Royal Dornoch Golf Club - Championship Course
One of Scotland's most famous traditional links courses, Royal Dornoch Championship Links lies in the Scottish Highlands. An Old Tom Morris design from the 19th century, there is evidence of golf being played on these grounds dating back to 1616. This was also the club where renowned golf course architect Donald Ross grew up, learning the trade he would later take to the United States. Playing Dornoch offers a glimpse into where Ross got his crowned green style he's become famous for at courses like Pinehurst No. 2.
|Red (W)||75||5934 yards||126|
|Blue M: 73.0/136||331||184||413||422||353||161||479||434||529||3306||174||449||560||180||445||360||401||417||456||3442||6748|
|White M: 73.0/134||331||177||413||422||353||161||479||434||529||3299||146||446||535||171||445||322||401||405||456||3327||6626|
|Yellow M: 71.0/129||302||167||398||402||312||156||464||389||491||3081||142||434||492||148||439||300||395||390||446||3186||6267|
|Red W: 76.0/139||266||160||389||392||306||137||408||375||435||2868||132||426||478||137||401||290||387||384||437||3072||5940|
|Green W: 72.0/130||256||131||277||359||246||125||365||364||427||2550||130||421||453||130||378||284||307||326||380||2809||5359|
Photo submitted by RyanLavnerGC on 07/29/2015
Photo submitted by RexHoggardGC on 07/17/2015
A look from up above. Photo submitted by JayCoffinGC on 07/16/2015
Top of the course. Photo submitted by golftraveler44 on 06/24/2015
# 1 Tee Photo submitted by golftraveler44 on 06/24/2015
#18 green, club house and hotel Photo submitted by golftraveler44 on 06/24/2015
A Transcendent Experience
There are not enough good things to say about Royal Dornoch. The only other places that I've ever felt what I felt at Royal Dornoch are Augusta National and Pebble Beach. The views, quality of golf, and aura of the place are genuinely moving. Dornoch is remote, but it is well worth the journey. Do not miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime chance in the name of something as stupid as convenience.
Top-3 course I've ever played
What a treat to be able to play here. The weather was absolutely perfect -- mid-60s, partly cloudy, 10-mph wind. The breeze picked up as the afternoon wore on, but it only made the experience more enjoyable. The most memorable aspects of Dornoch are the collection of par 3s -- none are overly long, but they're all very penal, with severe runoffs and bunkers surrounding every putting surface. I found the back nine to be much more difficult -- perhaps that was the fatigue of a 36-hole day kicking in? -- but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more eclectic trio of holes than Nos. 15-17, which are, in order, a blind short par 4, a drastically uphill par 4, and a blind par 4 that bends sharply to the left. If you're not playing here on a trip to Scotland, you're doing it all wrong.
North to Dornoch
There are certain places golfers refer to in hushed, reverent tones – Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Pine Valley. When I first crossed through the tiny coastal village and made the drive up to Royal Dornoch more than a decade ago I realized the ancient links were in the same category. From the opening tee shot to the final putt Royal Dornoch is a picture of architectural perfection, with arguably the best collection of par 3s in the world. It’s not an easy journey to the Scottish Highlands (fly into Inverness if you can) and there are a few forced walks, but it is all worth it. Dornoch may be hard to get to, but it’s impossible to forget.
My favorite course in Scotland
I played here five years ago in absolutely horrendous wind and rain. It was a miserable day, but when I left, I still knew it was one of my favorite courses in the world.
After playing there this time in really good conditions, nothing happened to change my mind. It's simply fantastic and, to me, it's the top of the class in Scotland. And I've played many of the great ones there
The views, the layout, the greens, the town...everything about the place is first class. It's a hike to get up there from many of the bigger towns down south, but if you ever have a chance to play here, make it happen. You won't be disappointed.
A beauty that will test your will and skill
Imagine trying to hit the greens of Pinehurst No. 2 in howling crosswinds. That's what it was like the day I played Royal Dornoch. The course pummeled my foursome without a caddie into humble submission. The beauty of the links was evident. The holes along the firth, revealed with a walk up the eighth fairway toward the aiming post, are stunning. This tee shot and the blind tee shot at no. 17 should not be feared. There is ample room to spray the ball, but only the best drives left of the aiming post put you in the best positions to score. Dornoch, despite its unforgiving first impression, always leaves you wanting to return again. The town, the birthplace of Donald Ross, is a great place to spend a few days.
My World Number One
World Ranking #6, Scotland #1
The great golf wordsmith, Herbert Warren Wind wrote of his first trip to Royal Dornoch in the June 6, 1964 edition of The New Yorker: “It is the most natural course in the world ... no golfer has completed his education until he has played and studied Royal Dornoch.”
Dornoch is about a 40-minute drive north of Inverness, the Capital of Scotland’s Highlands. A drive of nearly four hours from St. Andrews — and well worth it.
The clubhouse and the first-tee sit high on a ridge, the curving bay of the Dornoch Firth and the North Sea below. The first eight holes follow the ridge, around and down. Then you turn in the opposite direction and play along the sea through the 16th.
The views from every hole are, well, breathtaking. Royal Dornoch is even more spectacular than Pebble Beach. And, it’s a better golf course — more challenging, more demanding, more innovative.
The original 9-hole course that is part of today’s current lay-out was opened in 1877. Nine years later the Club invited Old Tom Morris to survey the links. He massaged the original nine, and then three years later, Old Tom built the second nine, completing the 18-hole course we all can play today. He incorporated the doglegs he had invented at The Old Course and created green complexes that were unlike any others in the world. Of course, now the greens of Royal Dornoch are copied everywhere. They were the first “upside down saucers,” with not just false fronts, but false backs and sides, as well. Old Tom built the greens atop natural plateaus. Hitting these greens is quite the challenge, especially when the course is firm and fast and the wind is blowing. Oh, by the way, that’s just about always.
