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Wind Turbines More Than Just A Bunch Of Hot Air

Since turbines are essentially for those who embrace the wind of change, we are unlikely to see them standing proud on too many of the world’s more traditional courses any time soon.
Such was the impression gleaned by Iain Macpherson, a consultant on renewable energy, when he suggested in the latest edition of the UK’s excellent Golf Club Secretary magazine that 30 percent of clubs in the UK would do well to go down the renewable energy route. His claims were along the lines that a single 15 kilowatt turbine could do rather more than cover the cost of a club’s electricity, and in wilder weather, it would make money as excess energy was snapped up by the National Grid.
Macpherson is not alone in his profession in discovering that the mere mention of turbines is apt to put golfing committees in a spin. And that that applies even at those clubs where they are still trying to play their way out of the recession.
“Over our dead bodies,” would appear to be the most oft-repeated cry, with some members of the old school talking about turbines in much the same derogatory tones they usually reserve for women golfers.
It seems that they do not want to see them (turbines) from the clubhouse window – and never mind that a turbine’s swing speed of 100 mph would put them in mind of that of a more accomplished professional. Tiger Woods, of course, is the exception in that he his swing has been recorded at 130 mph.
Objections have also been raised about the sound of a turbine. Though Macpherson maintains that, at a distance of 100 meters, the noise will merge with the buzz of the countryside, it is probably fair to suggest that he has forgotten such jumpy characters as Colin Montgomerie. Or, as Butch Harmon likes to call him, “rabbit ears.”
Yet, for all the entirely predictable opposition, it is not too difficult to understand why Macpherson and his fellow renewable energy enthusiasts would see golfers and wind turbines as perfect bedfellows. Away from the many hilltop courses, just think of how much wind is there to be harnessed at some of our Open championship venues. Take Turnberry where, on the second day of the 1975 John Player Classic, Tony Jacklin required a driver, a 1-iron and two three-irons by way of arriving on the green of the 515-yard 17th. For the record, he holed out for his par.
Carnoustie, of course, would be another delicious wind trap, as indeed would St. Andrews. Mind you, such are the traditions in that old grey town that no one would dream of asking the wind to perform anything beyond its habitual role of protecting the course from sub-60 scores.
Yet, there is one man up in Aberdeenshire, a gentleman by the name of Alexander Rankin, who cannot believe the reluctance of the golfing community to opt for this new technology. Sixteen-and-a-half-years ago, he paid £17,500 to have a turbine installed at his wind-swept home in Fyvie. It paid for itself in nine years, and for the next seven years, his electricity came free. (By that time, it was also charging up the buggies on the golf course he built on his land in 2003.)
Currently, Rankin’s wind-turbine is out of action after being damaged – paradoxically by a gale-force wind – while it was being serviced. The owner’s thinking at the moment is that he may well stump up the £50,000 it will cost for a new 15 kilowatt edition, which would fuel not just his house but his recently built clubhouse. What is more, since this turbine would be attached to the National Grid, it would enable him make money from any extra energy as opposed to doing what he had to do before in dumping it.
Rankin explains that his members, who are not of the stuffy variety, loved his turbine – and not just because it served as the best of marker posts at the 17th. As for Rankin, himself, he revelled in those occasions when, with the rest of the hillside in the throes of a power cut, his lights would still be merrily ablaze.
“People who say that wind power isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be don’t know what they’re talking about,” he says. “All sorts of golf clubs could be helping to reduce their members’ fees and, of course, making a marked difference to their carbon footprint.”
It’s a pretty good bet that Macpherson’s turbines are not about to become better sellers than the latest in graphite drivers but sometimes the strangest things can come to pass.
For instance, when the suggestion was first made that advertising should go up around the pitch at Murrayfield, the Scottish Rugby Union did not want to know. However, when they learned how much income such advertising might generate, they changed their tune. All of a sudden, it seemed remarkably tasteful.


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