Tucked away in the West Highlands of Scotland by Arisaig, just south of the fishing port of Mallaig at the end of the Road to the Isles, lies a real hidden golfing gem. Traigh Golf Course is that precious nugget, laid out over grassy hills with sensational views out over silver sands to the Hebridean islands of Skye, Rum, Eigg and Muck.
The site at Traigh (pronounced “try” – Gaelic for beach) has been used as a golf course for over a hundred years but it was always a rudimentary layout. That all changed in 1994 when landowner Jack Shaw Stewart and Club Captain Tommy McEachen involved another two golfing stalwarts in the enlargement and improvement of this charming 9-hole course.
Those other men were John Salvesen (former R&A Captain and designer of other new courses like Charleton and Strathmore) and Jimmy MacDonald (head greenkeeper at Royal Lytham & St Annes and native of Arisaig). They rerouted holes and advised on the positioning and upkeep of new greens.
The par three first hole is played up to a green perched on the hill – shades of Shiskine here, for sure. The 2nd is one of two lusty par fives on the card, played on the hill at the highest point on the course to a punchbowl green. Another par three follows, the first of three short holes played from an elevated tee to a green below with the stunning vista of the islands as a backdrop.
Hole four – “Jimmy’s Choice” – is a short par four back up the hill followed by a wonderful par three played downhill, across a tidal inlet, to a good sized green. The 6th hole, “McEuchen’s Leap” is another short par four which dog legs uphill left to a blind green and then comes the 479-yard, par five, 7th with out of bounds all the way down the left of the fairway.
Hole 8 rises back to the top of the hill with a blind second shot to the green before the round concludes with “Traigh Mhor” (Mighty Beach), the 180-yard, par three 9th which plunges down to beach level beside the white (“But ‘n’ Ben”) Highland cottage-style clubhouse.
A round of golf at Traigh is a unique Scottish golf experience. I’m not going to claim it is one of the best courses in the country but it’s certainly got an argument to say it has the most breathtaking setting and undoubtedly has one of the best holes I’ve ever played.
Located in one of the most beautiful parts of the West Highlands of Scotland, just north of Arisaig, Traigh (pronounced 'try') has a series of sandy beaches and rocky islets running alongside the course, separated only by a single track lane, with stunning views to the Hebridean islands of Eigg and Rum, and the Cuillins of Skye.
The nine holes run over springy turf and play like a true links course, not one of them the same. There are many changes in elevation during the round with some fantastic shots to be played; up, over and top of grassy hills that used to be raw sand dunes. The course originated in about 1900 but the course we play today is thanks largely to work carried out in 1994.
The traditional challenges of a classic seaside links are evident from the off with plenty of quirk thrown into the equation too. A semi-blind par three played steeply uphill to the top of a large dune some sixty feet high is a formidable opener and takes you to the highest part of the course.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played Traigh on my way back down to southern England from the Isle of Skye after our holiday- my wife and I took the ferry from Armadale to Malaig and she obliged me by letting me stop to play a brief nine. The course is set in breathtaking scenery, a beautiful setting overlooking the sea with mountains flanking the course from the opposite side. Traigh begins with a quirky par 3 that plays to a very elevated green above the single room club house. The second hole, a par 5 with an initial tee shot over a ravine, was a delight, though the green was difficult to find as it was tucked away in a sunken bowl not visible from the fairway. Holes 3-6 were a true joy, playing out and back from the sea several times, the highlight of this Scottish track. The course ends with a 180 yard par 3 hitting from a quite elevated tee box, so be sure use a club less than what you would normally hit. Overall my time at Traigh was fantastic. It was pure golf, only a single room club house stands on the grounds and there is nothing in the way between you and the sport. If more golf courses took the same approach to golf as Traigh, the sport would not have the growth issues as it is encountering today.
When I visited last June in 2006, I was on my way further north from Glasgow to Boat of Garten but decided it might be worth setting out at crack of dawn in order to take a hour drive on a left dogleg from Fort William to play at Traigh – though the diversion takes 4 hours when you consider the playing time and return journey!
No matter the time taken to get here, it’s well worth the journey because Traigh is a delightful wee course. It’s not a links as most of it is played on land high above ground level but that in no way detracts from its charm as the views from the holes above the beach are simply stunning. If, like me, you prefer to play golf where the surroundings matter almost as much as the course itself then Traigh is right up there as one of the best that I’ve played in Scotland.
The club website has many testimonials from golfers who wax lyrical about their experience at Traigh and I’m sure every single one (and every single photo in their gallery) is genuine as it has a magical quality that will uplift your heart as you walk off the final green. In a book I read recently, the author stated “you don’t realize how much your golfing soul is in need of repair until you get to the Highlands”.
How very true.