Review of the Month October 2017 - Royal Dornoch (Championship)
Royal Dornoch is clearly considered a very good golf course, but does it deserve the reverence it receives? Well, I was looking forward to forming an opinion.
Shortly after arrival I noticed a paradox between what is a fairly "normal" club golf set-up and the coaches full of golfing tourists arriving to play it. Facilities are basic but adequate, whereas the pro/gift shop is fairly comprehensively stocked.
On to the first hole: Nothing special but very useful as a good getaway hole. The second hole: Again, nothing breathtaking, but an interesting raised green with trouble on (I think it was) three sides. An early taste of things to come I assumed. Then it all becomes a bit clearer from the third tee as the course then opens up before you. That was more like it.
Holes 3-6 were great and our group enjoyed both the views on offer and the shots into and around the greens. Think hole seven was a bit ordinary before reaching the turn with the dogleg left Par 4 eighth. The anticipation as you walk to the precipice to see where your ball has ended up was great. Highlights for me on the back 9 were driving onto the beach at 11 (always satisfying to have a beach in play), and then 14 & 15 (I think), with the former being really difficult to hit the striking raised green in two with our relatively high handicaps and the latter a short par 4 where you have a decision to make with regards to the central dune that guards/obscures the green. The pace of play was pretty good - 3 hrs 45 minutes for our 4 ball (with every hole loaded with 4 balls who presumably didn't know the course that well). Castle Stuart was a good 30-40 minutes longer the previous day.
As we walked off of the 18th green and started unloading our gear, the group behind us holed out shortly after and then almost immediately jumped into two helicopters that had landed adjacent to the green. Possibly one of the oddest things I've seen on a golf course and not sure how normal this was, but another reminder of the contrast on offer at Dornoch. Real or imagined, it does make me feel there is a tangible "Disneyfication" to go with the “Deification” of Royal Dornoch. This took a little of the shine off the experience for me, but sure this places me in a minority. For better or worse, it's always difficult to distil the golf course essence and de-couple it from the total experience when offering up an opinion.
On the course itself: I'd say it is worth 5.5 balls. And on the assumption that it has been rounded up on occasion to a 6 ball, I'll round my review down to a 5 ball. Royal Dornoch apparently only has a handful of superior courses in the world, and despite not playing that many top tracks, I do find that at least mildly surprising. Will have to defer to those with more experience. Having said this, I did really enjoy the course - and it did more than enough to ensure I look forward to returning to see if I have undervalued it.
Review of the Month October 2017 selected by Editor-in-Chief, Keith Baxter – click to read more about Royal Dornoch (Championship).