5 Must play courses in the Highlands of Scotland
The Highlands of Scotland is one of those few places in the world that literally takes your breath away when you first lay eyes on it. If you want an exceptional cinematic glimpse of this gorgeous landscape, watch the first five minutes of the movie “Braveheart”. Rest assured, you’ll be booking a trip there soon after the final credits roll. For golfers, you can immerse yourself amid the awesome terrain by playing some of the regions best courses. A world-class line-up that includes:
Royal Dornoch — With its simple yet challenging design and spectacular panoramas of the Dornoch Firth, Royal Dornoch is the ultimate Scottish golf experience. Far away from the popular St. Andrews courses, Dornoch is a 1-hour drive north of Inverness. The first stretch of holes is relatively short but bunkers and severe slopes protect the greens. Off the tee, you need to watch out for the yellow gorse. It looks pretty but you’ll have severe difficulty finding your ball should you visit this area. The back nine is laid out right next to the water of the Dornoch Firth, which can be intimidating when the wind is blowing. A collection of dog legs and blind tee shots await you on the final group of holes adding value to an already great round of golf. Many locals say Royal Dornoch wasn’t built, it was found.
Machrihanish Golf Club — There once was a man named Paul McCartney (Yes, that Paul from The Beatles) who had a farm on the Mull of Kintyre. He wrote an inspiring and touching song called the “Long and Winding Road”. It’s that same long and winding road that takes you to Machrihanish Golf Club, another hidden beauty on the southernmost tip of the Highlands. Picture yourself teeing off 20 feet from the clubhouse with everyone in your group, including your caddie, watching you. As you set up to the ball and look to pick your target you realize the ocean (Machrihanish Bay) is between you and the fairway, that’s just the start of a great day on the links at Machrihanish Golf Club. The rest is pure, unadulterated golfing joy.
Castle Stuart — Overlooking the Beauly Firth, Castle Stuart is ruggedly attractive with its rumple fairways and revetted bunkers. Home to the last few Scottish Opens, this course has some of the most dramatic views in Scotland golf. The first and tenth will blow you away; they sit right on the water’s edge giving you the perfect opportunity to hit your shot in the ocean. One unique aspect is the “infinity edge” design on several greens, which highlight many of the landmarks in the area.
Nairn — Known to have some of the best greens in Scotland, Nairn sits right on the coast of the North Sea about 25 minutes from Inverness. Many of the holes play right along the water and when the tide is low you’ll see players playing their second shots from the beach even though the preferred spot is from the fairway. Watch out for the hidden burns (creeks) on the first few holes. Nairn is unique in that the front nine is links style and the last part of the back nine is played through trees and high grass. It’s a round of golf that will create many memories.
Cruden Bay — Technically Cruden Bay GC isn’t in the Highlands of Scotland but it’s such a fantastic golf course and far enough up North that it has to be mentioned. You can see the New Slains Castle from the clubhouse, which was Bram Stokers inspiration for the novel “Dracula”. This is your classic links course with rugged fairways, drivable par 4’s, wispy grass and deep pot bunkers. The course lies near the coast and flows around large mounds speckled throughout the landscape. Playing golf here is a dynamic and unforgettable experience. If you have the time, it’s well worth the two-hour drive from St. Andrews.