Brora & Royal Dornoch
Updated: Jan 12
We set off on a trip to visit Brora which in itself would have been an awesome day of golf but an impromptu drive by Royal Dornoch resulted in a twilight round on a beautiful summers evening which may have been the best days golf any of us had ever experienced.
We loaded the van and set off from home on a beautiful July morning, a 2 hour plus journey heading to the Highland village of Brora. None of us had played it before but it came with a great reputation and we had set our sights on Brora as top of our recently assembled Bucket List. Driving over the Kessock Bridge we still had an hour or so to go but the views on the journey were a joy to behold. Stunning scenery to enjoy from the passenger seat of the team van.
We made it to Brora and some much needed navigation from the passenger seat helped us find the course and park up. A friendly welcome from Malcolm, the pro and we headed inside (masked up) to the bar area where we met Tony, the manager and Sue, reservations. A great chat regarding the work Brora had done over the lockdown period to secure its future was inspiring from such a small club. Tony gave us a tour of the Peter Thomson room, 5 time Open Champion, where some cherished memorabilia is displayed. Peter was a frequent visitor to Brora when in Scotland and held the place in high esteem.
Another visit to the Pro Shop and Malcolm gave us some hints and tips and we discussed the work he carried out during lockdown including the link up with "No Laying Up". We picked up some Brora memorabilia including a much needed Scoresaver which is a must to help you plot your way round the course. Off we went to the practice putting green got a feel for them and the obligatory 1st tee photo with a stunning panoramic of the bay.
The first is a relatively generous start however a blind landing area requires a bit of thought with an iron to a right angled fairway leaving a wedge to a green sloping back to front. As you get to the 1st green you come across something that is not often encountered on a golf course, an electric fence which surrounds it. Watch you don't touch it and get a shock. Why is it there though? The answer to that becomes clear once you get into the teeth of the course where you will come across some sheep roaming and Highland Cows (watch where you are putting your feet when walking down the fairway).
The course is an old style 9 out, 9 in set up mostly hugging the coastline out and slightly inland for the back 9. The James Braid design is not particularly long in today's standards at just over 6000 yards but provides a decent test with the whispy rough quite favourable for the wayward shot to be found and playable. This helps to provide an enjoyable game for players of all abilities. The first 3 par 3's give different challenges with short irons and well guarded by bunkers with the pick of them undoubtedly the 125 yard, 13th. A short hole but surrounded in bunkers and a meandering burn giving plenty to think about.
The back 9 is where we got up close and personal with the wildlife more often. The Highland Cows are quite daunting but are very at ease with the traffic. The sheep are more plentiful and can be found feeding in and around the rough but nothing to put you off. As I said though worth watching where you place your feet in the rough or you may get an unpleasant surprise on your golf shoes.
The finishing holes kept us on our toes with a long par 4, 17th and 200 yard, Par 3, 18th to a plateau green where trying to get a long iron to hold the green is no mean feat. A very scoreable course in the nice summer weather we experienced but with a blow of wind a different beast no doubt with the small greens and undulations. A nice friendly pint at the end was what the doctor ordered for the non-drivers.
We departed Brora with a smile on our faces from a truly magnificent experience and can't recommend highly enough, it is certainly worth the journey. We were hungry and looked for somewhere to eat. We got to the Dornoch turn off and went to investigate and decided we would go for a look at Royal Dornoch. One of the team had played but the other two had not. As we parked up Vice Captain, now Captain Willie Mackay was walking past. A man well known to us from his time with Scottish Golf. Was great to see him and if you know him a difficult man to get to stop talking. He encouraged us to go see Neil Hampton, Club Manager who offered us a game so we took the chance to get a lovely fish supper from the clubs restaurant and hurried to get the clubs as it was getting near 5 o'clock. Being the height of summer we had plenty daylight but we couldn't contain our excitement at getting to play a such highly acclaimed course. The day was turning into a golfers dream.
The first couple of holes set us up for what is a truly magnificent spectacle. Lovely short par 4 followed by the first of four fantastic par 3's. Then we walked from 2nd green to 3rd tee to a golfing mecca. A sight to behold for the avid golfer. The next 4 holes play on the same level with another fabulous short par 3, plateau green and well guarded with bunkers. We made our way up the hill to the newly open 7th played along a plateau with a stunning view of the course and bay. Another traditional 9 out and 9 in set up took us to turn near "Grannies Heilan Hame" a popular caravan park. We turned for home hugging the coastline most part where the course doesn't let up. Stunning holes with plenty to think about and using all the shots in our armoury. They included more great short par 3's and I would class it as the best group of par 3's we have played on one course. Nothing more than a 7 iron required but well guarded by beautiful pot bunkers and undulating greens once you got your ball on to them.
We tired as we reached the final few holes and the quality of golf faded but as the sun lowered and we picked our balls out the last hole we agreed it was likely the best day of golf we had encountered a truly fantastic day. Royal Dornoch did not disappoint and it is safe to say we will return soon. We packed our clubs back in the van and headed for home satisfied with a fantastic days golf in the Highlands.
We had fell in love with golf in the Highlands!!