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Alnmouth Village coastal erosion

Lost at Sea? England’s Oldest Nine-hole Links is under threat

Winds, rain and erosion… Could we soon see the end of one of the UK’s most historic courses?

 

Following one of the wettest winters in recent history, Alnmouth Village Golf Club is at risk of being lost to coastal erosion.

Located on the Northumbrian coast, the club was founded in 1869, making it the oldest nine-hole links course in England.

As with several other links courses around the extremities of the United Kingdom, coastal erosion has become a key factor in recent years. At Alnmouth Village, plans are quickly being put into place in an attempt to make sure the course survives.

Ian Simpson, Secretary at Alnmouth Village, said: “It hasn’t taken away any of the course yet and we can still play all nine holes. It has exposed some of the land very close to the 5th green and if we don’t do something about it then it will take away our 5th green this year.

“Over the last 20 years, a lot of that coastline [north-east England] has been taken away. We were obviously aware that we were close to the sea but not to the extent that we were in danger. A lot of that coastline is protected by big concrete blocks and, as it happens, the part that has been taken away, towards our 5th green, there were no blocks there.”

Alnmouth Village are just one of several clubs around the country where coastal erosion is becoming a problem, if it hasn’t already started to encroach on golfing ground.

However, there are now plans in place for the Northumberland club to fix the issue, so it can remain standing as the country’s oldest nine-hole links course.

Alnmouth Village

How are Alnmouth Village planning to combat the problem of coastal erosion?

There are plenty of different versions of coastal defences that can be seen around the world.

Simpson looked into an experimental process called InsepraBALL. However, he and the club have opted to go down a more traditional route in an attempt to save their golf course.

“The solution we are looking at is paying privately to have some armoured rock put down, which is locally quarried stone,” he said.

“If you can picture the big harbours, they have big rocks around them, and that is the sort of thing that we are looking at. We had a company come in to give us a quote and we imagine that it will be in the tens of thousands [of pounds].

“We have about 100 metres to fill with this armoured rock, and there is the process of getting it onto the beach, transportation and everything else that goes with it. They reckon it’s about a two-week job.

However, the club are having to go it alone when it comes to funding as the club being built and based on private land.

“I have been speaking to the local Conservative councillor and he has been on our side. However, we have hit a brick wall when it comes to funding from them because we are classed as private land,” Simpson explained of the situation.

“If it was a dwelling, a house at risk, then there would be funding available. A £25 million sea defence fund has been allocated by the Northumberland County Council but we can’t dip into that unfortunately. It has to come from our club funds. Whatever we have, we will have to use. We will try and look for funding elsewhere but I don’t know if it will be available.”

Funding has been an issue at Fortrose & Rosemarkie as well. The Scottish club suffered badly from storm damage in the first couple of months of 2024.

The damage to the coastline has seen the historic Highlands links set up a GoFundMe page because they cannot afford the repairs and the possible moving of holes.

Other Scottish course are at risk as well, with Montrose – the fifth oldest golf course in the world – losing seven metres of its coastline over the last year.

If the plans do not work at Alnmouth Village, that won’t put an end to the club’s 155-year history. Instead, they would look at getting more land so they could redesign the layout away from the eroded coast. However, Simpson explained that this would be a lot more difficult than it sounds.

“We have not looked at changing the design per se, but if we were to lose that green then we would look at putting a green in somewhere else at great expense. That would be our only option,” the club’s secretary stated.

“We are fairly tied that the land we have got is under a licence from the Burgage Holders, who own various houses in the village. They have a lease from the Duke of Northumberland to maintain the common, which is where we play golf on.

“It is a complicated situation, but we would have to get more land off them to move our 5th green in to.”

Have you played at Alnmouth Village before? Let us know your thoughts with a post on X, formerly Twitter!

Matt Coles

Matt Coles

Mention a European country, and Matt will tell you which resorts make the National Club Golfer Top 100s: European Resorts list. He might even throw in who designed the golf course and how many rooms the hotel has got at each one…

Matt got into the game of golf from a young age, following his old man to the local golf club. He fell for the sport, and now can’t seem to go a day without thinking about how to improve his game (Thanks Dad!). Matt has been a member of Howley Hall GC in Leeds since 2020, and is just about managing to maintain a single-figure handicap. He likes to remind people that he once broke 75, but won’t tell people that it was on a shortened course during the winter.

He moved to Leeds after graduating from the University of Central Lancashire with a First Class Honours degree in Sports Journalism. Matt joined NCG after almost five years travelling the world with the Professional Squash Association, working on events in all four corners of the globe.

Matt currently plays a Cobra King LTDx driver and RadSpeed 3-wood. TaylorMade monopolise the rest of his bag, with a SIM UDI, M5 irons and both Milled Grind and HI-TOE wedges, along with a Monza Redline putter. He uses a Vice Pro Plus golf ball, because he’s a bit different…

Away from golf, Matt is a Manchester United fan, and a keen runner, having ran the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon (his first and possibly last), in May 2023.

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