DORNOCH, Scotland -- Golfers come from the around the world to see the majestic Championship Course at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in the Scottish Highlands.
Only the wise leave with an appreciation for the Struie Course too.
Visitors, especially Americans, roll into town to play the famous course once or twice before heading to some other famous links without bothering to see the 6,265-yard, par-71 gem across the parking lot. The Struie has been pieced together over the years, although you really wouldn't know it. Three of its holes -- no. 14-no. 16 -- date to the "Ladies course" constructed by the club in the early 20th century. When the Championship Course was extended along the beach, its holes 13-18 were incorporated into the Struie.
English architect Donald Steel used more new land to build five new holes in 1999 and modify tees and greens on others, a project that elevated the Struie among the best "relief" courses in Scotland. The Struie has a loyal following, especially among the tour bus/van drivers who are allowed to play it for free while their golfers get humbled by the other links.
The Struie's challenges are more subtle and forgiving. Gorse is the primary defense off the tee with a few bunkers lurking dangerously near certain greens. Its scenery can't compare, either, although the 10th fairway skirting the Dornoch Firth and the view of the Dornoch Cathedral on no. 12 are quite good. A burn runs through several par 4s, providing headaches off the third and 17th tees.
The Struie ends playfully at a 127-yard par 3, featuring an elevated green with a wicked tilt. Golfers who can't have fun playing Royal Dornoch's Struie Course don't belong in my foursome.