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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Brent Carlson
What more needs to be said. From the hospitality to the remoteness to the quality of the design, this is one of the greats. You needs to play here at least once. Find out where Donald Ross got his inspiration. This is in my top three Scottish courses and may be the most enjoyable.
May 10, 2010
10 / 10
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Dan Hare
We played Royal Dornoch for the second time this year, on April 2. they had just cut and ironed the greens and were playing over 10 stimp. i shot 82 previously when the greens were slower, i didnt play much worse but this time by the end i could hardly make myself make a putt, they were so fast yet true with drop offs waiting for an over hit putt or chip. a chastening experience. However, staying at the newly reopened Royal Golf Hotel made this a sensational experience. Dornoch village is like a mini St Andrews and if like me you have been beaten up by the Championship Course the Struie is a salve to the spirit, what a 36 hole day ! Sheer joy and a must play. The wonderful Brora is just up the way too ! dan
May 08, 2010
10 / 10
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Ross Cameron
This is an exceptional course, its taken me a few months to write this review but i can still remember all the holes vividly. RD is great from the start, but i think it really comes on fire at the 6th. This short par three, played to a green with gorse on the steep dune on the left of the green and bunkers and a sharp slope down from the green on the right. My favorites were the 6th, 14th (foxy) and the 17th. The course is fantastic and the refurbished clubhouse is great and provides a warm welcome.The struie course isn't half bad either and well worth a game.
October 17, 2009
10 / 10
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Jesper Aspegren
November 03, 2009
Fantastic! The best course ever I´ve played(including many of the worlds most famous).Every shot brings happiness to your heart, even if your bunkerlie is close to a disaster.
paul
I had waited in great anticipation for a good while to play Royal Dornoch and can now appreciate what all the fuss is about. It is a wonderful setting to play golf and we hit very lucky with a warm calm sunny day in September, the overall condition of Royal Dornoch would take some beating with fairways a greens in immaculate condition. The round opens with a short par 4 of 331 to lull you into some thoughts that Dornoch may be easy, well you could not be more mistaken with a devilish par 3 of 177 at 2 followed by 2 par 4’s of 400 yards+ and a tricky short par 4, there is then a little relief in a par 3 of 161 in the signature hole Whinny Brea then 2 more pars 4’s of 479 & 434 with the 9th a 529 par 5,the back 9 seems a little tougher with 5 par 4’s over 400 yards. I for one loved every minute of the round and would play it again at every opportunity; I have played The Old Course, Muirfield, Turnburrry, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and many of the other top courses in Scotland and this rates right up there with the very best. I know it can be a long way to travel for some but believe me it is more than worth the effort.
September 17, 2009
10 / 10
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Gillan Murray
Played it on 29th July 09. The condition of the course was immaculate , one of the very best Links courses on the planet . Stand out holes were the 5th par 4 surrounded by bunkers , the gorgeous 6th and the 14th "Foxy" with no bunkers at all . Those were my favourite holes but there was not one bad hole on the course and the welcome i received was excellent. The pro shop is well stocked and the food in the clubhouse was tremendous.
August 02, 2009
10 / 10
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tim.buffery
I visited Dornoch back in June for my 50th. Have t say the course was excellent and it lived up to up my expectations. Links golf does not come any better in my book and I have played quite a few course including several major courses.The staff at the Club house were really friendly and if you like high quality meals there Chief dishes out exceptional quality meals (don't miss them). If you like a wee dram the club malts are worth trying.Don't miss out on Struie (dornoch 2nd course) which was great fun.Already planning areturn visit in October
July 11, 2009
10 / 10
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Dan Hare
A great course, played at the end of March (only £55 !) and it was in great nick. Some lovely holes and superb views. Very historic clubhouse full of members who were proud of their course, and extremely welcoming to us. We will be back.
June 10, 2009
10 / 10
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Rupert Paul
Played this course on Good Friday - thought it was stunning. Great test of golf and worth the £75 a round. It must be played. Would definitely have hosted the Open if it wasnt in the middle of nowhere.
April 14, 2009
10 / 10
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Emil Weber
When I played Royal Dornoch, the gorse was not shining. Nor was there wonderful weather. But Dornoch still fascinated me so much. I've only played it once but I know that I will come back, it's just a matter of time. I haven't played many of the famous layouts in the U.K but I think I can say that Royal Dornoch is the most perfect mix of history, naturalness and spectacular beauty in the world.
November 28, 2008
10 / 10
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kcbritton
Played the course twice July 13th and 14th. This was the course we were most looking forward to playing our entire trip. We were not disappointed. No two holes were alike and a great links layout. Could not recommend more highly.
July 20, 2008
10 / 10
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