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: 111
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Kevan Voce
I played this in June as part of our annual 3-day golf tour (with Nairn and F&R). Fortunately, the weather was kind with only a one-club wind into our faces when we hit the 9th. I’ve played all the Open venues (except Prestwick & Troon) and this is definitely up there with them. Dornoch is a fantastic test of golf with some changes of elevation (unlike the other Open courses) and wonderful views. The Par 3’s are all excellent (a hallmark of a great course) and to hit the green’s you need a proper golf shot. The highlight of my round was a birdie on the lovely 11th. There are number of really good holes (too many to mention) but the 14th is a real cracker – anyone who birdies that is a very good player. Obviously, if you are a serious golfer and you are in the area then you must play it. It ranks in the Top 15 courses in Great Britain. It may not be quite the test of Lytham or Muirfield but not far off – I personally rate it above Hoylake, Birkdale and Turnberry – and on a par with Royal St Georges, Portrush & Carnoustie. Not mentioned the Old course because that is in a league of one.
July 12, 2013
10 / 10
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B.G. Donaldson
Add me to the long list of Royal Dornoch admirers. Our group had a full Dornoch experience: two rounds (bracketed by Brora and Golspie) and three nights accommodations in Dornoch where we enjoyed the fine food, drink and hospitality. The course, as I knew it would be, is brilliant. We played in a variety of weather conditions and the wind, often a three-club judgement, was ever-present. The par threes, as noted elsewhere, are magnificent. The opening hole, driveable with the right wind, gets you off to a rousing start, then right away to the difficult par three second. Others have described the course better than I can, but for me, it resides in a special place among the courses I have played, along with North Berwick and Machrihanish. Dornoch and Royal Dornoch are special indeed. BGD
July 08, 2013
10 / 10
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Ivan
Currently sitting in the clubhouse looking over the 18th green waiting for the rest of our party to come in. Great golf course and a superb attitude to client service. Nothing to much as they have looked after us all day. A relaxed attitude to dress has meant guest from the local hotel have eaten in jeans with no problem. By having marshals on the course the pace of play was very reasonable 41/2 hours for such a special course not bad!The only down side Is the cost of the second course The Striue which is very average £40 very steep for what anywhere else would be a £25 course at best !Just need to finish my Guinness and order the sandwiches for the boys half playing - the others gone to John O'Groats! Where else can you that !
June 11, 2013
10 / 10
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Hendrik Hilgert
Played Dornoch last week as part of a golf trip to the Highlands. This is one of the best courses I have ever played. It is a phantastic golfing challenge: a lot of tough holes that require accurate driving and a sharp short game. Poor shots will be penalised but never unfairly. A number of the Par 3s are great and very memorable holes, such as No. 2, No. 6 and No. 10. The same applies to some of the Par 4s in my view, such as No. 8, No. 14. The views on this course are second to none and the peaceful atmosphere and remote setting add to the unique charme. Royal Dornoch is at the very top of my list of favourite golf courses, even ahead of such great courses as County Down, Turnberry or St Andrews Old.
June 08, 2013
10 / 10
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Jim L
My favourite golf course anywhere. Is it the whole experience, from the scenic travel north, the wonderful Dornoch town, the friendly people. Royal Dornoch is the complete package a wonderful golf course in a setting the will take your breath away. Enjoy this is "as good as it gets"
November 06, 2012
10 / 10
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Tony White
Obviously great location and great green designs but half the holes pretty mundane really. Poor finish, 17 & 18 longish and very plain. 16 in dry conditions pretty much unplayable with anything more than a 6 iron off the tee. 15 half decent, Foxy nice approach but bland tee shot. 13 Excellent. 11 & 12 Ordinary. 10 when downwind the ball just goes over the green but good hole into the wind. 9 Great location but not a stunning golf hole. 8 nice approach boring drive. 7 worst hole on course. 6 & 5 great. 3 & 4 too similar to each other. 2 great. 1 ok ish. Sorry, a little over rated. The Struie was immense fun though, we were going to play Tain, Brora and Golspie but got a weekly ticket for the Struie and played the Championship twice and had a great time on the Struie, Great weeks golf.
