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.

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: 112
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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 02, 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 24, 2015
10 / 10
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robin brown
Quite simply the most enjoyable links course anyone could wish to play and well worth the pilgrimageto get there.A classic links test where course management is keyparticularly the approaches to the greensThe short holes are memorable but Foxy the famous14th is unforgettableThe overall welcome on the course and in the clubadds to the experienceAn absolute must play for lovers of links golf
May 26, 2015
10 / 10
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Tom Sadowski
I have to write a review about this wonderful beautiful , natural piece of golfing heaven. I have had the pleasure of playing a lot of golf courses. In truth they are all good no matter what there perceived stature. That is because to me its just a pleasure to play the game. But when I think of one course where I would like to tee it up all the time its always Dornoch. From the gentle opening hole to the truly magnificent foxy and all the great holes. Dornoch really is a piece of golfing heaven. I remember playing one evening in the summer a few years back. There was no one on the course except my playing partner and me , and a local with a bag slung over his shoulder with a few clubs. He had his dog by his side a pair of old shorts and a t shirt on. It was a pleasure to see the course and game being enjoyed with no airs or graces. If I could retire anywhere and play for the rest of my life it would be Dornoch. Put simply Golfing perfection.
March 13, 2015
10 / 10
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Peter Lewis
September 24, 2016

Just recently i spent a most enjoyable week staying at the Shearings owned Dornoch Hotel, a very large but terribly dated mansion styled hotel, overlooking the sublime first hole of the Royal Dornoch Championship course.

I used to have a handicap of 11, but struggled with a recurring shoulder injury,resulting in me having to put away the clubs.

What amazed me, was the incredibly friendly nature of the staff at the course, and remember i had never met anyone working there before, so i was delighted to be told that they would allow me a few moments practice on the adjacent putting green.

Every morning at 6-15am or thereabouts, the green keepers were hard at work, on some of the most impressive lawn cutters i have ever seen at any British links, and the serious players were already teeing up at first light.

I was told that the only thing that had prevented the club from staging a major,was the poor infrastructure and accommodation in the locality.

Granted,Dornoch sitting ever so high up on the NE coast of Scotland, is a very long drive to get to, but the course and staff warrant its inclusion as one of the finest links courses in the world, and as there is a tiny airstrip adjacent to the championship course, getting there for those who really want to experience one of Scotland's finest courses, should not be an issue.

For a total stranger to be made most welcome, and allowed a few minutes practice on a quiet Wednesday evening, on possibly the finest practice putting area, was something i will not forget for years to come.

David Worley
For any lover of the links, to play at Dornoch is simply a must. The town itself has an understated ambience and there is still a lovely feeling of unspoilt beauty and serenity in the whole area.

Dornoch tests your golf game in every possible way but it is also an undeniably fair course. But, be warned, you can be unlucky with the tide affected wind and you just may end up playing sixteen holes into a decent breeze.

The 5th is one of the best par fours anywhere. It is only 354 yards long but precision is required with both the drive and the approach. Trouble in the manner of thick rough and gorse runs the whole length of the left side.

Foxy, the 14th, can play much harder than 445 yards would suggest. It is one of the hardest holes on the course despite having no obvious hazards.

At 6685 yards off the championship tees, Royal Dornoch is quite a long par 70. Play there in late spring whilst the gorse is still in bloom and if you get a balmy sunny day then you just might think you are in heaven.

