Royal Dornoch can claim to be the United Kingdom’s third oldest club. It is believed the game was first played here in 1616, meaning on St Andrews and Leith can definitively pre-date it. Surprisingly, it was not until 1877 that a club was formed, and that is why the club’s crest bears two dates.
In the late spring, when Dornoch’s omnivorous gorse is in full gloom and the evenings seem to last forever, there can be few finer spots on earth for the true golfer. Yet despite its entirely justified reputation for peace and glorious isolation, reaching the region of Sutherland, in Scotland’s extreme north east, is now relatively straightforward.
The much-improved A9 puts Dornoch within a comfortable hour’s drive from Inverness, with the capital of the Highlands now boasting an airport that connects with most major UK cities.
Nor is the climate as rugged as the surroundings. Protected on at least two sides by the hills of Sutherland, Dornoch, much like St Andrews, enjoys a micro-climate of surprisingly dry and mild weather. That’s not to say it can’t get wild up here, just that it happens less frequently than you might reasonably expect from a course so far north of the equator.
Dornoch’s defences are largely based around the greens. There are no pot bunkers, few blind shots and relatively generous landing area from the tee. The difficulties are much more subtle than that.
Raised greens reject average shots while chipping is at best awkward and at worst – try recovering from missing the short 6th to the right – close to impossible. Putting, meanwhile, can require the deftest of touches. Being on the wrong side of the hole on several greens is a three-putt waiting to happen.
A test of golf that will be unlikely to beat you up but often leave you scratching your head as to how you haven’t scored better.