TAIN, Scotland -- Old Tom Morris, winner of four Open Championships, influenced some of the Scotland's greatest links -- namely Royal Dornoch, Machrihanish Golf Club, Nairn Golf Club and Muirfield. Tain Golf Club, dating to 1890, is his overlooked jewel, located near the famous Glenmorangie whisky distillery just a short drive from Dornoch.
Morris originally had a hand in designing 15 holes at Tain. What's incredible is eight of them remain relatively intact -- including stretches 2-4, 9-10 and 14-15. Tain doesn't shower golfers with beauty such as Royal Dornoch's famed Championship Links, but it doesn't pummel them, either. Tain offers a pleasant walk with holes of infinite character. A wood carving of Morris greets golfers as they drive into the club.
The first and 18th holes -- both stout par 4s -- play over a fence protecting a small road. You're entitled to free relief if your shot gets stuck in a quirky spot. The walk to the 11th tee reveals a stunning view of the Dornoch Firth but not the green. The hole called "Alps" finishes at a blind green barricaded by dunes in front, while clutching out-of-bounds near the water in back.
The narrow River Tain winds through interesting back-to-back par 3s at no. 16 and no. 17. The clubhouse is understated yet comfortable and welcoming, just like one of the most under appreciated and truly special links of the Scottish Highlands.