Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Championship Links
Dornoch is widely considered to be one of the best natural and beautiful links in Scotland (many say in the world!). While records indicate golf was played here in 1616, the club was formed in 1877 with a Tom Morris layout. The course was later extended and modified by Donald Ross, a Dornoch native (par 72, 6,533 yards). Ross’s design is seen in every hole and particularly around the huge greens with bunkers, ridges, hollows and plateaus, and gorse abounds throughout. Ranked #6 on Golf Digest’s list of 100 Greatest Courses outside the US.
Brora Golf Club
Located in the northern highlands just a short drive from Dornoch, Brora Golf Club, established in 1891 and redesigned by James Braid in 1923, is well worth a visit. Here you have a classic out and back layout over rolling topography similar to that of St. Andrews and North Berwick. As noted writer Jim Finegan states “Brora is among my dozen favorite seaside courses in Scotland, as fine an example of Braid’s work at the sea as we are likely to find today”.
Golspie Golf Club
Established in 1889 and designed by the legendary James Braid, Golspie Golf Club offers unique links golf in the Scottish Highlands. Located 10 miles from Dornoch, Golspie offers an unusual contrast in golfing terrrain traversing from links to heathland, then to pasture before returning to links over the final holes. The par 70 course is one of the north’s most pleasant courses with stunning views over the Dornoch Firth and the towering backdrop of Ben Bhraggie.
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Designed by American developer Mark Parsinen of Kingsbarns and Gil Hanse, Castle Stuart is considered a “visual masterpiece”. The opening three holes on each nine run away from the clubhouse along the edge of a raised beach alongside the Moray Firth, offering spectacular views across the water to the Black Isle. Clever mounding ensures most holes are played in isolation with the next hole only revealed after the current one has been played. Holes 4 to 9 and 13 to 18 are played more inland, with each loop ending on either side of a clubhouse that will sit on the edge of the cliffs. One of the best holes is the 552-yard par five. On the more elevated back nine, the testing 220-yard 17th on top of the cliffs represents quite a challenge!
Nairn Golf Club
Originally designed in 1887 by Andrew Simpson and subsequently modified by Old Tom Morris, James Braid and Ben Sayers, Nairn is one of the great championship links in Scotland (par 71, 6,483 yards). The beach is a hazard on the right for the first five holes, and then the gorse closes in. The huge greens are fast and true. With each hole, the course becomes more difficult and challenging.
Moray Golf Club – Old Course
Overlooking the southern shores of the beautiful Moray Firth, Moray Golf Club offers two traditional Scottish links courses, Moray Old and Moray New. Similar to the Old Course at St. Andrews, both golf courses at Moray Golf Club start and finish within the town boundaries. A very challenging course, seven of the Old Course par fours stretch to over 400 yards. Like many other grand old Scottish links, Moray Old has its roots deeply embedded in the 19th century. Founded in 1889 from a layout designed by Old Tom Morris, the history of Moray Old is somewhat similar to that of its relatively near neighbors Royal Dornoch and Nairn. Its characteristics include gorse lined fairways, deep bunkers and grassy dunes, while its fine links turf invites crisp iron shots to excellent putting surfaces.
Tain Golf Club
Laid out by old Tom Morris in 1890, this par 70 6,404 yard course still reflects his genius. Overlooking the Dornoch Firth with the sea on one side and the backdrop of the mountains behind, Tain provides a wonderful setting for highland golf. The first five holes, while not long, are extremely difficult. The greens are unusually fast and hard. The 16th & 17th cross and re-cross the Tain River. In many ways the views including spires and town buildings resemble St. Andrews.
Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle
The Carnegie Links, designed by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, offers the golfer a rare opportunity to play a links course which remains firm and fast. It requires a broad repertoire of shots, not simply the modern style of aerial bombardment golf, and demands that any golfer, regardless of standard, is rewarded for thoughtful and skilful play rather than for power. The course measures almost 6,700 yards from the back stakes and offers a not too easily attainable par of 71. The quality of the course itself is only part of the entire experience of playing here though. The setting is quite remarkable and is aptly described by James Lane in Links Magazine “The club is billed as “Heaven on Earth” and if heaven is only half this good, golfers have much to look forward to in the hereafter”.