Organised golf has been played in this part of the Scottish Highlands for well over a hundred years with Golspie Golf Club formed in 1889 – twelve years after Dornoch, one year before Tain and two years before Brora.
Unlike these other three neighbouring courses, the terrain at Golspie is not exclusively links in nature. The course routing sets out over meadowland, quickly turns back as links along the Dornoch Firth for several holes, veers away from the shore into tree-lined heathland around the turn then returns to parkland and links by the end of the round – quite a combination!
There are birdie opportunities early in the round at the 493-yard 1st hole, named “Backies” and at the 522-yard par five 4th hole, named “Gully”. However, you’re well advised to leave your second shot at the 4th short of the small valley in front of the green – the ball may be playable on the right side but there is heavy rough on the left side and any shot out of here will be played blind to the green.
An interesting pair of short par fours – the 288-yard “Sahara” and 285-yard “Fleet” – are played immediately before and after the par three 6th hole, called “Saucer” then the course enters its heathland section at Ferry Wood, which was laid out by James Braid in 1926. Holes 8 to 10 are located here at the furthest point to the clubhouse and they form a lovely loop, bounded by tall pine trees and deep heather rough.
Holes 11 to 14 are all played over pastureland beside the road that runs down the left of each fairway. The 15th turns back, away from the clubhouse before an old fashioned golfing quirk is chanced upon – back-to-back par threes! “Cairngorms” is the 175-yard 16th hole played to a tiered green with magnificent views across the Firth and Tarbat Ness. It is followed by the 211-yard “Sahara Back” 17th hole which is often played short right by members to avoid sand and rough surrounding the green. A pitch and putt on the large, level green will often result in a par score at this hole.
At a touch over 6,000 yards in length, Golspie does not intimidate the visiting golfer in terms of yardage from tee to green but it does ask a fair number of strategic ball placement questions around the course so keep your thinking cap on when playing here.
Adding Golspie to my highlands itinerary was one of the easiest, and arguably the best, decision I made. The professional staff at the club will make you feel like a member and you can’t ask for better hospitality. If I lived in the Highlands, this would be the club I’d join with great pleasure.
The diverse terrain and variety both along the coastline and among the pines are an incredible asset which truly sets this course apart from its peers. I found the assortment of links and parkland golf to be a refreshing surprise. After a wide open reachable par 5, the humps and bumps of the links terrain hugging the coastline quickly come into play with the excellent par 3 2nd with a wide and shallow green. Holes 3-5 are within arm’s reach of the North Sea and offer a tough challenge as you navigate semi-blind undulating terrain, especially the short (world class) par 4 5th with a blind elevated green.
The 6th is a par 3 which plays away from the water but is framed beautifully with dunes and is fraught with perfectly placed bunkers surrounding the green. The opening stretch of this hidden gem present very solid golf and begin to tell the story of how underrated this venue is. As you close out the front nine, you’re reminded of how fun golf can be when you don’t always need driver and intelligent shot-making is a premium if you want to make birdies. The courses personality transitions as you migrate towards the pines on the splendid 8th hole, which once again is framed so well. You get the best of everything at this course, including very good playing conditions which is a credit to the hard working greenkeeping crew.
I thoroughly enjoyed the long dog-leg left 9th hole which will test the best of us for an accurate drive before you encounter the most charming par 3 10th hole called “Lochy” which plays over a pond to a well-protected green. This corner of the property introduces you to beautiful heather and healthy tall pine trees to contrast with the opening collection of holes along the beach. This diversity and change in direction reminded me in places of Lundin and Nairn which has similar experiences, also created by James Braid among others.
Holes 11 through 14 are played over benign pastureland near the boundary line and are the least memorable given the setting, but the routing picks up again quickly on the demanding 15th hole which is a very difficult par 4 that is among the very best you’ll play. The 15th green is pitched beautifully from right to left taking advantage of the nearby undulation that takes you up the spectacular par 3 16th which plays straight towards the North Sea. While it is unusual to have two par 3s in a row at the 16th and 17th, they are both truly outstanding and perfectly complement the entire experience. The 16th plays to a multi-tiered perched green that is tough to hit while the 17th is a longer blind tee shot to a larger green area. I was advised to respect these two shorter holes, and it was advice well given. The 18th hole is in the middle of the property with a huge hill in the middle of the fairway so you can’t see the green, but it is a mighty finishing hole located between the 14th & 15th holes (to your left) and the 4th hole (to your right).
There are several holes that play in front of the clubhouse in a north / south direction, and an aerial view of the routing will show you how diverse the golf is at Golspie over different terrain in such proximity. A trip to Golspie should be a priority on any golfing itinerary, as this, and many other reviews are saying. It’s an injustice to this venue to consider it an add-on to a trip to play Royal Dornoch. By itself, it is a wonderful day out. I found the value, the hospitality, the location and the atmosphere to be first class and can’t promote the charming golf enough. It’s so refreshing to be away from the big-name venues and actually feel like you’re a welcomed part of the club, rather than a visitor on a factory conveyor belt. I highly recommend this fascinating and varied golf experience – and I’m confident the future is bright at Golspie Golf Club.
Good course with plenty of gorse to stop your ball rolling too far away !!
Walking off the 1st tee at Golspie towards a featureless, flat fairway it might not be immediately apparent about all the golfing goodness that lies in store and just how terrific it is… but by the time you have reached the turn you are acutely aware of the spectacular nature of this fascinating and varied links.
