Billed as Britain’s most northerly 18-hole links course, the layout at Reay Golf Club was established in 1893 but it fell into decline during World War II, only to re-emerge stronger than ever in the early 1960s.
A minibus of American golfers is not the first thing I expected to see on arrival at Reay Golf Club; the most northerly 18 hole links on mainland Scotland!
To our surprise there were around a dozen Yanks milling around the clubhouse, some on the putting green, others just paying their green-fee. We were on a tight schedule and had been hoping for a quick 2-ball round of golf at a deserted links; a moments delay now could result in serious consequences.
We were pegging it up in The Club’s 125th Anniversary ’Walk On’ Open and after a double bogey start my playing partner was most likely cursing me for making us effectively jump the queue, push-in and sprint to the first tee.
Reay is a golf course that I had not been able to find much information out about so hopefully if you have stumbled across this review you are perhaps in the same boat as me and I can therefore shed some light on the course. If you are short on time right now the quick answer is simply ‘go there’ because it offers plenty of very good golf.
The longer answer will hopefully explain why it is worth making what is most likely a very long (and beautiful) journey to this authentic links course on the North Coast of Scotland around 15 miles west of Thurso.
I maintain that all a ‘good’ links course requires is firm turf, natural undulations, a few changes in elevation and some decent green complexes. Reay has got the lot and if you factor in the glorious location, and the panoramic views, it offers more than many.
It is a genuine links which is subtle and simple at times (but all the better for that) whilst at other moments the land is more dramatic and the golf more fun and exciting. It all adds up to great variety and with the exception of the less-linksy second hole and a minor blip mid-way through the back-nine (approach shot to 14 and the short 15th) there is a tremendous amount of very good golf.
The front-nine is your ‘classic links’ whilst the back-nine is more undulating, unorthodox and at times quirky (reminiscent of Bude & North Cornwall in South-West England for those who are familiar). There are a few excellent short two-shotters on the homeward stretch which make superb use of the terrain; the 16th and 17th are superb risk reward holes. The green sites throughout are very good and at times exceptional.
As we left the carpark I noted the last group of Americans were just finishing the front-nine! We had made it just in time.
I paid a measly £12.50 to play the course and to say I got value-for-money is a massive understatement. The daily green-fee of £30 would have been more than palatable. For anyone considering taking the risk to visit unknown Reay then the answer is most definitely yes.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.