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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Marty Brown
Played early August and it would go straight into my top 5 courses played. Absolutely loved it. So many great holes which demand your best shot making skills. The 2nd hole was playing over 185 yards towards a green you cannot afford to miss. The course gets better and better with holes 3 and 4 needing good shots but equally important a good touch to get the ball in the hole. Holes 6 & 14 are some of the most natural holes you will play anywhere. I could go on and on about this place. Having toured all of the British Isles playing so many great courses this place along with Castle Stuart is the place I would revisit time and time again.
August 14, 2011
10 / 10
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Dan Hare
Apologies since it's superfluous really, but this is a review of our return visit to Dornoch this April on the play and stay at the Royal Golf Hotel. Combined with playing Castle Stuart twice, I really can't think of a better value, quality golf trip anywhere. Especially since we stayed an extra night for the odyssey up to the stupendous Durness which is, for me, the ultimate golfing day trip.Anyway, once again the Dornoch weather was wonderful...but I still haven't parred Foxy ! dan
July 25, 2011
10 / 10
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Sam Gray
I played this course two years ago and can still remember every single hole as if i played it yesterday. I have also been luckily enough to play numerous other top courses in GB&I and this one still stands out head & shoulders above the rest. I cant recommend this course enough, even for the remoteness and scenery...its fantastic.
July 15, 2011
10 / 10
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Ernst
Best golf course played in the UK! Best staff and clubhouse. A must for every serious golf player!
April 26, 2011
10 / 10
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Ivan Lipko
One of the real gems - the course where everything is top notch - design, condition, environment. That is any true golfer's paradise.
April 23, 2011
10 / 10
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M Sellers
I played Royal Dornoch last week on a twighlight rate and enjoyed my round. As an 18 handicap I found the course very difficult overall, but I did manage a few pars in amongst some big scores. The problems for me in particular were the difficult, heavily bunkered and raised, par threes which really punished a wayward tee shot. This is not a complaint but an observation. As expected the course was in excellent condition with immaculate fairways and greens. I would not pay full price for a round there again but thought the twighlight rate was good value to play at such a prestigious course and very accessible/welcoming. It isn't my favourite course and I didn't fall in love with it on this occasion, but I can see why some people do.
April 22, 2011
6 / 10
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Shaun
Played for a second time this June, a truly outstanding golf course which sits comfortably in my Top 10 in GB&I.
October 11, 2010
10 / 10
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Bart Boudreaux
Love the track and the quaintness of the course and the town. That special feel that's hard to explain - which I also felt at Royal County Down and Pinehurst #2. For me second best course in Scotland behind Turnberry. I lived in Scotland 4 years so also had the privledge to play most other top courses including Muirfield, Old Course, Carnoustie, Royal Aberdeen, Kingsbarns, Troon, etc. For me better than all of them.
August 18, 2010
10 / 10
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Tom Moore
Played the course in mid-June. Tee to green probably the best course I played on my visit. The greens were slow and not up to par with the rest of the course. A wonderful links that deserves the world-class reputation it has. However, the high handicapers in our group found the course very difficult. We were treated well by all at the club. If the greens were smoother and better, it may be the best course I've ever played.
July 12, 2010
8 / 10
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David McIntosh
August 14, 2011
I played at Dornoch this morning and the greens were fantastic-best i've putted on in years. Think they maybe try and peak them for their golf week which had just finished.
steve guzik
That I found Royal Dornoch to be a fantastic course will not be a surprise to anyone. The quaint town that you drive through to get there only builds the anticipation that you are heading for a superb golfing experience. The course is effortlessly stunning and you can imagine that this course has looked more or less as it does now for the previous 100 years or so. The ghosts of legends seem to accompany you down each majestic and serene fairway (I should point out here that I played it on a calm day!!). The front 9 is superb, with each hole a very good test of links golf. The par 3 6th is so stunning it is only rivalled by the 11th on the Old Course at St Andrews. The second 9 is not as good for me as the 1st nine, although it does finish well with demanding, if untraditional, hilly holes 16 and 17. The 18th is a great finishing hole in the mould of the 18th at Royal Aberdeen, although not quite as good. The much talked about signature hole ‘Foxy’ was a disappointing hole for us, - it was difficult to really make out what was going on. Maybe playing it for the 1st time didn’t help and future attempts to play this hole (and there will be future attempts) may be slightly more enjoyable. Although I had a great day there is one serious black mark – having travelled over 200 miles and paid £75, we were not allowed to play from the whites as not all of our group were 5 handicap or below. Next time we go I think the starter might find that our handicaps are all less than 5!!!!
May 11, 2010
8 / 10
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