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Scottish Golf Environment Group



Scotland’s golf courses contain many archaeological sites, ruins and monuments that are incidental to golf but important in their own right. Although golf course development nowadays comes under planning rules designed to preserve heritage features, ancient sites have always tended to survive well on courses. This is because golf course management is usually a benevolent regime: natural and manmade features tend to be appreciated and enhanced for the variety and character they afford each course, rather than being swept away in radical improvements.

As courses change to reflect new technology and the ambitions of their members, and as new courses are planned and established, the Group assists clubs in finding sources of sound information and practical advice about their share of the nation’s heritage. There is little doubt that golfers, following a game founded upon tradition, are in sympathy with the Group’s aims: to turn that sympathy into practical conservation for the benefit of golfers, public and environment.

The earliest remains of human settlement in eastern Scotland lie under a course at Fife Ness near to the intriguing Dane’s Dyke. The new course at Drumoig, Fife, was planned around a range of archaeological sites. The Muir of Ord course in Easter Ross owns a prehistoric ritual enclosure, or henge, dating from around 2000 BC. The siting of the pin in the middle of the sacred area has a certain resonance, although archaeologically one would always prefer to see such sites undisturbed a rare case of a "hole in one" being less than desirable! Iron Age forts feature on several courses, sometimes making unusual approach hazards to greens, as at the Royal Tarlair at Macduff, Aberdeenshire.

Remains of at least two medieval castles associated with the Bruce family feature, at Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire and, most famously, Bruce’s Castle, the 9th hole at Turnberry, Ayrshire, which recently appeared on a British postage stamp. Remains of pre-Improvement agriculture, in the form of rig and furrow cultivation ridges, are an almost ubiquitous reminder of more recent centuries. This is no accident, since many courses were established on marginal land around settlements just before the arrival of mechanised ploughing, which has wiped out rig and furrow on most land that continued in farming use.

The Defence of Britain project has identified coast defence and anti-aircraft batteries on golf courses, for example at Stromness, Orkney. Sometimes completely unknown features, such as the 18th-century bridge at Kingsbarns, Fife, are discovered during course development.





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