THE first golf course in the world to gain royal patronage is “totally unplayable”, it was claimed yesterday, as it emerged funding has been slashed just months after a council pledged to spend an extra £50,000 to save it.
There are fears the North Inch Golf Course in Perth will be closed forever because of flooding by the adjacent River Tay.
With the course having fallen into disrepair through flooding and a lack of investment, Perth and Kinross Council said in February it would put an extra £25,000 into North Inch over the next two years to secure its future.
But golfers have since learned the council has actually cut the funding for the course, one of the oldest in Scotland, by £23,800.
Donald Macleod, a former member of the Perth Artisans Golf Club, yesterday claimed the council had slashed the money it pays sports contractors McNab Sport to look after the grounds.
The Kinross-based firm refused to comment, but the council said the current maintenance contract had been reduced by almost £24,000.
Mr Macleod said: “They’ve said we’re getting this extra money, but they’re just cutting back and cutting back.”
He added that, as a result of the cut in grounds maintenance, the course is now “worse than ever”.
Eddie Thornton, greens convener of the Perth Artisans Golf Club, said the iconic course is “totally unplayable”.
He said: “I’ve been playing this course for 40 years and I’ve never seen it in such a mess.
“There’s so many of the greens damaged it’s unbelievable.
“The rough is absolutely horrendous. It’s taking guys umpteen shots to play out of it because it’s so thick. It’s been turned into a dog toilet.”
Both men have also raised questions over the council’s decision to employ a new golf course officer, whose role will be to “market and manage the course”.
A council spokesman said yesterday: “The council has altered the golf course maintenance contract by approximately £23,800. This will support the provision of a golf course officer to market and manage the course in the interests of increasing the use of the facility, as well as acting as a point of contact for local clubs.
“A range of regular duties for the upkeep of the course, such as litter picking, will now be dealt with by the council’s golf course operatives during the period 1 April to 30 September.”
He added: “The previously approved additional funding of £25,000 per year in 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be used as agreed at committee for course improvements, including additions to the maintenance contract, with the aim of enhancing the appeal and use of the course.”
St Andrews is known as the “home of golf”, with the first recording of golf being played there as far back as 1574.
However, Robin Valentine – captain of Perth Merchants Golf Club – has said it is Perth which should hold the title, after finding that King James IV played golf in the town more than 70 years earlier.