THE new owners of one of the biggest hotels in the Highlands have said the development of a world-class golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland is an “essential component” of the area’s economic revitalisation.

Marine And Lawn Hotels And Resorts recently bought the Dornoch Hotel to add to its portfolio of luxury hotels in famous golfing destinations in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Currently closed for renovations, it is expected to have 89 rooms when it reopens as Dornoch Station Hotel next year.

The company’s president, Phillip Allen, voiced his support for the proposed course at Coul Links on the Dornoch Firth in a letter following a visit to the site with members of the Communities for Coul group (C4C), which is behind the plans.

C4C is currently finalising a planning application for the project, to submit to Highland Council. The not-for-profit company, set up by local people, has secured a commitment from course developer Mike Keiser to build the course, with the help of designers Coore & Crenshaw, if planning permission is received.

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Allen said: “Marine And Lawn Hotels And Resorts are delighted to add the Dornoch Hotel to our portfolio of golf destination hotels, Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland and Marine Troon, Marine North Berwick and Rusacks St Andrews in Scotland.

“The prospect of a golf course at Coul Links certainly made the prospect of investing in Dornoch more attractive. Many visitors to Dornoch, particularly those playing golf at the world-famous Royal Dornoch Golf Club, currently only come to town for one day, and most are not eating, shopping, or spending the night in the area.

“In part, this is because the region lacks sufficient high-quality accommodation, something we hope to help rectify with a complete renovation and re-imagining of the Dornoch Hotel.

“But it is also because other parts of the UK boast more ‘brand name’ golf courses that attract golf tourists for longer stays, whereas Dornoch is known almost exclusively for Royal Dornoch. A course developed by Mike Keiser with architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on the stunning linksland of Coul would immediately change that perception. These three names are synonymous with golf course architecture at its finest and have created some of the best and most coveted golf destinations of the last 50 years.”

The hotel company made a £10,000 donation to C4C, helping the group reach its £150,000 fundraising target to help meet the costs of its planning application.

Allen added: “We applaud C4C’s decision to respond to the concerns of environmental groups by creating a ‘low-impact’ design that preserves the dune heath and establishes fairways and greens simply through mowing, rather than by stripping away the existing turf and planting new grass.”

Gordon Sutherland of C4C said: “We are very grateful to Phillip and his colleagues at Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts, both for their extremely generous donation and the full-hearted backing of our plans for Coul Links.

“They share aspirations of playing a part in revitalising the Sutherland economy in a sustainable way and creating good employment opportunities for the people who live here. We look forward to working together.”

C4C said that along with the proposed eco-lodge hotel at Coul Links, which is currently the subject of a planning application, the relaunch of the Dornoch Hotel would add significant growth to the area.