Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 8
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 8
The par-3 eighth hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links accepts running shots to a massive green. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 2
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 2
The green complex of the par-5 second hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links can confuse even the best players. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 3
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 3
The third hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links is drivable for almost every player, ranging from 266 yards from the green tee to 305 yards from the black. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 4
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 4
The castle frames the par-3 fourth hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 6
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 6
Don't dare miss the sixth green at Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Highlands of Scotland. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 7
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 7
The long par-4 seventh hole is the no. 1 handicap at Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 9
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 9
The elevated ninth green at Castle Stuart Golf Links features a false front that repels balls back down the slopes. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 10
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 10
Playing the 10th hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links is more dramatic from the upper tee boxes than the ones along the shore. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 11
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 11
The par-3 11th hole at Castle Stuart Golf Links plays short but it looks sweet with its watery backdrop. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - views
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - views
Castle Stuart Golf Links rivals Royal Dornoch, Turnberry's Ailsa Course and Kingsbarns as Scotland's most beautiful links. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 18
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Castle Stuart Golf Links - hole 18
A round at Castle Stuart Golf Links finishes with a risk-reward par 5 seen here from the clubhouse's upper balcony. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor

Dramatic Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands still in debt to Phil Mickelson

INVERNESS, Scotland -- The 7,009-yard Castle Stuart Golf Links is forever in debt to Phil Mickelson. It was Mickelson who won the 2013 finale of three straight Scottish Opens at Castle Stuart, essentially putting this modern links that opened in 2009 on the map.

American viewers who tuned in to watch Mickelson ended up gawking in awe at the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the Moray Firth.

Castle Stuart, co-designed by Gil Hanse and developer Mark Parsinen, mesmerizes everybody who sees it, whether on television or in person. Local landmarks like the Castle Stuart, dating to 1685 and framing the fourth hole; the Kessock Bridge; and Chanonry Lighthouse are all visible during play.

The first three holes of each nine roam along the shore before the layout reaches higher ground for more panoramic scenery. Likewise, each loop climaxes on opposite sides of the unique Art Deco clubhouse.

The 364-yard ninth hole rises to a green that repels shots down into a valley in the fairway. The green of the risk-reward, 595-yard, par-5 18th hole clutches the cliffs.

It's a second-shot links. Hitting the wide fairways is easy. Navigating the mine field of bunkers near the greens is another story.

Future development -- a second course by the Arnold Palmer Design Company and lodging -- will recruit more golfers to make the pilgrimage north to such a special place.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Although most of Scotland is fairly mountainous, the Highlands region contains the highest peaks and the most spectacular scenery. It's the most rugged, natural and sparsely populated area of Scotland and contains some extraordinarily beautiful courses, Clive Agran writes. Must-plays include Boat of Garten Golf Club, Moray, Nairn G.C., Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch and Brora.
The farther north you travel in Scotland, the fewer people you see and the wilder the scenery is. But even in the remotest parts there is golf.
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Dramatic Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands still in debt to Phil Mickelson
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