The origin of the name Tain is unclear, but what is certain is that in 1066, King Malcolm III granted the very first charter to Tain, making it the oldest Royal Burgh (borough) in Scotland. With panoramic views across the Dornoch Firth, Tain's Highland setting is dramatic and also pleasantly sheltered with the estuary on one side and the mountains of Easter Ross on the other.
Tain Golf Club was founded in 1890 and Old Tom Morris was commissioned to design the course. After a detailed survey of the land, Old Tom found only 15 suitable green sites and the course opened with only 15 holes. Some years later, John Sutherland revised the layout, but Old Tom's mark is still indelibly etched and there are eleven of Old Tom's green sites in use today.
Today's Tain is a full, sporting 18-hole layout, which measures 6,404 yards from the medal tees, where accuracy rather than length is essential. The nature of Tain is a combination of links and heathland and there are a number of forced carries across tangly heather to rumpled fairways, which are edged by dense gorse (stunning in full bloom).
The Aldie Burn meanders through the par four 2nd, which is called "River" and measures 391 yards from the back tees. The cozened fairway is punctuated by a ridge which falls away towards the artful burn which waits to trap the under-hit approach shot. We meet the "Alps" at the par four 11th, which requires a confident but blind approach shot over two sentry dunes in order to find the hidden green nestled beyond. Two great par threes at 16 and 17 bring us close to home and they are both strong single shot holes where the wily burn returns, waiting to catch the errant tee shot.
Tain will always remain in the shadow of its illustrious neighbour, Royal Dornoch, which lies on the opposite bank of the Dornoch Firth. But whatever you do, don't pass Tain by. There is variety and fun to be had on this challenging course. Heaven forbid, if the golf is not sufficiently celebrated to capture your attention, then surely a nip of malt at the local Glenmorangie Distillery will provide the ultimate temptation.
This historic Old Tom Morris design is fun and interesting. It opened in 1890. Old Tom could only find 15 green sites so it played as a 15 hole course for 30+ years. Starting along the river, the course works its way to the dunes and views of Dornoch Firth. 11 and 17 are two of the favorites but there are numerous others. The club is very friendly and welcoming. The course is always attractive, but it is stunning when the gorse is in bloom.
Tain is a nice warm-up course or a course if you only want to have some fun.
I don't know when I have ever been more frustrated by a golf course as the land and the routing are pretty good, but the conditioning, speed of the greens, and the lack of adequate bunkers is noticeable.
One can see the club does not put money into the golf course other than to maintain it in playable conditions. It is a pity because it could be pretty special if a lot of money was put into it. Perhaps when the new Mike Keiser course gets built just north of Royal Dornoch that there will be enough of a draw for someone to buy this and make it what it should be, while maintaining it also as a club for members.
Some examples, the back to back par 3's, 16 and 17 have a burn that is present. But why not re-route the burn to make it more of an obstacle on these holes. On 16 the burn does not come close to the front of the green and its a similar situation on 17. Yes, it is present on both sides on 16 and one side of 17 but it should be even more in play.
The famous 11th hole (Alps) should have bunkers to the right of the green or behind it, even if it is a blind shot over the mounds.
There are some really nice holes such as 2, 3, 11 but there are many weak holes such as 13 and 18.
There is adequate contouring in the fairways and the gorse can come into play to give one sometimes an uneven lie. There is a nice long forced carry on a tee shot on 10. There are some good architectural features on many of the holes due to the natural contours. But the architects have not really added anything of significance other than on 11.
One negative is the presence of large flies particularly along the 7th hole near the farmer's fields and cows.
I realize it would likely take a million or so to truly fix it up and then increase the maintenance budget by 300K a year to maintain the improvements, but if someone did this, they could make it truly special.
As it is, it is not a course I can recommend playing if you have started your golf trip.
Good varied layout with plenty of challenges albeit a little in the shadow of and on the way to Dornoch.
Great view of Glenmorangie distillery from one tee.
We played Tain on a really dreich day but all four of us rated it very highly. Friendly welcome and informative chat in the Pro shop about the course and it's features got us off to a fantastic start. The course has a great layout and the variations maintain the interest throughout A links experience on natural sandy soil but with only occasional views of the Dornoch Firth. It was our last day on a bit of golfing odyssey to the NE of Scotland and the greens in particular were as good if not better than it's more illustrious company - Cruden Bay, Nairn and Royal Dornoch. It may not be quite as polished and I'm sure they don't have the budget to look after the fine detail, but don't let this put you off as it's a gem. Amazing value and a in my opinion a must play if you are in the area.
Tain is too often overlooked by golfers headed for Royal Dornoch on the other side of the firth, but in truth presents a great test of true links golf. It should be on every golfer's itinerary in the North of Scotland. A huge variety of holes offers a terrific challenge, with the rough considerably eased in the last couple of years to make it a fairer challenge for the visitors. Course managed by the current President of the Green Keepers' Association is unsurprisingly in immaculate condition all the year round.
