Royal Dornoch Golf Club

Situated just 4 ° below the Arctic Circle, it is due to the moderating affect of the Gulf Stream, that we are able to play golf throughout the Winter months.
Royal Dornoch Website

A Brief History

Golf has been played over the Links of Dornoch for a very long time indeed. King James II of Scotland in 1457 regarded the game with such disfavour that he decreed that golf be utterly “cryt doune and not usit”. James III and IV also wished to suppress the game, presumably because they required their subjects to be more active in the art of marksmen, and not golf.

The first six historic links of which there is a mention are:
St Andrews (1552), Leith (1593), Dornoch (1616), Montrose (1628), Aberdeen (1642) and Musselburgh (1672).

Much praise has been lavished on our links. Tom Watson described the three rounds he played here, as “the most fun he had ever had playing golf”. Ben Crenshaw on his return to Muirfield for the 1980 Open, when asked how he enjoyed Dornoch…….”Let me put it this way. I nearly didn’t come back”!
Sir Robert Gordon, tutor to the young 13th Earl of Sutherland, and an Historian of the Earldom wrote (1628), “About this toun there are the fairest and largest linkes, of any pairt of Scotland, fitt for archery, goffing, ryding, and all other exercise: they doe surpasse the fields of Montrose and St Andrews”.

Dornoch Golf Club owes enormous debt to John Sutherland. Appointed secretary in 1883 at the age of 19, he guided the club for 53 years. He educated himself in the art of green–keeping and gradually developed the course laid out by Tom Morris in 1886, into a subtle test of golf which became one of the world’s great natural courses.

Donald & Alec Ross were born in St Gilberts Street *, behind 2 Quail, close to the Cathedral, in 1872 & 1875 respectively, both learning their golf on the Dornoch links. Having been to St Andrews to learn the skill of club-making and green-keeping, Donald returned to Dornoch as the Professional/Green-keeper in the mid 1890’s. They emigrated to America in 1899, where Donald became one of the great course architects.

In 1906, King Edward VII granted a Royal Charter to the Club, and Royal Dornoch Golf Club was born.
A new clubhouse was opened in 1909, attended by Mr & Mrs Andrew Carnegie (of Skibo Castle). He presented the members with the magnificent Carnegie Shield, for an Open competition, which is played at Royal Dornoch in early August every year.

As a woman that plays golf at Dornoch, I have to say that unlike some other golfing communities, lady golfers have never been treated less favourably than their male counterparts. In fact, Dornoch was one of the earlier clubs to encourage Ladies to play. They had their own 18 hole course, with a clubhouse in Littletown. Unfortunately, during WWII, part of the course was flattened for an airstrip, but was later re-modelled to become the ‘Struie Course’. Now extended by an extra 1’000 yards, overlooking Struie Hill and the Kyle of Sutherland beyond, it is a fine test of golf, and worthy of being a fitting companion to Royal Dornoch, the ‘Top Course’.

*Gilbert de Moravia, see page on the Royal Burgh of Dornoch.