The purpose of the Review of The Month feature is twofold. Top100GolfCourses has always aimed to salute and encourage those who are putting admirable effort into reviewing the world’s great golf courses. Moving forward, we are also looking to learn from these experts! We’ll be chatting with the month’s star authors and discussing topics such as golf in their area, what they like to see in a strong course review, and of course dig a little deeper into their own winning review.
May 2022’s Review of The Month comes from Mike Brooks, whose inner golf writer found its muse in the form of Royal Dornoch Golf Club.
credit: Larry Lambrecht
1. Royal Dornoch is (currently) ranked No. 12 in the world on Top100. Does that pose a challenge in finding something fresh to say while writing a review?
Yes it does, which is probably why I haven’t written a review before. However, having played the majority of the top courses in GB&I recently, and also having played Dornoch 30-plus times, I felt I had one of those rare moments of clarity of how Dornoch differs from many other challenging courses plus some tips (from the scars of experience!) that might be useful for others.
2. But on the other side of that coin, this is the second review for Dornoch during 2022 that has merited "Review of The Month." Does a renowned club perhaps inspire the writers in us?
For me, Dornoch invokes a feeling that I rarely get at other courses. Because it is such a special place I think it has inspired me to want to tell others about it and I try and explain why it is special. To be honest, I’ve struggled explaining this to friends in the past.
credit: Larry Lambrecht
3. As you mentioned earlier, you’ve now played Dornoch 30 times! How much does the current review differ from what you may have written following your first round?
I fell in love with Dornoch (both the course and the town) on my first visit so my sentiment would have been the same. However the passage of time and my experience of different courses has led me to appreciate its nuances more. I also think it has got a bit easier over the past 25 years, with gorse cut back on several holes. I love the fact that the course is not overly penal off the tee and you are typically not looking for balls in thick rough. However, at the same time it places a premium on hitting accurate iron shots and/or having a good short game.
4. It can be assumed, based on that No. 12 in the World ranking, that any golfer in the area will make a beeline to Dornoch. Is there a particular, less-renowned gem in the region that you'd recommend?
There are a lot of good golf courses in the area. Castle Stuart is one of my favourite courses in GB&I (see my glowing review!) and is a good stopping off point on the journey up or back down. Fortrose & Rosemarkie is another course nearer Inverness that has an understated charm to it. Closer to Dornoch the trio of Brora, Golspie and Tain are all good with Brora (and its back nine in particular) the pick of the bunch in my view. Finally, Dornoch’s second course, the Struie, is great for a second round after playing the big course — I love playing the two-ball scramble on it as part of the member-guest Captain's weekend in May each year.
5. Now that you're a celebrated "Review of The Month" winner, let us know what factors you appreciate in a strong golf course review!
I really like to see reviews bring out the key highlights and impressions of a course. To me it is less about a hole-by-hole run-through and more about picking out key holes, an overall feel for the course and what makes it different to others. For courses where there are plenty of reviews already then ideally the review should be additive and distinctive to what has gone before. The catch is that this is very difficult to do! I’m on a quest to play the top 100 courses in GB&I and have played well over 60 of them in the past two years (as well as a number of others). The fact that I haven’t written up as many reviews as I would have liked points to how I struggle to say something insightful.
Photo credit: Larry Lambrecht
6. What's one course that you'd love to write a review for during 2022 (or plan to)?
I’m fortunate to be playing a lot of great courses this year. This includes a northwest Ireland tour (13 rounds in eight days!), a Kent coast tour and tours earlier this year to Surrey and Aberdeen. However it’s my US trip which is probably the pick of the bunch given it includes some really top notch and hard-to-access courses. This includes Pine Valley and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to playing a course more. Expect to see a review here later in the year, assuming I can think of something original to say!