This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
March 09, 2015
10 / 10
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Claudio
Played all the British Open venues plus many other links in Scotland and Ireland (including County Down, Portrush and Ballybunion), but Dornoch remains the purest links experience. Is just the perfect golf links you always dreamed to play. I played it twice on August 2010 and still remember every single hole! There are no weak holes and the view is great from every single one. Little complicated to get there but definitely worth the trip. I enjoyed the overall experience, including the clubhouse, the nice hotel at less than 100 yards from the first hole and the village as well. Can't wait to go again.
December 29, 2014
10 / 10
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Scott Kliesen
1st time visitor to Scotland, and this was my first round, thus not much to compare it with on this side of the Atlantic.However, with that being said, I found this course to be everything I had hoped for In a seaside links course. Tremendous variety of holes. Many tight, challenging tee shots, taxing approach shots to crowned greens w deep, penal bunkers.Course conditions were excellent, especially the greens. Several visually stunning holes with dramatic elevation changes. And of course, very penal rough to gobble up misplayed strokes.Only complaint would be the slow pace of play due to its extreme difficulty for average tourist golfer.
July 13, 2014
10 / 10
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Philip Runkel
Played Royal Dornoch on May 2, 2014. Without a doubt, my most memorable and favorite day of golf ever! Just a wonderful experience on the course and in the clubhouse and pro shop. Everything was perfect, including the weather, which was a gloriously sunny day in the mid-50s. The gorse was in full bloom and ablaze on the hillsides. The beaches seem almost pink in places and the surf was up and rolling in. Truly a magical experience! Other, more knowledgeable, reviewers can do a better job of discussing the routing, etc., so let me just say that the course is challenging and very fun at the same time. And the fact that I birdied "Foxy" (of all holes!!) in no way influences my opinion of my day at Royal Dornoch. I hope to return to Dornoch several times in my golfing life!! By way of comparison, on this trip (my first to Scotland) here is how I rank the courses, starting with my most favorite: Royal Dornoch, Royal Aberdeen, Castle Stuart, Old Course, Crail, Carnoustie and Jubilee. And I really enjoyed playing Jubilee -- they all were a lot of fun, especially for a mid-handicapper who has not done a lot of serious golf trip travel. 13 Index
May 09, 2014
10 / 10
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dan
May 11, 2014
I've played there lots, and danced a jig when I even PARRED Foxy, so I would suggest immediate retirement since golf won't get any better ! Nice quote from GolfClubAtlas..."One of the better local golfers for many years once went 1, 3 on 13 and 14. When he got back to the clubhouse, someone said to him ‘I can understand the hole-in-one on the 13th, but how in hell did you get a 3 on Foxy?’". Congratulations !
Jim McCann

In light of the recent controversy – or “storm in a tea cup” – regarding changes to the 3rd hole on the Championship course, it seemed only right to exercise a little quality control on behalf of the Top 100 site and so I ventured out onto the links a couple of days ago to find out what all the “fuss” wasRoyal Dornoch (Championship) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer about.

To paraphrase the title of the 400-year old Shakespearian comedy which was written about the same time as golf at Dornoch was first recorded, as far as I could see the changes were “much ado about nothing”.

The fairway realignment and repositioning of bunkers may have whipped some people into a froth but the locals here seem to have taken the modifications in their stride.

As I was told in the professional shop, where the alterations have been welcomed, the changes actually help the higher handicapped player and hinder the more elite golfer so only a small fraction of those who play the course should feel in the slightest inconvenienced.

Therefore, as a non-elite golfer playing off a modest double digit handicap, I can exclusively reveal that the remodelling of this hole has had absolutely no influence whatsoever in me awarding a six ball score to a course that comfortably rides very high in the list of world ranked courses on this site.

PS The other 17 holes are none too shabby either…

Jim McCann.

April 01, 2014
10 / 10
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Dan Hare
Easterly one/two club wind, true but not too quick greens, beautiful northern highland sunshine - Dornoch on a Spring day is heaven! Was eager to see the changes to the third.In all honesty if you didn't know the course before you won't notice the difference once the gorse and turf has bedded in.They seem to have raised the gorse, so hopefully this will make ball location and retrieval easier.The net effect is just to push you down a bit towards the three bunkers but still loads of space - all in all a bit of a storm in a tea cup.Still my favorite course anywhere.
March 29, 2014
10 / 10
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