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.”
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.
Wick is really far north. Even from Golspie where I stayed this year, it is still a good one-hour drive further to the north. It is a beautiful one, though. A lot of spectacular views come along. To find the golf course you have to drive through the nice town of Wick. And when you just start to think that you might have missed the course anywhere you turn to the right and another couple of hundred yards over a small path and you are finally there.
There is an unpretentious club house where you can leave your fee in a box and then start off. 1st is an easy Par 4 and so it goes on. This is a course where you can just play and relax. The only noises you hear are the sea gulls, the breeze and the waves. It is a very quite and peaceful place.
Is the course itself worth the travel? Well, not really. But if you are around or doing the nc 500 trip and have 2 to 2.5 hours’ spare time then just go ahead and you will not regret it. It is a nice links experience and on the back 9 there are some fine views to the open sea.