There is reference to golf being played here at Fortrose & Rosemarkie as far back as 1702, though it was not until 1889 that a formal golf club was established with a membership of fifty playing over six holes. Play was suspended during the First World War when the clubhouse was used by the Highland Cyclist Battalion as a guardhouse!
The course was extended to 18 holes by 1924 but it was ten years later before James Braid shaped the links to its current design and Sir Hector Monro opened the revamped course 1935. War intervened again in the early 1940s when the military requisitioned the course and clubhouse as a training ground during the Second World War but all 18 holes were back in play by 1947.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie lies out on a narrow peninsula named Chanonry Point, just north of Inverness – jutting out into Rosemarkie Bay – protecting the entrance to the Moray Firth. The road to the lighthouse divides the course in two, with just enough land either side to accommodate a 5,881-yard long golf course.
What Fortrose & Rosemarkie lacks in yardage is more than made up for with its small, subtle greens, strategic bunkering, dense island gorse, several blind approaches and the proximity of the sea at nearly half the holes. Playing to one’s handicap, especially with the wind up on this exposed sliver of land is never easy.
The scorecard is deceiving as it shows that 11 of the 14 par fours measure less than 400 yards in length, whilst the two par fives are each less than 470 yards but, remember, length is not everything on this course – the 455-yard par five 4th is not stroke index 1 for nothing and the degree of difficulty is obvious to the visitor when standing on the tee.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie proudly hosted two national competitions during 2010, the first time the club has ever attracted such prestigious events to the Black Isle. The first tournament was the SLGA Scottish Senior Ladies Amateur when Fiona de Vries of St Rule beat defending champion, Heather Anderson of Alyth 1 UP in the match play final. The other contest saw the three-man gents team of Carrickvale from Lothians win the SGU Scottish Club Championship by a winning margin of three strokes over second placed St Andrews.
I have so much time for golf courses like Fortrose & Rosemarkie. A setting as unique and stunning as any I have come across along with some fantastic golf holes and one that is truly world-class.
Often described as a short, tight and fun links this doesn’t quite do the course justice. It is certainly all of those but some big golf is also required and the quality of several holes is extremely high.
Located on the Chanonry Peninsula in the ‘Black Isle’ this Scottish links golf course enjoys breathtaking views over the Moray Firth, very close to the City of Inverness. Now confirmed as being the 15th Oldest Recorded Club in the World in 1793 the course was later re-designed by the five time Open Champion James Braid in 1932. You play four holes out towards the thinnest point of the land-tip, with the sea and beach on your left, before turning and playing another four holes on the other side, again with water on your left.
These are spectacularly located golf holes but they also play so well. Modest in length at 329 yards the first serves as a perfect getaway hole before the second and third raise the bar higher; both have superbly simple and understated green complexes that are so natural in appearance yet difficult to judge.
You are then hit with the fourth; one of the best golf holes I have ever played. Aptly named Lighthouse, for this is what you have been playing towards since your round began. It is a par five from the black tees of just 497 yards. At around 250 yards the fairway ends and broken ground begins and an unbelievable green complex is located at the end of the peninsula. It slopes left-to-right and requires a long carry over rough duneland if you fancy going for the green in two, otherwise a slither of fairway is available down the right. It’s an all-world hole that will live long in the memory.
The course plays longer than its 6,085 yards (par is 71) and is undoubtedly not a venue to miss on your golf trip to The Highlands.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A round can be in disarray early if you hook any shots on the first hole which runs along the water’s edge. The 4th is a standout hole. It is a par five of just 455 yards and yet it is rated the most difficult on the course. Accuracy is essential as you play towards the sloping green in front of Chanonry Lighthouse. The par three 9th is 196 yards in length and can require anything from a short iron to driver but beware of out of bounds which runs all along the left side.
Ten and eleven are par fours that will test your ability to avoid fairway pot bunkers that can spell ruin to any round if you are unlucky enough to finish against a steep revetted face. The 17th fairway has a marker stone which is reputed to also be the location of the last burning of a witch in Scotland. The round concludes with a 212-yard par three and plenty of gorse, particularly left.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.