Royal Dornoch (Championship) - North Scotland - Scotland

Royal Dornoch Golf Club,
Golf Road,
Dornoch,
Sutherland,
IV25 3LW,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1862 810219


Royal Dornoch Golf Club is spellbinding. It seems to mesmerise amateur and professional golfers from all over the world and many make the pilgrimage to this natural links at some point in their lives. Let’s be honest, for most people, it takes a concerted effort to get to Dornoch. For those who live in Glasgow, the drive by car will take about four hours.

In 1630, according to the Guinness Book of Golf Facts and Feats, Sir Robert Gordon described the course in glowing terms. Dornoch… “doe surpass the fields of Montrose or St Andrews”, he wrote. There are also written records showing that golf was played at Dornoch in 1616, long before its first nine-hole golf club was founded in 1877. This makes Dornoch the world’s third oldest golf course (behind St Andrews and Leith). In 1886, Old Tom Morris “updated” the original nine holes and came back three years later to extend the course to 18 holes. John H. Taylor later made changes to the layout with guidance from the club’s secretary, John Sutherland. After the Second World War, George Duncan added six new holes (6 to 11), when former holes 13-18 were incorporated into the new Struie course.

It’s the timeless setting that makes Royal Dornoch such a pleasing place to play golf. It’s wild, isolated and, at the same time, absolutely beautiful; there’s the blaze of colour in early summer when the gorse is in flower. The pure white sandy beach divides the links from the Dornoch Firth and it all feels very humbling.

Ostensibly the course itself is pretty straightforward: it’s an out-and-back layout. Many of the greens, though, are built on natural raised plateaux making approach play especially challenging. It’s the raised domed greens that became the trademark of Dornoch’s most famous son, Donald Ross. Born in 1872, Ross became the club’s head green-keeper and professional. He later emigrated to the States and became one of the greatest golf course architects of all time. Many of his designs, most notably Pinehurst No.2, bear the hallmark of Royal Dornoch’s greens.

There are plenty of great holes to choose from at Royal Dornoch. The 4th is in the middle of a stretch of three excellent par fours. The line from the tee is the statue of the Duke of Sutherland. “Whinny Brae” is the par three 6th that signals the change from the low-lying holes to the more elevated ones. It requires an accurate tee shot across a swathe of gorse that wraps its way around the plateau green. The 14th, called “Foxy”, is a long par four, measuring almost 445 yards, and it is one of the most simple and natural holes in golf featuring a classical Donald Ross domed green.

The town of Dornoch is steeped in history; there has been a human settlement in the area for over 4,000 years. The witch’s stone stands in a local garden, commemorating Scotland’s last “witch” burning. The stone says 1722, but Janet Horne, the alleged witch, was tried and condemned to death in 1727.

Most people know about Dornoch and many have this course on their must-play list. All we can say is that you shouldn’t leave it too late (as did Bernard Darwin), this course must be played sooner rather than later. "And then, alas!—worst of all the deficiencies in my education—there is Dornoch. I never seem yet to have enough time or enough money to get so far north."

In 2017, Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert oversaw a number of improvements made in-house to holes 5, 10, 11 and 12. Shortly after these were implemented, work began on creating a new 7th hole, routing it closer to the edge of the escarpment, with the old gorse bushes removed to open up views of the coastline for the entire length of the hole.

The new hole opened for play in 2020 and the green is now shaped exactly to the dimensions of the old one. New tees will also be built on the site of the former 7th green, allowing golfers to tee from the top of the hill as part of the original design intent of Old Tom Morris.

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Reviews for Royal Dornoch (Championship)

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Description: Royal Dornoch Golf Club is spellbinding. It seems to mesmerise amateur and professional golfers from all over the world and many make the pilgrimage to this natural links at some point in their lives. Rating: 9.6 out of 10 Reviews: 108
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mheywood
Arguably, one of the most subtly difficult courses I've played, but in a beautiful setting. Some of the greens are like up-turned saucers, so if you draw or fade the ball in and don't hit the right spot on the green, you'll be playing your next from a greenside bunker. Outward nine slopes left to right towards the sea and if you're a fader you'll be in the fairway pot bunkers. I played well over my handicap, but enjoyed it all the same. One minus point, the course marshall can be intrusive, even if you haven't lost a hole. Overall though, I'd go back tomorrow.
September 20, 2006
8 / 10
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michael ball
this is the best course i played in scotland not just because i played my best round ever but i it is a magic place to play, it is beautiful you feel like there is no one else on the planet(except for the jets) and the course was perfect and the holes were so all different that you can use your imagination so much. that is great thing about links golf the surrounds just make you feel there is nthing wrong in the world and the people are so friendly that they must get tired of it maybe once a year, surely not. this was the first pure links we played and i found out the secret to links golf, STAY OUT OF THE FAIRWAY BUNKERS and your day will complete.
September 09, 2006
10 / 10
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Bernhard Koehler
I had the chance to play Royal Dornoch last week. Even the weather was not to good, i had so much fun to play this course. Some really unforgetable golf holes. Great Design of the greens. A really perfect links course.
August 20, 2006
10 / 10
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Keith Baxter

Played Dornoch three weeks ago in warm sunshine and showers and what a treat it was, living up to my high expectations of the course. With the gorse in bloom and the aquamarine sea ever-present, there can be no finer place on earth to play golf. Pure theatrical magic. Dornoch goes directly into my personal Top 10.

