Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Designer: Old Tom Morris & John Sutherland
Championship Length: 6,732 / 6,514 / 6,229 yards
PAR: 70 / 70 / 70
However good Brora, Nairn or Golspie may be, the jewel in the Highland golfing crown is definitely Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Universally rated as being in the world’s top 20 golf courses, Royal Dornoch is unique among the great links of Scotland in that it has never hosted the British Open. Not a reflection of its quality, this is solely because of Dornoch’s remote location. However remote it may be though, this links is a must play course on any golfing trip to Scotland.
Though golf at Dornoch we are reliably told, dates back to 1616, Royal Dornoch Golf Club itself is quite young in comparison with some other Scottish clubs. In 1877, the Sutherland Golfing Society applied for permission to play golf over the Dornoch Links. Permission was granted on November 9th and so the Dornoch Golf Club was born. It was not until 1906, with a decree by King Edward VII, that the club became known as Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Old Tom Morris was invited to design “nine proper golf holes” in 1886 and with the addition of a further nine holes, Dornoch boasted an 18-hole layout of 5,960 yards by 1904. The course has since undergone minor changes with respect to bunker positions and length and now offers a championship challenge of 6,732 yards.
The quality of Royal Dornoch is immediately apparent from the array of golfers, who have graced its fairways. Vardon, Locke, Norman, Crenshaw and Watson are among the many to have been impressed with the challenge. When Tom Watson played the course prior to winning the Open at Muirfield in 1980, he remarked that the experience was “the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course”. Even given Dornoch’s remote location, it is perhaps unjust that the only major championship hosted here was the British Amateur in 1985, when Jose Maria Olazabal came to Royal Dornoch in defence of his title. Unfortunately though, he caught the wind in an evil mood and shot an opening 86.
A stiff but fair test of golf, Royal Dornoch rewards the thinker on top of their game and while the visitor rarely uses the championship layout, the regular 6,514-yard layout is more than a match for most. The greens are large and undulating and while there is room off the tee, the placement of your drive deserves much thought due to the wind and pin positions. In the mould of most traditional links, the course goes practically straight out and back, with the angle changing subtly on each hole. And while little is hidden at Royal Dornoch, it requires a golfer playing at their best to see it all and adjust their strategy.
Brora (35 min); Carnegie Links (15 min); Cruden Bay (4 hrs, 40 min); Golspie (25 min); Moray Old (2 hrs, 40 min); Murcar (4 hrs, 25 min); Nairn (1 hr, 50 min); Nairn Dunbar (1 hr, 50 min); Royal Aberdeen (4 hrs, 30 min); Tain (30 min)
RECOMMENDED NEARBY ACCOMMODATION:
Craigmonie Hotel (1 hr, 25 min); Culloden House (1 hr, 30 min); Golf View Hotel (1 hr, 50 min); Mansfield House (30 min); Royal Golf Hotel (1 min); Skibo Castle (15 min)
Situated just off the main A9 route, a little north of the town of Dornoch and about 45 miles north of Inverness.