Play Royal Dornoch on a Scottish golf Trip

The Monarch of the Glens - World ranked top-10. One of Golf's 'truly great' links


Royal Dornoch is Scotland's fourth course that routinely achieves a World top-10 ranking. So why haven't we seen more of it? Well it's a long way north and been deemed to remote for major championships. Those who make the effort however will reap the rewards.

Royal Dornoch 5th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The Course

The philosophy is simple. Good shots are rewarded, poor ones are punished. Dornoch is a supreme test of iron play. Many of the greens resemble up-turned saucers, the putting surface like a plinth with bunkers typically guarding the front making the traditional bump & run a high risk option. You need to risk going through the air here, and then means surfing the wind. You’ll also encounter gorse which thrives in Dornoch’s micro-climate (whins in Scottish). This yellow flowering plant explodes in colour during spring, but sadly it devours errant golf balls

2nd - 'Ord'

It was Tom Watson no less who described the second shot to the par 3 second hole at Royal Dornoch as “the most difficult shot in golf”. He was only half joking!. The green has precipitous roll offs all round and deep bunkers either side. It’s a small target that you simply have to hit in order to avoid playing a hideously difficult rescue from below the putting surface that even Phil might blanche at before attempting. After the second though, you walk around the corner and the whole majesty of the links opens up before you

Royal Dornoch 2nd

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

Banks of gorse

Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

11th green, panorama

Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

Bunkers abound

8th green, Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

4th green Royal Dornoch

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

4th - 'Achinchanter'

Although the 14th will usually win the vote, the 4th stands alongside it on merit. Donald Steel no less, included ‘Achinchanter’ in his 18 best holes in Britain and Ireland.

From a tee on the side of a hill the hole runs adjacent to steep bank of gorse along its length. A a drawn shot has to find the runway to stay on the sloping fairway. Miss, and it slides away in a series of gullies on the right, which begins to become difficult. A triangular green with vicious swales is typical of Dornoch’s raised putting surfaces. It’s about strategy now though. The approach can be pitched to the green and risk running off on the right or behind, or to play through the valley in front of the green and risking falling back off the front bank and into the bunkers left or right.

6th - 'Whinny Brae'

Holes 3, 4 and 5 play under a ridge of steeply banked gorse which explodes into colours of golden yellow in the spring. The par 3, sixth represents something of a departure from this. Instead the green has actually been cut into the bank requiring you to play straight into the stuff and trust that you can hit the landing area. ‘Whinny Brae’ has been the source of bemusement and frustration in equal measure. The green is narrow and small.

Two bunkers sit in the hillside left and a massive slope defends the right. There might be a case in going a little bit too long if anything and trusting the contours to deliver a rolling ball, but if you over-cook it you’re in the gorse – ouch! and if it doesn’t release, or catches a rear bunker you have truly awful chip downhill

Royal Dornoch 6th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

14th fairway Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

Image thanks to Royal Dornoch GC 

10th - 'Fuaran'

At 146yds, Fuaran is the shortest of Dornoch’s charismatic par 3’s and perhaps makes you wonder how a navy pilot might feel trying to land on the deck of a carrier. At face value its a downhill flick but this risks coming in on too low a trajectory. The task is made harder still by the fact that the hole normally plays downwind. There’s even less chance to apply the brakes. Ironically this is one hole where a headwind helps. It’s almost impossible to hold the green on a low trajectory, and the penalty for skidding off through the back is unforgiving. A steep slope ensures you’ll continue to run further and further away from the flight-deck. Only the most exquisitely excused flop shot from below the surface will save you now.

14th - 'Foxy'

The ‘bunkerless’ fourteenth has been described as “the most natural hole in golf” and is the most difficult assignment on the course by stroke index. Raised dunes with thick grass run down the right side, drastically narrowing this fairway and cutting off angles and lines of sight. It’s a tougher tee shot down the left, but the bolder play is rewarded with an unobstructed view of the green and a superior angle. Just where the best place to launch your approach from is a question that continues to defy even those who have developed an intimate knowledge of it. There’s a scarcity of aiming points in the landscape and skyline to assist the bewildered golfer trying to solve this problem. It’s all about strategy, flair and your own instinctive feel

Royal Dornoch 14th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Sample Itinerary - The Highlands

Dornoch is the highest ranked course in the highlands and typically plays alongside Castle Stuart & Nain. The courses of Aberdeenshire can also be added


Sample Itinerary - The Wilderness Tour

This needn't be about top-100 lists. It's more about exploration of remote areas. Even so, we need to put some top quality stuff in there and Dornoch obliges on both counts


Sample Itinerary - Golf with History

The highlands has some of Scotland's most evocative history. Royal Dornoch ranks in the world's top-10 golf courses. Bring the two interest point together


Sample Itinerary - Golf with the Family

Highland Scotland is something of a activities playground making it ideal for the 'family'. Dornoch naturally blends into the picture


Sample Itinerary - Golf with Whisky

The transit between the Highlands to Aberdeen means crossing through Speyside. Dornoch naturally appears in a whisky combo


How to Include Dornoch

Being the furthest north, Royal Dornoch is often the hardest to fit and frequently misses out. You'll need to 'work' to include it, but it can be done