Castle Stuart - North Scotland - Scotland

Castle Stuart Golf Links,
Balnaglack Farmhouse,
Inverness,
IV2 7JL,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1463 796111


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Castle Stuart

Only one course of action was open to American developer Mark Parsinen once he’d overseen the triumphant opening of Kingsbarns—scour the coastline of Scotland to find a suitable place to develop another world class layout that might even outshine its illustrious predecessor.

Parsinen feels he has discovered just such a special site on the southern shores of the Moray Firth, between Inverness and Nairn at Castle Stuart and from what we’ve seen previewing the course in the Autumn of 2008 (and, it must be added, with absolutely no fear of sensationalising the issue) it will make as massive an impact on the golfing scene (opened in the summer of 2009) as Kingsbarns did in 2000—yes, you read that right first time—it is that good.

The opening three holes on each nine run away from the clubhouse along the edge of a raised beach by the side of the Moray Firth, offering spectacular views across the water to the Black Isle. In order to reach shore level from the escarpment above, a thrilling drive must be struck from tees cut into the cliff side down to the fairways below on holes 1 and 10—a heart-pumping way to start both the outward and inward half.

As with so many modern designs, clever mounding ensures most holes are played in isolation to the rest, with the next hole only revealed after the current one has been played. Another eye-catching feature throughout the entire layout is the use of expansive, wild-looking waste bunker areas to fringe the sand capped-fairways and green sites, adding a wonderfully natural feel to the course.

Holes 4 to 9 and 13 to 18 are played more inland, with each loop ending on either side of a clubhouse that sits on the edge of the cliffs. One of the best holes on a sensational front nine is the 552-yard, par five, 6th which is played to a long, narrow green that sits between a pair of beautiful waste bunkers. On the more elevated back nine, the testing 220-yard 17th on top of the cliffs is a really daunting prospect to play so late in the round.

Castle Stuart now offers some serious competition to both Royal Dornoch and Nairn when it comes to attracting visiting golfers, but that can only be a good thing for the Highlands where they seem determined to raise the golfing bar of excellence as high as possible.

In January 2011, Castle Stuart was confirmed as the venue for the 2011 Barclays Scottish Open, which for the previous 15 years Loch Lomond had hosted—click here to read more. Unfortunately the 2011 event was hit by unprecedented summer storms that forced a foreshortened 54-hole tournament. The rain delays, however, did not dampen Luke Donald’s form. The world number one cruised comfortably to victory claiming his first Scottish Open title by four shots. India’s Jeev Milkha Singh won the 2012 event, beating Italy’s Francesco Molinari in a play-off. Phil Mickelson won an exciting sudden-death play-off against South Africa’s Branden Grace to claim the 2013 title and then went on to win the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield to claim his fifth major title.

