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16 miles east of Inverness.
Contact in advance – Not Sat/Sun am
Nairn Golf Club is located on an elevated, rumpled piece of linksland on the Moray Firth coastline, close to the historic fishing port. It’s one of Scotland’s lesser-known gems.
This is a course which has been touched by many great architects. The club was founded in 1887 to an original design by Archie Simpson. A few years later Old Tom Morris extended the layout and, prior to the Great War, James Braid made further alterations. Directly after the Great War, Ben Sayers added his mark to the course only to find James Braid itching to polish off the design. It is no wonder that Nairn is such a detailed masterpiece.
One of the most spectacular seaside courses in Scotland, Nairn boasts sea views from every hole. If you are a right-hander and you’ve got a slicing problem, you could find the beach from your very first tee shot. The sea is in play on six of the first seven holes; make sure you’ve got an adequate supply of balls.
When the sun is low in the sky and the shadows are long, you cannot fail to appreciate the undulating, bunker-pitted moonscape that is Nairn. It’s a delightful links with fast, firm but narrow fairways, a number of which are framed by gorse bushes and heather, heaping further pressure onto a nervous drive. The greens are sited in the trickiest places – some are raised and others are nestled in hollows. Most are well protected, either by bunkers or natural hazards, and all of the greens are fast and true, a Nairn trademark.
There is a plethora of good holes at Nairn and the 5th is one of the best. It’s a great 390-yard par four called “Nets” which requires a straight solid drive avoiding the beach on the right. This will leave a short approach shot to a small, elevated green that is well protected by bunkers and a sharp bank sloping off to the right.
The 9th, named “Icehouse”, is a lovely par four to close the outward nine. A tough long drive from the tee is required, avoiding the whin bushes on the left and the bunkers on the right. The green is located to the right of the white cottage which is, in fact, a Salmon Bothy Keep your eyes peeled for the Icehouse which is covered in thick grassy turf where salmon was kept on ice for up to two years.
Nairn is a very long way north. However, you may be surprised to hear that despite Nairn’s Highland latitude, it is located in one of the driest places in Britain. So, why not follow in the footsteps of Peter McEvoy? In 1999, here at Nairn, he lead the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team to a resounding 15-9 victory over the USA.
Following a Course Audit presentation by Tom Mackenzie at a Special General Meeting, approval was given to start work on a course upgrade at the end of 2018. New forward tees were added and new greens constructed on the 1st, 7th and 14th holes, with further reshaping and bunker adjustments made to a further twelve holes.
Nairn is a very fine golf course but it lacked a little something that I am unable to put my finger on - maybe I am being too critical as it was the last course I played in a couple of days in the Highlands and championship golf fatigue may have set in by then!
Or maybe it has suffered from the input of too many classic course architects? The famed greens were not of the standard – even for mid April – that I was expecting so that was a very big letdown for starters.
Bunkers looked a little rough around the faces and sand in the traps was hard pan in places and too soft in other parts. The general feeling I got – and I must be brutally honest here – was of playing on a somewhat overpriced course that has punched above its weight in attracting so many national and international championships down the years.
There, I’ve said it and I'm sorry to offend anybody who rates Nairn as one of their favourites.
I loved the “Icehouse” buildings on the 9th and thought the three inland holes from hole 13 to 15 were very interesting for a links but overall I just never got enthused about the place – they've a lovely big clubhouse too (despite the poor after round service) so maybe I’ll need to return another time – if they let me back – to understand why it’s worth shelling out such a hefty green fee to play here.