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.
Tain lies on the southern side of the Dornoch Firth and you must pass through here if you are playing at Royal Dornoch. It is well worth including Tain golf course in your travel plans if you are travelling this far north to play as it will give you a pleasant, gentle introduction of what to expect fifteen minutes drive away across the water at its near neighbour.
White tee lengths total 6514 yards so it requires a good few blows to get round in anything like the SSS of 71, which is one more than the course par total. Greens were in wonderful condition and the steep faced bunkers were well placed to punish errant approaches to the putting surfaces.
The Alps at hole number 11 was our favourite on the course, a short par four played from an elevated tee to a green protected by huge sand dunes on all sides – bringing back fond memories of several holes at the Machrie on Islay. There is also a sting in the tail to the round with two par threes at 16 and 17 which make full use of the meandering burn to give protection to the greens and form a formidable pair of potential card wreckers!