Stand-out holes: 2 - very tricky par 4 including an approach shot over the river to an elevated green. 11 - signature "Alps" hole, par 4 where green is protected by two enormous grass-covered dunes (check the plan on the tee for location of the pin!). 12 - simply stunning view from the tee of the Dornoch Firth, looking west. 17 - one of the hardest and finest par 3s you'll play anywhere, with the river in front of the tee and in front of the green demanding a straight solid hit.
But perhaps Tain's greatest strength are the people who look after it - always a great welcome from the professional / secretary / staff. Unforgettable.
Tain Golf Club, founded in 1890 and originally laid out by Old Tom Morris, is a captivating moorland-links course that delivers a number of very fine holes and should be an essential play for any golfer travelling to The Highlands.
As well as being a superb test of golfing skills it is also one of the most picturesque courses I have ever played with vibrant purple and green colours framing virtually all of the holes.
I suspect you could also add golden-yellow to that when played in late spring with the gorse in full bloom. Tain really is a delightful place to play golf.
Two flat fairways – the first and 18th –are visible from the clubhouse and may not set the pulse racing but everything in-between the opening drive and closing approach is of real interest and of a very high quality. It will therefore come as no surprise the club proudly hosted the Scottish Ladies Amateur Championship in 2012.
Tain isn’t a classic links in the respect that you play close to the sea for the most part, nor is there rugged duneland, but the more inland feel represents a refreshing change in an area that is jam packed with great links golf. Adding Tain to your itinerary would be highly recommended. It’s impossible not to be impressed, I certainly was.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
It had been 12 years since my last visit to Tain, en route to a gents open the following day at Dornoch. Since then I had retained a fondness for the course, there is always something alluring and beguiling about the Scottish Highlands in the sunshine, and it was always on my "I must go back one day" list. In truth, I didn’t remember a lot about the course with the exception of the fence and the road that fronts the first green and the glorious 11th hole called ‘Alps’, but more of that later.
My day started on the first train out of Glasgow to Inverness where I was picked up to finish the journey, 45 minutes further north, by car. The signs weren’t too promising travelling up as frost, water and mist covered the landscape as far as Perth and I probably wouldn’t have given a buckshee pound note for decent conditions. I shouldn’t have worried as the course was beautifully presented for the time of year, especially the greens. Pin positions on some greens were positioned to protect the green, understandable for the time of year, but that didn’t hinder or spoil our enjoyment one iota.
As if by magic, the sun broke through on the first tee, well it always shines on the righteous so they say, and we were good to go. With conditions almost like a late spring morning the only hint of the time of year was the aforementioned pin positions along with some forward tee positions. The first was as I remembered it followed by the second, normally a par 4 but in winter an excellent par 3 from a forward and slightly off set tee position. Other stand out holes on the outward half being the 3rd and the 9th.
The back nine is dominated by the previously mentioned Alps, a standout and proper signature hole, starting with a difficult drive and a challenging second shot over two mountainous humps, where the hole takes its name from, to a green backed by the Dornoch Firth, marvellous. Other holes to catch my eye were the back to back par 3’s at 16 and 17.
I enjoyed my journey back in time to Tain, a course which should be very proud of its position in the Top 100 of Scotland chart and, although not in the same league as Dornoch or Castle Stuart, a really enjoyable course which should be sought out to play either as a standalone, or part of a double dunt with one of the more celebrated courses in the area.
Tain golf course is located on the outskirts of the peaceful village of the same name.
Everything in this small club is delightfully unpretentious, from the entrance, club house or facilities, which is one of its charms: it´s just golf at its simplest form, as there´s no place for unnecessary ornaments.
As for the course, in some of the holes the game strategy is limited to hit the ball straight, because the gorse will swallow any wayward drive. We also found a rather inclement rough.
In any case, there is a good bunch of holes worthy of mention, such as the tough par 4 third, the 11th, Alps, a two shotter with its approach above dunes, or the long par 3 17th.
In short, a good links, and a good complement if you visit the Highlands, but clearly below the level of other nearby courses such as Brora, Dornoch or Castle Stuart.
MMA, Barcelona, Spain.
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The 2nd hole may also catch you unaware as there is a burn running about seventy five yards short of the green. Three is an excellent dogleg left par four of 435 yards. A really bad tee shot may catch water on either side or a long drive can run out of fairway on the right.
The standout hole is the 380-yard par four 11th, appropriately known as ‘Alps’. The tee heads you towards the sea over a bumpy fairway then requiring a blind second shot to a seaside green set behind and below two large mounds.
You may have a good score going but don’t celebrate too soon because the two par threes at 16 and 17 can be potentially disastrous mainly due to the River Tain. At the 215-yard 17th hole it winds its way across the fairway twice and then flows along the length of the green on the right hand side.
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.