Wick Golf Club was formed back in 1870 and the club’s golf course is the most northerly on the east coast of Scotland. The club told us that John Sutherland (secretary at Royal Dornoch for over fifty years) designed their old-fashioned links, Sutherland also set out the original private course at Skibo Castle for owner Andrew Carnegie.
The course epitomises all you could ask for in a classic links course, with nine holes out along the coast to where the Loch of Wester enters the North Sea then nine holes back beside the sand dunes, with firm and fast fairways, well-positioned bunkers and smooth rolling greens.
At the end of the 1990s, former Club Captain John Hunter proposed a number of course modifications which were endorsed by Ronan Rafferty and these have brought the overall yardage up to 6,123 yards. Hole 2 (now a par three) used to play as a par four and hole 3 (currently a par five) was previously configured as a par four. Similarly, on the back nine, holes 16 and 17 (now par fours) were formerly designated as a par three and par five.
As Ronan Rafferty confirmed to us: “The 9th green was rebuilt and the hole made slightly longer. The 13th was also changed, making it longer to. Several new tees were also added, giving more 'scenic' views across the dunes and the sea on the back nine. All in all, it’s a beautiful old traditional links that’s well worth the visit.”
George Peper and Malcolm Campbell omitted Wick from their title, True LInks, commenting as follows: "Occasionally a course that was born as a links loses its links character because of a change in its environment. One example is Wick, in Scotland's Highlands, where meadow grass has been allowed to encroach over the years, with the result that the fairways no longer run hard and fast as a proper links should."
We played Wick several years ago, but I remember it very clearly, which is clearly a good sign. Like many links it's much better than it appears from the road as you drive in.
As per other reviews, the outward 9 is on flatter inland terrain with quite a bit of moss on the first few holes that were to be targeted in the future.
After 8 holes going straight north, the par 3 9th "Tern" takes you to the dunes, and then it all kicks off.
There are a run of tees in the dunes that remind one a little of RCP and Royal Aberdeen with testing drives, albeit with a scenic large rusting shipwreck on the beach when we played which I can't see in any photos or mentioned in reviews, so maybe it's been removed or I imagined it !
The round went by too quickly and we had a great post round drink with a couple of members who were somewhat startled to find visitors (this is before the North Coast 500). There's not much other golf in the vicinity, and incorporated with visits to John o'Groats and Duncansby Head it's a great day out from Dornoch through some of the starkest scenery to be found in Britain.
Founded in 1870 Wick Golf Club is fast approaching its 150th birthday and is embracing its golden years by bringing new energy to the links.
Upon arrival at the coastal course Club Captain, Catherine McLeod, energetically tells us all about a plethora of planned changes to the course in what promises to be exciting times ahead for Wick under the guidance of a new greenkeeper, a scratch golfer, who started work on the links last October.
Under a five-year plan the par-five eighth is all set to be re-routed, to avoid some persistent dampness on the current fairway, which will not only turn it into a two-shotter but also enable the club to take the unmissable opportunity to build a new par-three 11th into the dunes with the knock-on effect of alterations at the 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th.
Hopefully the green complexes at the existing 13th and 14th won’t be altered though because these are two highlights of the current course. Indeed the 150-yard 14th “Plateau” is a wonderful par-three with shades of North Berwick.
Work has already been carried out with some new tees on a few holes and a further five planned for the coming winter. Enhanced shaping of the relatively flat, daisy-clad, fairways is also on the horizon.
Wick is a traditional out-and-back links with the first eight holes taking you straight out towards the farthest end of the links before you tackle the delightful ninth which is played at right angles to all the other holes. And then the march for home begins from a lovely elevated drive at the 10th and this is where the best of the golf can then be found.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Having earlier in the day been to the most north western course on the British mainland at Durness, I headed across the top of Scotland to tee it up at the most north eastern track at Wick. Unfortunately, the course didn’t quite deliver what I’d hoped to find. After arriving at an empty clubhouse and paying my green fee at the honesty box outside the gents’ locker room, I headed out onto the links on a dull, overcast, rather miserable evening.
The opening eight holes are laid out in a line on pretty flat terrain furthest from the dunes and they’re not entirely inspiring. In fact, it felt as if the same holes were just being repeated again and again. The large bent grass lie-of-the-land greens were in decent shape (though lacking in any real movement) but the fairways were probably the spongiest I’ve ever come across on any links course, anywhere – firm and fast they most certainly were not.
In fairness, the 8th hole did play to a slightly raised green, which gave some indication that things might be about to improve, and thankfully that’s just what happened from the 9th hole onwards. The par three 9th with a sand-protected back-to-front green benched into the dunes is probably the best hole on the card, though the par four 13th (with a terrific dip in front of the 2-tiered green) and the par three 14th (with a lovely reverse Redan green) are also contenders for that accolade.
Fairways are far more rumpled on the inward half – indeed, it’s hard to imagine they lie less than a hundred yards from those on the ultra-flat front nine. Throw into the back nine golf mix a smattering of elevated, offset tees set in the dunes along with some heavily-contoured greens and you have a vastly superior set of holes bringing you back to the clubhouse than the ones that led you away. It’s very much a game of two halves at Wick but it’s not one I’ll be rushing back to play, I’m afraid.