October 01, 2012
8 / 10
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Sd
October 02, 2012
Dornoch overrated. You are nuts. The 17th and 18 poor holes , you are nuts. Your whole review loses credence when you say you played the Struie repeatedly rather than go to Tain Golspie or Brora. Your taste in golf courses is all betwen yor toes.
Harry
October 03, 2012
SD. Is there any need for a personal attack, I merely gave my opinion, am I not allowed to do that your opinion clearly differs from mine, now would you mind moderating your response and give your reasons why you think Dornoch is so good, Thank you.
jd
October 06, 2012
Sorry have to agree that your review of Dornoch lacks any depth and any knowledge of course architecture.For example the drive at the 14th(Foxy) may seem to be bland to you but is recognised by most as brilliant because the bail out area on the safe right hand side of the fairway makes the approach to the elevated green much more difficult /nigh on impossible.By just dismissing holes as similar/bland and 'half-decent' you really have missed the point of courses like Dornoch.Time to get back to the parkland courses.
dan
October 10, 2012
Harry, unwittingly you have strayed into dangerous almost religious territory - wonderful Foxy's "bland tee shot", was called the greatest natural hole in golf by Harry Vardon. I do acknowledge your right to an opinion and would respectfully advise that Dornoch Championship is a wonderful golf course, and that whilst the Struie is certainly fun you definitely missed out on one of the truly great golfing experiences by not going to Brora. I would strongly advise this next time.
tom
November 02, 2012
Played here some weeks ago for the first time in many, many years. Still the wonderful course I remember. Long and tough, great bunkering, terrific raised/plateau greens and splendid views. Friendly and helpful staff in the clubhouse too. A really strong and challenging test of golf. The course condition was not great however, certainly not what I expect from one of the UK's premier clubs (no better, maybe even worse, than nearby Brora, Tain and Golspie), and certain aspects were concerning, for example, the standard of play and etiquette of many of the visitors was really, really poor (eg men who wouldn't get a 36 hcp even on a good day) so pace of play was an issue (like 5-6 hour rounds). I also noticed that players seemed to be allowed to wear trainers and even lightweight walking boots on the course. I'm not convinced that this is a good thing. Other premier clubs, and many clubs not even near the premier league, insist on inspecting hcp certificates before visitors are let onto the course. There may be a message to Dornoch here from your peer courses, don't let the search for £$£$£$ take precedence over quality, you may well live to regret it in the longterm, and that would be a great shame, as the layout is just fantastic, only exceeded by a rare few in the UK, such as the likes of Muirfield and Carnoustie.
Michael
November 04, 2012
Dornoch is a better course than Brora but Brora is the most magic place to play especially on a late summers evening.
Pyt
March 16, 2013
I played in Scotland in July of 2012. Crail, Kingsbarns, Carnoustie, St. Andrews Old and New, and Gleneagles King. As great as they all were, there was nothing like the combination of look, feel, challenge, pleasure, and awe of Royal Dornoch. Simply stunning and absolutely thrilling golf.
Jon Wilkinson
There is nothing more to add about this magnificent course - just go. I do regret we didn't play it twice, so as to have a better idea of the lie of the land and the hidden problems. This is a very demanding course into and around the greens, and weak iron players will really struggle. And find the deepest bunker on your home course and practice hitting it just a few yards out.I wouldn't bother with the Struie, it's not terrible but I'm sure there are better courses in the vicinity as a warm-up or cool down.
September 25, 2012
10 / 10
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BGD
September 27, 2012
I thought I might use this most recent review of Royal Dornoch as an opportunity to make a comment. Our group is planning its fourth golf trip to Scotland next June and our first to the Highlands where we are scheduled to play Dornoch twice, in addition to the other fine courses on our itinerary. This web site has been invaluable to us. It is superbly organized and easy to use, and the reviews are diverse, interesting and so very helpful. Thanks to all involved. I might add for those who are planning a visit that Golfnook.com is also a very valuable resource.
