ISSN 1652–7224  :  Published 11 March 2009
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Golf and the Golfing Landscape’s Relation to Nature

Donald Trump’s Golf Links in Northern Scotland

Erik Jönsson
Department of Social and Economic Geography, Lund University

The aim of this article is to locate golf as an activity within a wider context. While many factors are taken up in brief, the main context implied is in this article is golf in relation with nature. On the basis of an exposition of the golf course Donald Trump’s company were granted permission during the fall of 2008 to build outside Aberdeen, the golf course is here seen as a way of using and valuing land. Intimately linked to this is the planning process that the establishment of a large-scale golf facility entails.

Golf, just as any other activity, is seen as needing access to a proportion of space. An activity takes place. At the same time no activity or existence has any self-evident right to space, and development is thus about conflicts and compromises resulting in some activities gaining access to space – often at the expense of other activities and existences. The process described in this article is to a large extent about how these conflicts over what is to gain access to space has played out on the site. Plans to develop a golf course on the specific site were initiated in 2006, but were not give permission until autumn 2008, after a long and somewhat infected planning process. To a large extent, the conflicts within the planning process stemmed from the fact that part of the golf course was to be built on land previously protected under environmental legislation.

By and large, the planning process has been a conflict about which should be given top priority – environmental or economic considerations. One can detect two different standpoints on how nature shall be valued, where the golf course’s opponents emphasize nature’s role as fostering biodiversity while the developers emphasize the scenic view and its implications for the golf course. The conflict has thus been about whether the site should be preserved as it is to fulfil the needs of animals and plants already there, or if the site should be developed in order to attract golf tourists and create employment opportunities. As a specific kind of artificial nature, the golf links must be seen as the physical manifestation of a certain relationship with nature where some qualities have been emphasized as representing a proper valuation of nature. In the case of the Aberdeen golf course a valuation of nature on the basis of its possibility to attract tourists has led to this restructuring at the expense of a valuation of nature on the basis of retaining a specific habitat.

Copyright © Erik Jönsson 2009.