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
TaylorMade
Mike
For any visiting golfer to Scotland, it is more than worth the trip to go north to Dornoch. I have played the course several times and each time it improves. Royal Dornoch has everything a golfer could desire; a true, fair test of golf, amazing scenery, a wonderful setting and friendly staff and members. All in all, RD is my favorite golf facility in the world (no offense to Pine Valley, Pebble Beach, etc.)!!!!!The 5th is a true beauty, from the elevated tee to the well bunkered green. The walk to the 7th tee seems the entire world opens for your viewing. Enough has been written about Foxy (14th). The 17th and 18th can be monsters and can ruin any scorecard.You are missing the crown jewel if you don't travel to Royal Dornoch!
June 29, 2008
10 / 10
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Derek Haswell
I left Royal Dornoch GC last week, having played a competition round on the Championship Course, feeling frustration, resentment and disappointment. Frustration - at my perennial inability to hit it straight and my lumberjack-like touch. Resentment – against the jammy so-and-so’s who pay less than £300 per year to be members of this informal but classy club. Disappointment – the bitter variety- at the realisation that it is likely to be some considerable time before I pit my (dim) wits against this beguiling links again. Royal Dornoch has got to me like no other course I have played. As a golfing “experience” (the course, the setting, the club and the people) it now tops my own personal chart, nudging Carnoustie and Kingsbarns into joint second and leaving Muirfield, Turnberry, the Old Course and others in its wake. There are loads of great holes at Dornoch. My personal favourite is the 5th – a short par 4 from an elevated tee with gorse left, fairway bunkers right and a deceptively long, narrow, raised green. A classic links hole that tricks you on the tee into thinking “birdie chance” and, a few minutes later, leaves you wondering how you manufactured a five from the middle of the fairway. The four par 3s deserve a special mention too. These holes are all relatively short but miss these treacherously raised targets and you need the touch of a bomb disposal expert to give yourself a chance at par. My Dad, Jim, who is well into his “seniors” career, shot a very respectable nett 75 from a handicap of 8, despite two sixes (!!!) at par 3s. Dornoch is unremiitingly intriguing, quirky, challenging, alluring, striking and wonderful.Off course, the clubhouse is remarkably unpretentious. I would like to give a mention to the club steward (Andrew?) who took time to chat to us about the club’s history, membership, events and so on - a nice wee touch at the end of a tremendous experience. When, at the predicted age of 119years, my sex-addled, drink-soaked, golf-worn body can take the agony of this game no longer I will head for Royal Dornoch for my valedictory round. What a way to say goodbye!
May 12, 2008
10 / 10
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Jorn Greve
Royal Dornoch is golfing paradise. Played here in June on a sunny and windless day. The location is unique the course is excellent und views are stunning. My favorite linkscourse on a level with RCD. An absolut must play. For warming up try the Struie as well.
January 09, 2008
10 / 10
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allan mcmillan
What a golf course! I'm stunned.This is simply Scottish Links Golf at its very best.Everyone who is interested in the game should play here at least once.It beats all others hands down!
November 26, 2007
10 / 10
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Stephen Killick
Wonderful. The definitive Scots links, and a true test of golf without shattering the morale of all but the most talented golfers. It is not too long, but tough, demanding and stimulating. We used every club in the bag and were round in just over three hours.The greens were slick, the course in great condition and it did not rain, well not much which given our experiences elsewhere in September made it truly memorable. Peter de Savary is buying the closed and almost derelict Golf Hotel and Dornoch desperately needs some decent accommodation.Another minor quibble is that the assistants in the pro shop are taciturn at best and downright unhelpful at worst. This course deserves excellence everywhere.
November 19, 2007
10 / 10
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Don Kramer
Royal Dornoch may be my favorite course in the world. I played it two weeks ago and was astounded. There is not a bad hole on the course. Every hole is a test. Number 1 is probably the easiest hole on the course. But, in my opinion that is good. It helps to get people off the tee and keep play moving along to have a relatively simple opening hole. I have played many of the top courses in the world and I sincerely think that this course deserves a higher rating than 30 in the world. It is a much stronger course than most ranked above it including Carnoustie. Location and lack of lodging I'm sure are the only reason it is not on the OPEN rotation. This course is a must for the golf purist and those who regard the history of the game. I could play it everyday. The only other course in the world I have said that about is Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. Don Kramer, PGA
August 10, 2007
10 / 10
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Rob Cutler
Played in October 2006. Excellent course that both rewarded and punished. The views are great, the greens were great, even the weather was kind. Probably felt better as I was three down with three to play and ended up drawing the game on the last. Would recommend to all who love the game of golf.
April 22, 2007
8 / 10
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Cédric
What a wonderful course, right up there at the top!! Best holes are probably 5th and 6th in my opinion…Par 3 2nd not bad either, how on earth can you stop the ball on that green in side winds ?? The yellow gorse gives a real unique atmosphere to the place. A real world class venue which location is probably the only reason why they are yet to organise an Open …Fantastic clubhouse too! I completely forgot about the 1st hole though…And the reason is a bossy starter(don’t know if the man was the actual official starter though) who was completely out of his place and role. Such brilliant places don’t need those persons…Will return any time though!!Cédric
April 20, 2007
10 / 10
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bob
Tremendous!!! Hole number 1 a bit average but the rest of the holes are great. Very natural layout and doesn't have the hustle and bustle of the Old Course and some of the other better known courses. Great, great, great and hard to explain the feeling you get up there.
January 06, 2007
10 / 10
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Chris Jones
January 06, 2007
Agree with these words totally...difficult to really explain Dornoch but this place is very special - hard to beat.
Kem Westdyk
It is hard to describe the beauty of the Dornoch experience. I played there on a perfect day in September 2006, and the whole round was just one terrific hole after the other. It is quite frankly the most beautiful course I have ever played. The best holes for me were 3 to 5, 9, and 13 to 18. I know that that covers more than half the course, but leaving out favourite holes is difficult. Compared to the Open venues, the green fee is very good, and while you are in the area, make sure to play a round or two at nearby Brora! Kem Westdyk, South Africa
September 25, 2006
10 / 10
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