The greens at Donald Ross’s Pinehurst Number-2 are mole hills compared to those at Royal Dornoch.
It is no coincidence that we see much of Royal Dornoch in many of Ross’s designs. He was born in Dornoch in 1872. He would grow up playing golf at Dornoch before becoming its head greenskeeper and then its professional. It’s that background and influence that Ross brought with him to the States.
Above all else, Royal Dornoch has the best group of par-threes in the world. Holes 2, 6, 10 and 13. Not one of them is longer than 184 yards, even from the tips. More evidence a hole does not need to be long to be challenging. The second will serve as an example. It’s 184 from the Blues. The green is 41 yards long, sloping from front to back. And it’s a plateau with steep fall-offs to both sides and the rear. Then there are two steep bunkers guarding both the front-left and front-right. I was lucky enough to just miss the right-hand bunker. But then I had to try to figure out how to get my ball on a green that was ten feet above me. Options: pitch it into the bank, hit the lob-shot of my life onto the surface, putt it. I opted for putting with a hybrid and was lucky enough to make what was voted as “The up-and-down of the week.” Yahoo!
I’ve played two-thirds of the top 100 ranked courses in the world. And after my experience at Dornoch, I make it my number-one.
By the way, be weather-ready when you play Dornoch. When we teed off on one it was a beautiful 70 degrees, with sunshine and a 15-mile-per-hour wind. When we turned along the beaches of the North Sea at the 12th, we were overwhelmed by pouring rain and a wind of 35 mph. Yes a 3-and-a- half club wind! Well, we wanted a full Scottish experience; and we got it?
I want to thank my caddy for telling me at the first tee that I wouldn’t need my umbrella or waterproofs. So he took them out of my bag and left them in the locker room. Thanks Tom.
That leads me to the downside of our Royal Dornoch experience. Only one of our four caddies was a true professional and the other three were of little help. Unless you can get a guarantee from the caddy-master that yours are experienced professionals, I would advise you to opt for a push-cart and a course guide. This was the only place in Scotland where we didn’t have the very best carrying our bags. Also, don’t expect much from the restaurant and bar in the clubhouse. Poor service and mediocre food.
Royal Dornoch is clearly a place to go just for the golf. And as far as that is concerned, there is no place as good.
World's Best Links
Played 36 at Royal Dornoch last summer. First 18 was with a caddie who had advice on how to play each hole properly. Remembering the advice, I played much better the second time around. The weather for the first 18 was sublime-sunny, no wind. The second 18 had a patch or fog, but only a slight wind. The two rounds were slightly different-as it should be on a links.
The views at Dornoch are spectacular and the only thing better is the golf. The par threes are required both draws and fades. Like all the holes, you must hit the correct part of the green to have a chance at birdie or par. The par 4s have variety as that two are drivable for a big hitter, two are long and close to being a par 5, two go down a hill, 1 is up a steep hill, the tee shots need to drawn and faded and if you miss the wrong side of the fairway, hazards come in to play or your approach can be semi to completely blind.
Shot values are high for second shots. If you miss the wrong part of the green or the correct lane for an approach, you will be punished with a difficult greenside shot. If you hit the correct spot, then birdie opportunities can be yours. This is not often the case in links golf. The land is fast and firm, but some holes are not best played that way while some others require it.
Of course there are the turtleback greens. If miss one, you will need to have your "A" short game on. Bunker shots are not easy either and your landing areas can be difficult to hit or you will roll off the green.
As for the rest- played both rounds, as a foursome, in about 4 hours and 15 minutes each. Considering that it was a Friday, that was exceptional. Never had to wait on the group ahead and never had anyone on our heels. The clubhouse has great views and some of the better food I had on my trip. Dornoch does treat the guests like members and they were very kind in every manner as you have access to all facilities.
If you travel to Scotland, you can't miss Royal Dornoch. Dornoch was the highlight of my recent trip to Scotland and will be the main reason for my return.
A true challenge
This is a course you want to be on your game. RD Championship will treat a shot as it is struck. I played the course 3 times and could not break 80. Weather was not a real factor, it was how I struck the ball and how I played each hole. I respect the heck out of Royal Dornoch. Beautiful views and quality conditions on course.
Note, the course does not have a "ranger" type person that moves around the course. On day # 2, our group was stuck behind some boys that thought they were the only ones on the course and it turned into a VERY slow round. As I talked with some club house people after the round, this is a common occurrence. The board needs to address slow play, for sure! All in all, the course is a tremendous challenge, worthy of any golfer, the club house is a great place for a snack or pint or two and the Hotel next door is a fantastic place to stay or enjoy a full meal.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Worth the trip north
Fantastic golf course! Its keeps drawing me back north. We've pretty much done the Inverness area but we keep going back just so I can play this course. Much better now that there are 2 new hotels operating in Dornoch. This course starts out with a short par four but immediately gets in your face with a brutal par 3 that has a plateau green surrounded by bunkers. The course opens up around the fourth hole and offers spectacular views. That view from the fourth tee is one of my favourite in golf with the tee box set inside the hillside, an ocean of gorse on the hillside extending for 3 consecutive holes. You end up climbing the hill to reach the plateau but then turn back in along the water eventually climbing the plateau again around the 16th. This course can play long and tough, especially if the wind is up but it is an absolute must play. It is my all time favourite links course and definitely worth the drive north. The RAF has a shooting range down the forth so you can watch them take practice runs during your round!