Golspie may not be love at first sight but it is likely to be an everlasting relationship. James Braid has once again come up with the goods at this fun, and at times quirky, hybrid links course.
From the moment you play into the first green until the time you walk off the exceptional ninth you are in golfing heaven. It’s a stretch of golf that will truly delight. At times it is a rollercoaster ride with shades of two of my other favourite courses; Perranporth in Cornwall and Tenby in South Wales. The land, particularly on the holes that hug the coastline, is simply made for golfing.
Holes two to seven are as linksy as they come - genuine, authentic linksland - before we move into a heathland section of the course which is still in close proximity to the sea and is certainly linksland in my eyes, albeit the holes are lined with heather and pine.
Holes 8 and 9, the latter in particular, are first-class holes. The ninth requires you to shape the drive from right-to-left before playing to a green which is protected by a large depression towards the front-left. It’s a hole that could be placed on many a top golf course and only improve it further.
The inward nine doesn’t quite match the highs of the front-nine but there is still plenty of good and strategic golf to be played, albeit over less linksy land.
The diverse terrain is what makes Golspie so special and stand out from other courses. Despite it having moments of heath and a spell of more meadowland on the inland back-nine I would still class it as a links overall. It doesn’t feature in the book ‘True Links’ but there are several courses included in the publication that aren’t a patch on Golspie for linksy-ness!
With so many top courses in the Scottish Highlands it is easy to overlook a visit to Golspie but, in my opinion, that would be a big error.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Golspie was part of the itinerary for our Highlands golf break and one e best decisions we made was to play here. We arrived on the last Tuesday in June to overcast skies and strong winds. Walking on to the first tee the course was deserted and for the entire round, apart from the green staff, we had the course to ourselves.
This truly is a gem. Even when a short down pour drove us off the course after the 14th t did not spoil the enjoyment. We had a break in the clubhouse for a sandwich and a pint and then returned to the 15th tee to finish our round.
For me the early holes along the beach were the highlight with great views across Dornoch Firth. Keeping it straight, not my forte, is needed here, length does not always help. Get a course planner, look at what lies ahead, chose your club and pray you hit it well.
After a straightforward opening par 5 the course turns towards the sea with a 160 yard par 3. Into the wind I had to flush a rescue club to reach the green. There is then a run of 3 holes right alongside the beach on the left. However, if you bale out to the right you can be in nearly as much trouble.
Our group loved this course and are already talking about a return next year.
Finally got to play Golspie in early April on a very wet and windy afternoon when not only were we the only people playing, we were the only people at the club ! A nice straight forward opening few holes followed by some strong holes along the beach, then cutting across to avoid the omnipresent Scottish static caravan park and heading to the far end of the course and the more heath land feeling holes. Really like Tinkers camp hole, then we had a run of strong par 4s back into the northerly wind. The finishing holes were in a mini loop and very hard with the wind conditions. The course reminds me of Monifieth in its mixture of holes and quality.
It's easy to overlook Golspie when compared to Dornoch, Brora and Tain but this would be a mistake, it's an excellent course in its own right.4.5 rating if I could, but it's too good for a 4 !
The first six holes are in the flatter more open part of the course with 3, 4 and 5 running right along the beach. From the 7th hole the course moves towards the holes featuring heather and trees, however the fairways keep a true links feel.
Several holes from the 9th are known as ‘paradise corner’. The 9th in particular requires accurate hitting to stay out of the heather on the 412-yard par four. The 10th is a most attractive par three, ‘Locky’, with two small ponds, heather and bunkers making the 148-yard sloping target seem just a little smaller.
Twelve and thirteen are two further par fours needing straight hitting. The 14th is currently a par four of 425 yards but this may be lengthened to a par five in the future. The remaining holes are in the open around the clubhouse. Whilst 16 and 17 are back to back par threes, 18 is a tough finishing par four of 335 yards.
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.
The opening 6 holes are a links delight with the rumpled fairways of the 3rd to the 5th hugging the coastline. The routing then turns inland to the raised ground around Ferry Wood and these heathland holes are surprisingly good. The 9th, “Paradise,” is an excellent par four that’s well worth its stroke index 1 rating and it reminded me of the type of hole you might find at the likes of Formby – same sort of undulating, springy fairway that’s bounded by heather and plays to a beautifully raised green with a wooded backdrop.
I know another reviewer has mentioned this part of the layout would not look out of place at the celebrated Hotchkin course in Lincolnshire. Well, I’ll echo that sentiment as I too loved this stretch of holes and they really set Golspie apart from most typical Scottish links courses. After playing alongside Ferry Road from the 11th to 14th, the course makes a move towards the coast for the closing holes and the back-to-back par threes at 16 and 17 are excellent, particularly the former with its wonderful two-tiered green.
I was alerted three years ago that this place could really be something if a little money was spent on it. Well I don’t know about the financial side of things since then but I do know that a couple of green keeping staff (with experience at Wentworth, Dornoch and Royal Aberdeen) have been brought in by the club and boy, does their input ever show around the place. This was the fourth time I’ve been north of Inverness to golf and the first time I’ve played Golspie. My advice to you if visiting either Dornoch or Brora is to make enough time for a round here as it’s a cracking little course that fully deserves its new found status as one of the best in the country. Jim McCann