Royal Dornoch is notably one of the best links courses in the World, so is well worth the trip up to the North-East to this sunny coastal town. Indeed, none other the Tom Watson, an honorary member, is quoted as saying of the course, “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course”. Golf has been played at the links in Dornoch since 1616 – the earliest written record and the golf club was founded in 1877.
In 1886 the club invited champion golfer, Old Tom Morris to help plan and extend the course, an architect who is regarded as the greatest golf course architect in the World. As the game expanded, Tom Morris had a huge influence on Donald Ross, who was born in Dornoch in 1872 and in his early twenties was the professional and greenkeeper. In 1899, Donald Ross left Dornoch and moved to the USA, where he became one of the country’s foremost golf course designers. He took inspiration for his design of Pinehurst No.2, host of the 2014 US Open, from his home course at Dornoch. Donald’s younger brother, Alec Ross, was also a professional golfer and won the US Open in 1907. Between 1896 and 1910, the US Open was won by a Scotsman, 12 times!
The setting is perfect, running along stunning beaches, towards Embo and views towards Ben Bhraggie. The out-and-back layout requires careful thought to unlock the best approach for each hole, and the raised green design, guarded by devilishly deep pothole bunglers, makes the course especially challenging. The 14th has often been deemed the “most natural hole in golf”. Royal Dornoch is a ‘spellbinding’ course, which rarely disappoints.
Visitors are very welcome and it is easy to book around online. If you have been playing golf for years this is the ‘holy grail’, so is well worth the 4 hour trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Other courses nearby, to help steady up your swing, include Golspie, Brora and Tain – making this a great destination to plan a golfing weekend with friends. For those who don’t golf, Dornoch’s ‘blue flag’ beaches are outstanding, and the historic town is well worth a visit. History Links, Dornoch’s award-winning museum is a short walk away and is home to a collection of Donald Ross artefacts – a Dornoch lad, who went on to design over 400 golf courses around the World.