Played in mid-April, 1-2 club wind, 58 F/14 C. A fun course and experience that, like Brora, reminds us that golf in Scotland isn’t just about sport, but about community, because this looks and feels truly like a “locals only” course, especially with so many walking their dogs along the firth as we played it on a fine Spring day. While the opening stretches along the water offer outstanding views, the holes are pancake flat with 1 and 2 as a rather dull beginning.
Things start getting interesting with the semi-hidden greens and 3 and 4 (the latter a terrific par 3 with a sliver for putting surface). The course zig-zags away from the water at 8 and into the gorse, and gradually the screws are tightened, culminating with 12-14 -- a brutal stretch of golf comprising two loooong par 4s and a loooong par 3. My group surmised that very few amateurs have made it through those three holes under par from the tips.
Holes 13 and 14 may be a bit out of character with the rest of the course (into the “woods” so to speak), but given the added muscle the holes bring to the course, I think the trade is fair – I disagree with those who think they detract from the links. After 15 (a good short par 4 -- Nairn has a number of good short par 4s), the course then beelines for the clubhouse with some more fairly flat holes to finish, but the nasty little pot bunkers, true and pleasant greens, very firm fairways and the occasional surprise (a hidden hollow in front of a green, or the inevitable burn you thought was out of play from the tee) all offer exactly the kind of playing conditions I enjoy -- not to mention the wind.
My golf ball rating for the course would be a 4 or perhaps 4 1/2 but Nairn gets an extra ball for having the kindest, most welcoming membership of anywhere I’ve played in Britain. My group had as much fun chatting in the bar (and on the putting green AND the first tee AND the range) as we did playing. Nearly two dozen different folks stopped by to say hello, to ask how our round or our trip was and what courses in the States we liked. We all agreed immediately this would be the club in the Isles we’d join were the people we met the only qualifier. But that’s not to disparage the golf at all – it’s an enjoyable, fair, straight-forward, attractive course with enough bite that one is ready for a pint or two, especially with the friendliest folks around, afterwards.
Date: November 17, 2015