Played mid-April (36 holes), low/mid 50s F in 1-3 clubs wind with top quality caddies (members, of course). I wondered if Dornoch could possibly live up to its praise and hype. Here’s the answer: yes. Simply one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played – fair, but incredibly fun, beautiful, stately and challenging. I can’t believe a player could find himself or herself bored here – there are 18 unique little stories, well-connected, but all a little different too. And boy, not only do you have to hit the shots, but you have to THINK. After unlimbering at 1 you are face-to-face with a par 3 where taking a club or two less than distance to land short of the green is apparently the wisest of all plays. If you miss the putting surface anywhere else a maddening game of ping-pong can await (and did for me), back and forth between bunker and hollow and hillock and gorse until . . . well, until you put down X. This is quite simply one of the great par 3s in the game. But you forget about your travails as the course and the sea is unveiled before you at 3. A string of solid par 4s come next, and then 6, a stunning little tester of a par 3. Then there’s 8 – the blind drive into the sky and down the steep cliff until you’re hard by the sea. I just loved this hole. Another gorgeous par 3 at 10 with its necklace of bunkers, and eventually you come to Foxy with its spectacular little mounds and raised green. And 16 and 17 – first 16, up the hill with so much less room left than you think you have, and then tumbling down the 17th with its devilish approach. I was simply exhilarated walking off 18 both rounds. And to top it off, head to the Royal Golf Hotel, a special place, where in the southwest corner of the restaurant/bar sit two sofas and a table with windows looking over start and finish of the course. What a wonderful spot – sitting there with my good friends recounting our rounds, pints in hand as the sunset bathed the course and the sea. An experience I’ll not soon forget. If there’s any magic in golf, it’s here.
Date: January 21, 2016