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Reviews for Castle Stuart

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Description: Castle Stuart golf links will offer some serious competition to both Royal Dornoch and Nairn when it comes to attracting visiting golfers to the Highlands... Rating: 9.2 out of 10 Reviews: 52
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Shaun
A very good course in excellent condition with a superb clubhouse and service, but please make it more demanding off the tee as unlike most great links courses there was very little intimidation with the big stick in hand. A great start but more work to do.
October 11, 2010
6 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Nick White
As a member in East Lothian, I personally enjoyed the relative freedom this course afforded off the tee (no waste high rough here - yet!) and throughly enjoyed the layout and conditioning of the course. The setting is as good as people say whilst the clubhouse and service are absolutely first class. It is astonishing to think this course is only a year or so old - it will only get better - and I would agree with the comments already posted regarding the first 4 holes - all terrific - with 6, 10, 11, 17 and 18 also deserving of special praise. A great day all round - I look forward to playing it again ideally on a three day tour to include Nairn and Royal Dornoch - some trio!
September 22, 2010
10 / 10
Castle Stuart
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alp
Played the course last week, and it shoots straight into my top 5 alongside Turnberry, Saunton, Ganton and Dornoch (i think thats my top 5 anyway!). Had read the predominantly good reviews, and was expecting something special, but had a niggling feeling the newness of the course may hold the course back... Not a chance...sometimes its hard to put into words why you have enjoyed something so much, and thats kind of how i feel about Castle Stuart...but I do know I have never played a course quite like it before, I loved it and would go back to play it again in a shot. So I will just try to add to the previous comments. I think the previous reviews cover all the strong points very well - but I would add that the greens are now coming on very nicely, and are among the best I have played on. Subtle contours, smooth roll, gave me lots of confidence on the greens. In terms of negative comments, I also think they are generally fair where they refer to the fact that the fairways are too wide. But I think thats partly an illusion and they will feel much narrower once the rough has fully grown in! My main concern is that not enough people will get to play and appreciate this place. The green fee is considerably more than Dornoch and Nairn, both of which are 6-ball courses (in my view), and I think those two courses would probably be on a tour itinerary in preference to the newer Castle Stuart. If accessibility is opened up, with green fees more in line with the local competition, then i agree with other comments that this will be recognised as one of the top few courses in Scotland. For now, if you are in the area, i would urge you to think about splashing out on this place. It is a bit special.
August 06, 2010
10 / 10
Castle Stuart
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alan ritchie
An excellent addition to scottish golf, Had the pleasure of playing this with the reduced local rate and was thoroughly impressed. The reception is excellent and the practice facilities are in great nick. In fact on the drive up to the course you just know that there is a special course round the corner. This is just reinforced when you step into the clubhouse and have a great vista over the infinity putting green onto the Moray firth. The course is beautiful to look at and great fun to play, probably because it doesnt really punish you too much at the moment. The greens were slick but receptive and there are some stunning holes notably the first few on the back nine, but each is memorable in its own way. The waste bunkers make it feel a bit different from the other links courses but don’t detract from the natural look in my view.I hadnt played in over a month but the wide fairways and lack of trouble off the tee allowed me to wield my driver with confidence and despite a number of hooky shots I barely strayed off the short stuff. In fact I was putting my opponents to the sword with some early birdies and nearly and ace on the short par 3 up to the castle. I am a great fan of the greens and the thought that has obviously gone into every contour that does alter difficulty of approaches considerably. My only criticism is that it is maybe too playable at the moment for pure ball strikers. Off the backs Im sure it is a very stern test but I feel they need to add a few fairway bunkers to make players think about position off the tee, especially as the fairways are about 50 yards wide and you can grip it and rip it on most holes.All in all a top class track.
June 23, 2010
8 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Dan Hare
Just wanted to add to the previous review with a little video of the waterside 10th tee. I am sure that Castle Stuart will become a famous course to play, a golfing Munro! Enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOzdulRvxos
May 09, 2010
8 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Dan Hare
I can't compete with the preceding review for comprehensive coverage, so just my impressions from playing Castle Stuart twice over the opening weekend. We played off the whites which were manageable for our 12-14 handicaps. The facilities are fantastic and the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. A truly beautiful clubhouse, I don't think that I had smelt money before taking in the aroma of dark wood and leather in the men's locker room ! But to the golf...we really enjoyed it, and the setting is truly fantastic. Everyone there is emphatic that they are trying to create a fun links experience for all levels of golfers, and I can empathise somewhat with the preceding review who felt it wasn't challenging enough for him. The fairways are indeed wider for the most part (there is still gorse waiting for bad shots !) than most classic links, and the greens whilst hard and true didn't punish bad putts as severely as for instance Dornoch the following day, but that doesnt feel like what Castle Stuart is for. The pace of play was excellent, the food delicious and very reasonable, and together with a fun course and breathtaking setting I think that everyone who makes the trip will find Castle Stuart a truly memorable and enjoyable golfing experience. dan
April 05, 2010
8 / 10
Castle Stuart
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colin
One visit to the new Castle Stuart course was all it took to send it rocketing into the top couple of courses in Scotland that have disappointed me most. The philosophy behind the course is outlined in the course guide and I could spend hours writing a dissertation about why the course fails to live up to this philosophy, or why much of the philosophy is, in my view, flawed anyway. I am not saying this is a bad course, I'm still giving it 4 balls, but at this price it must be judged against the best, and I think it falls short.

Things I really liked. Great service and atmosphere. You WILL feel relaxed. The condition. For a new course, it's excellent. The fairways are consistent, and though the greens are not yet perfect, they are more than adequate for a place that charges such high fees. Only some areas of rough still need to knit. There has also clearly been much planting of mature heather and bushes that has aged the course more quickly than other recent developments I've seen. The setting. Ultimately, this saves the course for me. It's up there with the best. You can't help but overlook most of the bad points when you're in a location like this. The green surrounds. While I like tightly bunkered greens, The philosophy here of using slopes, tight lies and run-offs ensures much fun for shots finishing just off the putting areas. The first 4 holes. I want to finish on a high, so I'll discuss them later.

