Arnold Palmer to design first Scottish golf course

The legendary golfer is planning a visit to Scotland. Picture: Getty
The legendary golfer is planning a visit to Scotland. Picture: Getty
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ARNOLD Palmer is to design his first golf course in Scotland after agreeing at the age of 85 to craft a new second layout at Castle Stuart Golf Links, near Inverness.

The exciting news comes hot on the heels of an announcement that another golfing legend, Jack Nicklaus, will have his name on a course he’s set to create at the Ury Estate, near Stonehaven.

Palmer’s course close to the Highland capital will be designed in collaboration with Castle Stuart’s managing partner Mark Parsinen, who built the existing course in tandem with Gil Hanse.

After opening in 2009, it staged the Scottish Open three years in a row from 2011-2013 and, subject to planning permission, it is envisaged that work on the new course will start early in 2016, ahead of the same event returning there next summer.

While members of his team have already been over “several times”, Palmer, who claimed the second of his two Open Championship successes on Scottish soil – at Royal Troon in 1962 – is expected to pay his first visit to Castle Stuart ahead of this year’s Claret Jug joust at St Andrews.

“I have had a strong affection for Scotland since I first went there in 1960 to play in the Open at St. Andrews,” said Palmer, speaking during his Invitational event at Bay Hill in Orlando. “I have returned many times since, including a memorable victory in the Open Championship at Troon in 1962. The opportunity to build an iconic golf course in Scotland would be the culmination of all these great experiences. I am looking forward to my visit to Castle Stuart in a few months’ time.”

Parsinen, who fell in love with the site on the Moray Firth coast the first time he clapped eyes on it, added: “We have been in discussion for more than a year now with the Arnold Palmer Group and we are delighted that it has joined the partnership at Castle Stuart Golf Links. We are working with his design team on the routing of the new course with a view to beginning construction this time next year.”

The new course, which will be on the Inverness side of the existing one, will be similar in length to its 7,193 yards and will feature spectacular views across the Moray Firth as well as of the 17th century castle which gives the course its name. “This is fantastic news, not just for Inverness, but for the Highlands and for Scotland,” said Stuart McColm, Castle Stuart’s general manager. “We have focused on working with other partners to promote the Highlands as a world-class golfing destination and this announcement that the Arnold Palmer Group wants to partner with us can only enhance that reputation.

“Having two world-class courses in Inverness, together with all the other great courses in the Highlands, will undoubtedly drive more people to this area and have a significant economic impact.”

Plans for the second course were first revealed by Parsinen in an interview with The Scotsman on the eve of the 2011 Scottish Open. “We’re not done here,” he said then. “We will never stop trying to make this a better golf course while there are other aspects to the project. A second golf course, for example.”

The majority of the Palmer Group’s courses are in the United States, but he has a number in Japan as well as two under construction in China. Probably his best-known course in Europe is Ireland’s K Club, which staged the 2006 Ryder Cup.

“We are delighted to hear the news that Mr Palmer will be working on a second course at Castle Stuart Golf Links, adding to an already world-class offering of golf in the region,” said VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay. “The Highlands is rightly regarded as one of the world’s top golfing destinations and these new developments, in addition to the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open returning to Castle Stuart in 2016, will only serve to enhance the reputation of the region and Scotland as a whole.”

The addition of a Palmer course to Scotland’s golfing jewels comes after it emerged that the new championship layout at Ury Estate will be the first in the United Kingdom to be called the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. His only other design in Scotland, at Gleneagles, was originally called the Monarchs and is now the PGA Centenary.

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