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.
On our way to St Andrews we had 2 courses to play this Wednesday … Tain and Nairn Golf Club. The first one was our stop in the morning after we departed from Dornoch and stopped to play this Old Tom creating which has a nice little statue of him on the 1st tee. It is a sort of “Baby Carnoustie” because of the challenge with some touches of Royal Lytham (bumps on the fairways and some really penal pot bunkers).
The course showed a little bit the lack of rain with no strong green colors but this added one of the things I like more: fast running fairways where if you are straight off the tee you have a very big advantage.
The course has 6 very good starting holes where you can make some good scores but also disaster if missing:
Short 1st with a road crossing 50 yds before the green, it is fenced!!
2nd demands a lay up tee shot to a burn with an easy approach.
3rd has one of the best greens in the course, severely slopped from front left to back right and another demanding tee shot.
4th is a dogleg right par 5 with plenty of space on the left for the tee shot and the chance to cut straight but with hungry gorse ready to eat your ball.
5th a short 3 and then 6th a reachable 4 with two spectacles on both sides of the green.
The course gets quircky from 7th to 10th but later after the round the Secretary told me they are working on cleaning some gorse, bringing back grass, clearing some areas and make them easy to understand from the tee box.
11th is my most liked hole on the course: a straight to the ocean tee shot and then a green protected but 2 huge mounds and being a sort of Punchbowl. 12th goes by the sea before the other par 5 which can be reached but has some bumps before the green that can make your ball bounce crazy.
14th and 15th are two par 4s where getting to the fairway solves a great % of the problem before two very creative par 3: 16th is a short iron over a burn and with a false front at the beginning before extremely demanding 17th over the same burn and a mound that hides the green and if landing It there it can be sent off line easily. Final hole gets just in front of the Club House and with a good tee shot you can walk off with a birdie.
I feel this course can be sometimes overlooked due to more famous neighbors but the challenge and strategy needed here are what I expect from a Golf Course. Give it a try, you will be very happy with it.
Really enjoyed Tain. Greeted by a very welcoming pro who provided excellent tips on how to best tackle the more obscure holes that really did require local knowledge we set off. The course was running very fast as this part of Scotland had not seen the rain the rest of Britain had been cursed/blessed with the previous weeks. Length is not what protects this track even though it's not short either. Good bunkering, undulations that funnel even slight mistakes into the traps and hard unreceptive greens really make it a thinking golfers course. Thoroughly enjoyed it and while it's not the absolute top class quality of Dornoch it's an excellent warm up or middle track if you're in this neck of the woods for a few days. The Twilight rate of £30 after 4pm made it superb value but even the full greenfee would have been perfectly acceptable. Definitely worth a visit.
We played Tain as part of a recent golf tour including Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch's 2 courses, Brora and Golspie.
A fun course with some memorable holes:. The highlights being:
3rd: Par four with a decent drive required to make the second shot as straightforward as possible. OOB on the right stops you going after it off the tee. Second shot in to a well guarded raised green makes a par feel very well earned.
5th: Par three that you certainly don't want to miss right when the pin is on that side. We had a big right to left crosswind that would have made any shot holding the green as a contender for shot of the day.
7th: Par four that on a windy day feels very exposed. Driver and driver off the deck required by one of our group.
9th: Par four sharp dog leg with a well framed green with gorse left and right and trees behind the green.
11th: Par four signature hole. Once you climb up to the two humps in front of the green, your ball will roll down on to the long green. Great views from the humps over to the Glenmorangie distillery.
16th and 17th: Par 3s offer varied lengths, water abound and a stiff challenge in any crosswind.
Staff at the club all very welcoming and food tasty - good value for money and a short enough course to form part of any 36 hole day if touring the area.
Played Tain a couple of years ago in an Open whilst up in early season staying in nearby, peerless, Dornoch. The course was in great nick on a bright, sunny day so I believe we saw it at its best. There are only a few holes that spring to mind, including "Dolly Parton" named by our accompanying member for its spectacles bunkers on the approach, and a few anachronistic holes on flatter ground in the middle of the round. Definitely worth a round, but certainly ranked correctly. In many other areas Tain would be a star, but here it's in the chorus.
A minor clarification: there’s only one bunker on the approach to 11; it’s the two prominent dunes either side of it that give rise to the hole’s nickname...
Yes good point thanks, was getting it confused with Carnoustie I guess !
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.