In my opinion, there are four courses worth discussing as the best golf course in Scotland: The Old Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield, Trump Turnberry, and Royal Dornoch Championship. There are a few others close behind such as Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.
Royal Dornoch has everything. It has a great routing taking advantage of all the natural land features to the fall-offs from ridges, to playing along the sea, to going up ridges, and playing alongside hills.
I have played it while shooting a high score due to bad weather and I have played it in perfect, nearly windless conditions when I chipped in to save par behind the 18th green to record the first day in my life when I broke 80 on two different courses on the same day (79 at Brora and 78 at Royal Dornoch). It does not really matter my score at Royal Dornoch, such is the joy in playing it and learning new things about it every time I go.
The members are truly spoiled here because in the summer you can likely tee off just before 9 and if the course is nearly empty, you can likely still get around it. More importantly, the golf course is so expertly conceived in the routing and green complexes that one will be challenged both strategically and mentally in a different way nearly every time you play it.
The first hole eases one into the round and the second instantly gets your attention with the raised, very well defended green on the par 3.
From the third hole, you are challenged as to the line of your tee shot on nearly every hole, even if the course feels more like a "second shot" course due to the raised greens.
There is not a hole I would want to have done differently even if 17 does mimic 8 a bit....although the green complexes are very different.
I loved the sixth hole so much that if no one is behind me, I walk back to the tee and play it a second time. One simply must hit the green and if the pin is in the center and you have missed either left or right, you might find yourself going back and forth a few times. Sometimes even a sand wedge won't hold this green as well as a few others. One simply must always consider how to approach each green based on the pin position.
The only criticism the course might deserve is that the par fives are too short. However, the layout of these holes are very different and one must think about where to hit your second shot (unless you are a long hitter) in order to best attack the pin position.
The par 3's are world class. They are in the discussion of which golf course has the best par 3's in the world (about 25 courses can be considered).
I have yet to experience a truly slow round here which I know other people have experienced and it put them off a bit. I have had rounds take as little as 3 hours and some as long as 4:30. As a "fast" player I usually get upset while waiting, but at Royal Dornoch I find myself looking around to look at the locations of the bunkers, the placement of the bunkers, or at the greens themselves. As a novice wannabe golf architect, I look for things I would do differently on this golf course, particularly due to modern technology, and I find myself not wanting to change any of it.
It is a must play.
Date: September 29, 2019