June 15, 2006
9 / 10
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Ben Zetsche
WOW just about captures it! Played the course today, weather was beautiful and course was even better than 'advertised'. We made the trip to Scotland from the U.S.A. and of the big name courses we played - St. Andrews (New), Carnoustie (Championship) and Royal Dornoch (Championship), RD came out on top for all four of us. While we aren't going to be playing alot of the other name courses it's hard to imagine that others would measure up. Links golf at it's finest. Will definitely come back and play again!!!
June 04, 2006
10 / 10
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Jim Robertson
Struck it lucky with the weather - a calm, bright day at the end of March. Played Struie in the morning (most enjoyable) then RD after lunch. Stunning run of holes from 3-6 and an amazing feeling standing on the 9th tee. Overall I was slightly disappointed by the back 9 especially the featureless 16th and 18th. I would rank Dornoch behind Cruden Bay (probably the nearest comparison) and it's not as great as Carnoustie, Turnberry or Muirfield. But a fine golfing and scenic experience.
April 30, 2006
8 / 10
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Hugh
July 23, 2008
It's all about opinions I know and I like both Cruden Bay and Carnoustie but Royal Dornoch is, in my view, better than those two courses. I found absolutley nothing to be disappoineted about at Dornoch. It's one of the few courses in the world that completely met my high expectations.
janetbeal
This is definitely my favourite of all the courses I have played. The course itself is very challenging, but rewards good shots (and punishes bad), and the location is fabulous, so if you are not playing well, just look around and take in the scenery and sense of calm and isolation. One thing I REALLY like about Royal Dornoch is that the course plays really well from the RED tees, with all the trouble off the tee being at a similar range from both mens and ladies tees, given the difference in average driving distance. The main concession to the ladies is that the course is a par 76, sss 76 from the red tees, compared with par 70, sss 73 from the white. This also means that it is a fair course for a mixed event, where it is the guys who get the courtesy shots! The layout is traditional links, out and back following the curve of the bay, so the wind direction changes as you progress around the course. Like the other reviewers, it is difficult to choose a few favourite holes, but the following deserve mention: 2nd – a great par 3 with a green that repels all but the best shots, 5th – a short par 4, but you need your two best shots to have any chance at a birdie putt, 14th – par 5 for the ladies, but still requires two good shots and then an accurate approach to the green or you run back down off the elevated green, 17th – elevated tee so your tee shot should roll further, but you need to take advantage of this extra distance to have any chance of getting on the green in two. The course has been in excellent condition each time I have played here (last time was April 05), with greens that run true and bunkers with perfect sand.
March 31, 2006
10 / 10
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kelly conway
#20...you have to be kidding me!!Royal Dornoch is an awesome and special place. The journey to the far reachs of Scotland is extremely rewarding. The ambience, the setting, the quality of the course are hard to match anywhere.At every difficult crowned green one can imagine Donald Ross making mental notes for his future work.I highly recommend this course and I plan to get there in 2006.Kelly Conway
December 18, 2005
10 / 10
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Richard Smith
Royal Dornoch is magnificent. I would rate this course substantially higher than 20th, probably in the top 5 or 10 in the UK. The only two courses I"ve played that compare are Muirfield and Ballybunion (old). Although the first hole is somewhat average, from there the course proceeds from one magnificent challenging hole to another. The holes have a great variety of twists, turns, and doglegs, and there is enough elevation change to give you the sense of never quite being able to find your balance or your game.The greens are unique and it is easy to detect the influence that they had on Donald Ross. I play at Holston Hills in Knoxville, Tennessee, a classic Ross course, so I recognized a number of features in our course from Dornoch. The greens at Dornoch, however, are severly sloped and approach the difficulty of Pinehurts #2.This course is very demanding but straightforward. My highlights were to eagle the par 5 ninth with an 80 foot putt and to birdie the famous Foxy (I believe #14).This course should be sought out and played by anyone who wants to know what links golf is all about.As an aside, the Struie course is really not much to talk about. If you can get a day ticket to the championship course I would skip the Struie. It is short and uninteresting, but is a nice course for kids and beginners.
November 20, 2005
10 / 10
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Both par 3 holes at 2 and 6 are a challenge, you will see what I mean when you play! The views from third on are amazing. Playing the back nine along that wonderful coastline you will be in heaven. Royal Dornoch is one of the best experiences in golf. You will love it.
September 23, 2005
10 / 10
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