Royal Dornoch (Championship) - North Scotland - Scotland

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


  • +44 (0) 1862 810219


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Royal Dornoch

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 Old Tom’s 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."
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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: 9.7 out of 10 Reviews: 100
TaylorMade
Pierre-Luc Fournier

Dornoch is unique is so many ways! A trip to Scotland is not complete without making the hike up to the Inverness area. While there are many great courses in that area, Royal Dornoch is King!

This course is Links golf at its best, the way golf was meant to be played. The setting along the Dornoch firth is beautiful. The stretch of holes from the 9th to 16th along the ocean is magnificent. Yet the stretch from the 1st to the 8th hole, somewhat ''hidden'' from the sea provides you with incredible golf, hole after hole. The two par threes on the front nine, 2 and 6, have beautiful green complexes and strategic bunkering. The 7th is one of the most challenging par 4 out there, yet is incredibly fair. Then you come to the 10th, a short par 3 with arguably the most beautiful bunkering in the British Isles. The hole isn’t tremendously long, but don’t hit it short. From there, the links takes you on a beautiful ride along the water to the 14th hole. Foxy is, as far as I’m concerned, the high point of this golf course. It is one of my favourite holes in all of golf, yet it doesn’t have any bunkers. The ridge at the front of the green is something we would never see in modern courses. The approach shot from the fairway (or the rough if you’re unlucky) can be played in so many ways depending on the wind, it is just incredible fun. If the wind is blowing from behind you, trying to hold the green is pointless. You either roll it up onto the green, or hit it directly into the ridge and hope it bounces up onto the putting surface. If the wind is in your face, you can be more aggressive, provided you don’t curve it too much.

What makes Dornoch fabulous are its setting, its memorable holes and most of all, its greens. They will test your short game in its entirety. Wayward shots will be repelled by the natural plateaus of the greens. After playing Dornoch, you truly understand why Donald Ross’s courses are built the way they are.

October 27, 2016
10 / 10
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Andy Johnstone

What a stunning golf course.

We were a bit late booking so had a tee time of 7:50, and the rules say that before 9am only two balls are allowed on the course. However, given the number of visitors, a round of 4hrs was perfect.

Strangely, when we reviewed the mornings play in the old clubhouse, we found it difficult to think of an exceptional hole, but concluded that it was just because the whole 18 holes were brilliant. The fairways were mostly wide, and beautifully kept, and the greens were very true, and very consistent.

An added bonus was the terrific views from most parts of the course.

A must play course this one, which certainly deserves its high ranking.

September 11, 2016
10 / 10
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James Kenyon

I had been excited about playing Dornoch for about 12 years, since my father played it and nearly left the family to stay up there and become a member. Finally managed to get up there in April this year and was overwhelmed with quite how brilliant it was. I’m always nervy playing courses for the first time that have been given such brilliant reviews, and in the back of my mind I feel that they cannot possibly be as good as reviewer after reviewer claim they are.

Dornoch is every bit as good. The first is a lovely start, the relative width of the fairway diminished somewhat by the presence of the members peering out from the dining room and the Royal Hotel being within striking distance. From the second onwards, it is magnificent. Like reading a great book (or watching a great box-set if that’s your thing), you cannot wait to turn the page and immerse yourself in the next chapter. Dornoch really is a brilliant place and a brilliant golf course. It is remote, and that adds to its charm. It is also about as natural as a golf course gets.

It goes straight into my top 5, and is definitely threating my top spot (currently Turnberry). In summary, it is a course that everyone who loves golf simply has to play.