Javier Pintos
Well, what can I say. Once I was said from Giles Greenwood from IAGTO that Royal Dornoch was the best course in the UK. And in my opinion this is very close with Royal Aberdeen and Carnoustie. This year after 11 days between East Lothian, Turnberry, Gleneagles and St Andrews I took the 3hs car ride from St Andrews to Inverness to see what was it about and played Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart. First of all, the car ride to Dornoch and the small town are maybe the nicest landscape I have seen in The Saltire, simply breathtaking, with Firths along it, very dense green in the land and buildings that can have more than 200 years, really something different and that should be done not only by golfers, but also by non golfers. Once I arrived (early, of course, to have time to enjoy the entire visit), Royal Dornoch Golf Course - Photo by reviewerI went to the proshop and smashed it buying lots of things as the variety and quality is really high and prices not that bad! Then lunch at the Club House and I can say quality and hospitality can describe service there, I really enjoyed it! Then came something really special, as in the Starter's House they have a special wall where they put ball markers from all the Clubs from where they receive visitors (if you go, take one from yours!) and was able to leave my Golf Club Argentino ball marker there, only club in South American, a big honor for us! And finally the golf round, WOW!!! The Golf Course is so good that maybe words and pictures are not enough, you have to go. Course design, difficulty, fairness, landscape, maintenance and history make it all a perfect combo, which I must say I loved and promise to be back. We played the first 8 holes into the wind and I found really tough conditions and some holes can be killers: par 3 2nd, par 4 4th, par 3 6th and par 4 th 460 into the wind (Driver and 3 wood towards 6-feet for maybe the best birdie in my life). When we started easy par 5 9th difficulty was not that bad, although par 4 16th and 17th are not only nice but very tough again. Finishing hole is long but with wind helping was not that bad. And the pin was honoring The Jubilee Celebration, which was that day. It is a course that leaves you with the adrenalin of wanting to play it again and again, and I would have done it if an invitation to Royal Aberdeen had not arrived to my email inbox!! The course has more than 200 members from USA (mostly from Donald Ross's Courses) and shows it, together with Scottish tradition to maybe be the best Golf Experience you can imagine. If you consider yourself a devoted golfer, Royal Dornoch has to be in your must list. And if you can afford it, play more than one round, you will not regret it! Click to read my full story: 13 Courses in 13 Days.
July 16, 2012
10 / 10
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Javier Pintos
August 28, 2021

Back in 2012 I played this fantastic and demanding course and even though they made some changes the course keeps its aura, its difficulty and the sensation that if you relax on one shot big numbers will come immediately. They improved 7th hole taking the green closer to the ocean and there are plans of something similar to 8th trying to make golfers hit the second shot from the upper part of the fairway.

Course keeps to be in pristine condition and it is always nice to get to the starter house and see the ball marker from my course in Argentina being the first one from there to be added. I wish to someday soon see a Championship played here, hope there is one day a way!

sean grant
I have been using the Top 100 courses website for years but never written a review. However, I have just returned from a golf trip to Inverness and feel compelled to comment. We played at Castle Stuart on Sat and the setting there was amazing but the greens very disappointing! At Royal Dornoch there was absolutely nothing to complain about. The setting and condition of the course - everything was excellent. As good as any links I have played, and that's a lot. The upturned saucer greens are very difficult. Practice your pitching if you are coming here! The wind is a BIG factor. I have never played in stronger winds. Normally expect a three club wind this was a seven club wind! It's also a bit brutal in that the front nine goes out, all downwind and then you turn into it for the back nine. It was SO difficult but an experience never to be forgotten. Also worth mentioning that we played Nairn the next day and it was equally great! Inverness is a great golf destination - GO!
May 16, 2012
10 / 10
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Hans Berntson
Royal Dornoch is absolutely marvellous. On the first tee not much of what is to come is revealed. But as soon as you are on the green you start to sense that something special awaits you. On the next tee you know you're in good hands and from then on it is one joyous hole after another. I played Royal County Down earlier this year and I think Dornoch is better.
May 04, 2012
10 / 10
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