of golfers every year.

Every town seems to have a course as the Victorians in particular, launched a golf course building boom which still leaves a visible legacy to this day.

But there are limits to the growth of the game and there is currently a very bitter row taking place on the glorious Sutherland coast over plans to build an 18-hole golf course on the shores of Loch Fleet.

This week, councillors voted in favour of the course being built at Coul Links despite a huge number of objections.

The coastal site near Embo, north of Dornoch, has a number of environmental designations, and previous proposals for an 18-hole course were refused permission in 2020.

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RSPB Scotland and Ramblers Scotland are among organisations to raise concerns about the new project’s environmental impact.

But councillors on Highland Council’s north planning applications committee voted eight to six in favour of the plans, which now go to the Scottish Government for a decision.

The developers, Communities for Coul Limited (C4C), say they want to build a world-class course that would attract more visitors to the area.

C4C said the course would create up to 400 new jobs and generate more than £11m annually for the local economy.

Highland Council planning officers recommended councillors refuse permission as, although the project had substantial local support and could bring economic benefits, concerns remained about its environmental impact.

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It is a row which perfectly illustrates a wider problem across most of the Highlands.

On the one hand, the creation of 400 jobs in an area not exactly teeming with employment would seem to be too good to turn down.

But that part of Sutherland regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors, mainly golfers, to play the magnificent links at Royal Dornoch, which is around two miles from Coul.

It is arguably the finest course in Scotland and is a mecca for golfers from all over the world.

But many of the houses in Dornoch are owned by wealthy Americans who use them for a few weeks in the summer and rent them out – at American prices – the rest of the year.

This gives the youngsters of the town no choice but to leave in search of a decent job and home.

It is hard to see where the people to fill the 400 new jobs created at Coul would come from and it’s even less clear where they would stay.

There is also the environmental damage to consider as Coul is home to a unique sand dunes system which would be under threat.

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Golf courses do not cause that much environmental damage and in some ways actually enhance biodiversity, but bulldozing pristine dunes to build one is another thing altogether.

The area is also on the NC 500 route and has seen a rise in tourists from that, which has led to a number of hospitality businesses springing up as a result.

But attracting tens of thousands more could have devastating consequences for the town as, despite its worldwide stature, it is not very big and would struggle to cope with the influx that could lead to over-tourism such as seen on Skye.

Sometimes things are best left as they are despite the promise of great riches.