We have now traveled some 50 miles north of Loch Ness some 8 degrees below the Arctic Circle and it was not in search of the monster of the deep but rather to visit and play one of the most mystical golf destinations in the world the Royal Dornoch Golf Club. It was the birthplace of Donald Ross, one of America’s most distinguished course designers, who learned his trade playing the original version of the course in the 1890’s and then studied under Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews before emigrating to the United States in 1899. Ross’s body of work is a testimony to the influence of Scottish links courses during the Golden Age of course design in the first 30 years of the 20th century. His fame in turn drew attention back to this hallowed course that provided the underpinnings of his genius.
This quaint village became a summer refuge to English royalty, rich businessmen, and some of the greatest players of the age at the turn of the century. No one more important than John Sutherland who helped design the original course with Tom Morris and went on to play in important championships throughout Scotland and write extensively about this place drawing further attention and reverence to what was here.
Andrew Carnegie built a summer home at Skibo Castle a few miles up the firth and became an important patron serving as Vice President of the club in 1901. He presented this ornate shield, which hangs in the clubhouse grill, to the club as the trophy for it’s open competition.
Looking back from the promontory tee on seven you can see the natural parallel routing of the outward holes on the top shelf below the gorse laden dune wall and the returning holes with low dunes and sage grass between them and the sea on the left.
Sometimes the aiming points are dictated well away from your intended target lines as the influence of the topography off the dune wall and the natural tempest of waves in the fairway undulations will bring your ball back to the desired position for the correct approach shot.
The seventeenth could be at Pine Valley. From the top shelf of the tee ball landing area it is a precarious carry across gorse laden dunes to a pulpit green complex further protected by deep bunkers and natural furrowing of the seaside topography.
Our eight roadies, Barry, Billy, Mish, Heir Rusty, Michael, Tripmeister Jim, Adds, and Flash, sheepishly posing for the standard pregame tourist photo opp. It is fair to say it did not go well for most of them but there was still plenty of banter over burgers and fish n’ chips in the clubhouse grill after the game.
For more detail click to see the Royal Dornoch Golf Club Review