Things I'm indifferent about. Bunkers and sleepers. I like the look of the large waste areas, however, there is a reason that most courses made a transition from this rough look to a more clean-cut approach to bunkers in the early 20th century. I wonder if the hazards here will look the same in 50 years time. The 'filled-in' bunkers and the ubiquitous distressed sleepers are clearly features influenced by nearby Nairn. No bad thing that, but on such an expensive development, and on such a scale, it all feels a bit contrived and twee. Incidentally, the obvious desire to create as many infinity greens as possible, and the annoying habit of the course guide to point this out and ask you to enjoy the view got slightly irritating. The greens. Not the condition, but their size. I liked the fact that they were not as universally sloped as, say, Kingsbarns, a surprise after the practice green, but the fact that they are so large and flat tends to remove any advantage that a particular point on the fairway might bring, so the much heralded "strategic choices" are basically negated. Any advantage on shot angle is minimal, so you just find as much length as you can and don't worry too much about which side of the fairway it's on. On par 3's the large greens allied to the lack of close trouble means there is no fear involved in the shot. Take the much vaunted, and aesthetically impressive, 11th. Every course should have a short par 3, but with a green this size it takes a truly bad shot to miss it. It's no Postage Stamp. In fact, for such a visual delight, it's a let-down to play.

Things I didn't like. The width of the fairways, and the lack of trouble off the tee. I understand that Mr Parsinen wanted to create a playable course, but this is, and I mean this in all seriousness, the dullest course from the tee I have ever played. Even lower ability golfers like to be pushed occasionally. Throw in a couple of tighter tee-shots during the round and all would be forgiven, but it's relentlessly open. Aside from 2, 3, and possibly 10, at no point is there any real hazard close to where you might want to place your tee-shot. The result? Strategy goes out the window and you just grip it and rip it. It's dull. In a great location. The 'dunes'. Again they look artificial. The ones at lower level by the water actually look 'real' and believable, but you would never find such angulated dunes above a sea-cliff as you do here. And certainly not ones that miraculously follow the lines of the holes. Maybe most people don't see it, but to me they are obviously man-made, and fit into the landscape as seamlessly as the factory a few hundred yards inland. Or Cumbernauld town centre. They look like scars. Should it annoy me? Possibly not. Does it annoy me? Greatly.

Don't want to finish on a low, so I'll just say that after four holes I was sure this was going to be a 6-ball course. The 1st is open and playable, a good thing on a first hole, and all in a dream location. The 2nd is a fun short par 5 with some mounds of rough in the fairway to make you think on the tee, while the 4th is a decent par-3, (if the pin is back), whose glorious location only improves as you approach the green. Before that is the 3rd. And here, surely, is a hole where Mr Parsinen's golfing philosophy is actually achieved. It is one of the best short par 4's I've played, and it has the width, playability and strategy that he espouses. Why does it work here, (and on 2), but not elsewhere? In a word, trouble. Bunkers must be taken on, and a lateral hazard on the right avoided to be rewarded with a straightforward approach, (doesn't that sound so very Old Course). Or, go wide left where there's plenty room, (Old course again).As it's a short par-4 the 2nd shot will be short, so the width really can make a vast difference to the angle of approach into this narrow green. Pure risk/reward at it's best. It's not a tough hole, but the whole thing works because the trouble is there to be considered.

