For many years, Nairn Championship was always in the conversation of what is the best course in northern Scotland behind Royal Dornoch Championship. The debate included Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay. Now that Castle Stuart and Trump International Aberdeen have been added, Nairn Championship often gets overlooked and bypassed by golfers.
But bypassing it would be a mistake. It is a very fine links course. I do note that I played this a year ago and did not notice the change to some of the bunkering as mentioned in the other post. If so, that would be a tremendous mistake as it changes what one would expect to see on a course of this caliber.
Yes, the first eight holes run along the sea but like the other post I did not find the sea to be in play on a relatively calm day with a light breeze.
I thought the conditions were excellent and the greens very good to putt on.
The holes I favored the most were 2, 3, 12, 14, 15 and 16. None of these holes are truly spectacular but they are very strong holes nonetheless. In fact, that is what I would say about Nairn Championship in summary, it does not have any exceptional holes, but it does not have any weak ones either. One might remember the inward holes a bit more due to the heavier presence of gorse and a feeling of slightly narrower fairways. The gorse seem to pinch the fairways in one's mind so much that when you get to the 18th tee, a nice par 5 that played downwind, you feel like you have stepped out of a shadow that has been around you for the past 40 minutes. And I did like the finishing hole. My partner easily put his second on the green with me pushing mine a bit left, he missed his eagle and I missed my birdie but we loved how it finished on a hole that had your attention due to the bunkering, but was very fair to play down the middle or left side.
The green complexes are not overly done in terms of being too penal. A green that had more tilt and slopes to it seem to have fewer bunkers whereas slightly flatter greens seem to have more bunkers. But that could be just a memory from where I hit my approach shot.
The par 3's were the strength of the course, despite the above average length of the par five's for a links course. I liked the sixth hole the best of the par three holes due to the combination of heather, gorse and bunkers.
In summary, any golfer going north should stop and play Nairn Championship. And for me, if I had to make a choice I would play Nairn Championship before Cruden Bay because Nairn is more consistent. It doesn't have the spectacular holes that Cruden Bay has nor does it have the same quirkiness, but it is a joy to walk and play.
One final note: similar to Pebble Beach and Royal Aberdeen I often wonder whether the architect got the routing correct. Seems to me it would have been more interesting to play the final 8 holes nearer to the water. At Pebble Beach I often wonder why the architect did head inland at the 3rd green with 2 being changed to a dogleg and do the course in reverse until you arrive at 17. Yes, you give up the downhill 7 but I think 8 requiring a drive over the chasm would have been interesting. The same applies here at Nairn. Perhaps it was the prevailing breeze that dictated the original routing of the first eight being seaside, but for me the course would have been better had it "built momentum" as you played the round and finished along the sea, even if you see the sea from every hole if you look for it.
Date: September 29, 2019