Photo: The Greenkeeping Team at Nairn Dunbar

From L-R: Graeme Robbins – Assistant Greenkeeper, Richard Johnstone – Course Manager, Michael McInnes – Assistant Greenkeeper, Ryan Knox – Apprentice Greenkeeper

Nairn Dunbar Golf Club is celebrating a notable success after claiming the 2021 ‘Environmental Golf Course of the Year’ accolade.

At the annual Golf Environment Awards, held virtually on Wednesday (16 December) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Highland club were recognised for their outstanding commitment to environmental and sustainability projects. Beating off the challenge of three other finalists – two English venues, The Springs GC in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire County GC, along with the Hong Kong GC – Nairn Dunbar emerged victorious after sustained work to improve the quality of their course for members and visitors.

After Nairn Dunbar were also nominated for the same award among five clubs last year, course manager Richard Johnstone and his team went one better.

Johnstone, who is continuing to engage in education with the aim to become one of the most qualified in the UK, said: “It is great to see that all the work we are doing as a club is being recognised as we strive to achieve environmental sustainability, provide a positive contribution to wildlife and continue to maximise the playing experience for members and guests.”

On and off the course, Johnstone has overseen a host of projects which were highlighted by the judging panel. The course is a haven for wildlife, a sign of a healthy environment, while members and visitors are enjoying an improved links experience. With the club looking forward to co-hosting the qualifying for The Amateur Championship with The Nairn Golf Club next summer, Johnstone implemented a rough management plan to return the links roughs to their natural condition, allowing native grasses, wildflowers and heathers to regenerate to a dominant position and leave open and wispy roughs.

Working closely with the likes of The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and STRI, tree and gorse thinning has revealed the natural topography and also allowed natural grasses to return, restoring the links effect to the overall course.

Nairn Dunbar – where leading professionals Russell Knox and Kelsey MacDonald are honorary members – are also working with The R&A to help promote Golf Course 2030, an industry initiative to address the challenges posed by climate change, resource constraints and regulation on golf course conditioning and playability.

Part of a rich stretch of links golfing terrain in the north, Nairn Dunbar offers a par-72 test with views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle and beyond to the mountains of Sutherland, as well as inland to the neighbouring Cawdor Hills. Reached by excellent travel connections only 15 minutes from Inverness Airport and two hours from Aberdeen Airport, the club has welcomed over 100 new members this year as it continues to strive to improve the links challenge for golfers of all ability.

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