More of this and I'd have been raving about this course yet. As it is the setting drags it up to a comfortable 4-ball, otherwise it would be 3 for the course, and a bare 2 if you consider how expensive it is. I'm also well aware that most people will not share my views.
March 29, 2010
6 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Ally McIntosh
March 31, 2010
This is an excellent, informed review.... I look forward to visiting for the first time in the summer to see if I agree with all, some or none of it...
Craig Morrison
At Castle Stuart, Mark Parsinen and his team believe they’ve improved on Kingsbarns. I think they’re right, but only in the tiniest details, which is of course what it gets down to when you start talking about courses as wonderful as these two. I guess Castle Stuart is more spectacular, just, to look at I mean, with carefully considered views, or rather their revealing is carefully considered. And I guess Castle Stuart is just a jot more fascinating to play. I say that because the differences between a good shot and a bad shot here are incredibly subtle. And the bad shot won’t result in a lost ball. The fairways are massive. In fact, you won’t even know you’ve hit a bad shot until you play again and reconsider the hole very very carefully. It’s like Augusta, before the Tiger-proofing (Parsinen loves Alastair Mackenzie). And with the changes in elevation it’s like Dornoch (Parsinen often plays there). I adored the third hole, a 300 yard par four played to an infinity green. There’s bunkering at layup range, none at greenside, but there are brilliant swales and hollows short and left which did for me this time but which I’ll be ready for the next. I loved five, the simple sweeping dogleg with a hidden bunker behind the green. I loved nine (the green especially). And I loved 17 and 18. Hey, I loved them all. I’d originally visited in winter but returned on September 10, 2009, and the course looked excellent. Some rough, but not much, is still to grow in. The greens will be better in their second (full) year, the fairways too. I believe this might soon be the best course on the British isles. It’s worth mentioning that all the staff we met there, from top to bottom, were professional and charming. It’s quite an experience: California comes to Inverness. ANGLOSCOT
September 16, 2009
10 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Simon Light
December 03, 2009
Great Course with super fast greens. Infinity greens with the most stunning views. Clubhouse art deco design & 5 star service.
Sandy Ritchie
Played Castle Stuart on a perfectly calm day in August and was thoroughly looking forward to pitting my wits (and surgeon like wedge skills) against the 2nd of Mark Parsinen’s Scottish masterpieces. Having played Kingsbarns last year is was not surprised by the extremely warm geeting and first class facilities - both practice and clubhouse. I was expecting a Kingsbarns esque experience out on the course and although there are some similarities there are also significant differences. The main similarity is that Parsinen has gone into inordinate detail in almost every respect – the location is second to none with stunning views that somehow feel as much part of the course as the beautifully landscaped waste bunkers and meandering tee boxes. The waste bunkers themselves are things of beauty – you feel that Old Tom Morris himself has had a hand in deciding where a nice wee rivetted face should be put in for maximum effect.The main difference I noticed between this and Kingsbarns is that there is significantly less trouble off the tee. In fact, for the better player you could almost say it was too easy as the fairways are expansive, usually roll in from both sides and feature very few bunkers. This may however be due to the relative youthfulness of the course and hopefully in time as the rough grows in the fairways themselves will narrow. The main difficulties with this course lie around the greens as anything off the short stuff will be rewarded with numerous hollows and swails to overcome.Although holes 7 and 15 are far too similar there is good variety to the holes and the par 3’s (the 11th especially) are excellent. This is a golf course that anyone interested in the game has to play and it will only get better over time. The only reason that it doesn’t get 6 stars from me (unlike Kingsbarns) is that it does not provide the same challenge off the tee although visually it is superior to anything else that I have played. The only thing I forgot to check was if there was a healthy supply of Kummel behind the bar – will need to check on that next time…..
August 11, 2009
8 / 10
Castle Stuart
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ian butcher
The experience of playing here inspired me to write my first post on this site , although I have always enjoyed reading others insights.This place is special; for those of us who love the game we owe it to ourselves and the world to recognise what is going on here; others have eloquently described the playing experience and I can’t wait until the greenkeeping team have those subtle undulation running like glass to really provide a proper test of skill; , but there is more; Castle Stuart represents [I hope] a bright future for golf, if those that come into contact with it reflect how it achieves the following in an extravagantly beautiful way:The environment is enhanced, indeed celebrated. There is a real love for its location, not so unsurprising, given the natural and historic beauty, but how many other sporting and/or leisure developments around the world have genuine regard for their location. Look how the design opens up the views, exposes the visitor to the scenery and its rich heritage, all while focusing on the next shot.? The combination of trying to concentrate on the golf challenge, while being in awe of my precise place on Planet Earth at the time was my most abiding personal memory.Its design is connected with what locally precedes it. I know the design team have the utmost respect for the unique character of Scottish golf, and this respect is fundamental to the playing experience; its not a development that tries to impose concepts and fleeting fashions from the other side of the world, but one which happily encourages the visitor to seek more of the traditional game that exists in region. For such reasons alone, golf players, developers, and investors, need to recognise why Castle Stuart is receiving such plaudits even at this stage of inclusion on the worldwide discussion boards!. My humble advice to the curious; Of course play it; but then consider, in the 19th , for the health of the game in your part of the world, why this place resonates so much with the spirit of the game.
October 24, 2008
10 / 10
Castle Stuart
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Jim Leisenring
October 28, 2008
I am a PGA Professional in the US and I have had a chance to play Castle Stuart and believe that it will be one of the highest regarded golf courses not just of its type, but across the ranks. It is truly fantastic aesthetically and from a players standpoint it offers constant engagement, variety and interest.