April 20, 2016
10 / 10
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Leslie Smith
Ah, the joy of life - the joy of golf. A long iron into the wind, a setting sun off the Firth...a gentle and almost sleepy first and THEN !The second hole, one of the very greatest par 3's in golf awaits you...anything, depending on the wind, from a three wood to an eight iron ( I kid you not) with an upturned saucer green guarded by deep drop offs into deep heather. Good luck ! You leave the second and walk up a slight incline and behold a wonderful sight. The firth and the course stretching to the water greet you abd from here on you have a golfer's dream. Where to start ? The sixth us a special favourite as is , strangely the short par 3 tenth after you enjoy a much needed tipple at the half way hut. The holes criss-cross through the wind- not especially long but rarely offering a simple choice.If I write anymore it will become simply repetitive of so many of the reviews below. If you get the chance, play Dornoch - fly to Inverness, hire a car and play it and Nairn. You will not regret it.
March 10, 2016
10 / 10
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Carl Reichardt
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.
January 21, 2016
10 / 10
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Tom Hargreaves
It's tough to add anything to a course that's been so unanimously summed up by the reviews below, but it's worth a try. When you arrive there's already a feeling that a grand journey has been completed. An hour north of Inverness, you wind through the mountains with an ever growing anticipation that you are on the way to a special place.The course is simply mind blowing. We played on a sunny windless day in October and I couldn't have wished to be anywhere else. The beauty of Dornoch is that no hole is alike, each is bedded so naturally into the most perfect links land you arrive at every tee with a new beauty to discover. I loved the 5th hole a short par 4 and the adjoining 6th a short par 3 that looks simple but has a deadly drop off to the right making me hook my ball into the gorse...All the holes on the back 9 were simply beautiful playing along the shore with the sea in play. They could be rolled up and slotted into any 'best 18 holes in the world list.' Dornoch far was better than I ever expected and I cannot wait to make the pilgrimage again!
October 19, 2015
10 / 10
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paulofchester
Nothing I can say can describe just how perfect this course is. It is tough, you need your A game, but it has no tricks, quirks or any excuses for your bad score other than your own mistakes. Always in immaculate condition, the different hues of fairway, rough and heather make it a stunning course, and add the setting on the Dornoch Fife and you have the perfect golfing land. This is easily the finest course never to host a major, and yet I think that adds to its reputation. Always welcomed in the clubhouse. Whenever I come to Scotland this is a must play.
September 29, 2015
10 / 10
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I made the travel to this course for the third time this May. The first time I have been there was six years ago, when I just picked up golf a year before. The colours of the course, the sea, the hills in the back: It all grabbed me at once and never let me go again since. It simply doesn’t matter how sharp your own game is when walking this course because of the spiritual quality of the experience you will have. When being there I try to play two rounds: One in the late morning (since the early tee times are reserved for members) and one in the afternoon. The experience has been the same with all of my three appearances: The early round you will enjoy because of the golf you play. You will concentrate on every single shot and you will come back to the clubhouse with so much excitement due to your performance, regardless of the score you played. But the second round will be even better and –in my way of looking on golf- much more intense and true in the sense of the spirit of the game. The course is much less crowded then, you may even be the only game on the course. And when it was silent during your first round due to the remoteness of the area, the silence in that second round is really touching. There is only you, nature and the hopefully wisely chosen lads around you. Golf seems to be only a stage for your play of life. Rarely I am that calm, that refreshed, that happy, that full of inspiration as after a day of golf in Dornoch.
August 28, 2015
10 / 10
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amoir
Been a member here for several years but had not been back for too long..played 36 holes over 4/5 july. The course is as good as i remembered and i personally like the change to the tee shot at the 3rd.No.2,6 and 10 are world class par 3's that get even better with age... course conditions were very good and despite the wet spring/early summer the course played quite firm. was able to play off the white tees one round in a 15-20mph wind..what a test! second round 4 of us played in 3 hours..the way golf is meant to be played! i never tire of visiting RDGC-its a magical course in a magical location..my favourite course in the UK/Ire and Top 10 in the world.. Make the trip if you can!
August 03, 2015
10 / 10
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Andrew Gilbert
yes. Yes yes yes! No need to wonder why this course is so well-rated. From the friendly welcome right through every single hole, each with it's own character and personality, this has to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding golfing experiences on the planet. You can comfortably take your driver out on pretty much all of the long holes, you're super-close to the see coming back. Fairways and greens in top condition. Majestic views. Drenched in the perfume of flowering gorse when we were there. A course for every golf-lover to play before retiring to the eternal 19th.
June 25, 2015
10 / 10
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