Royal Dornoch

Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch, Scotland

Located a mere 50 yards from the first tee at Royal Dornoch is the Royal Golf Hotel.

A classic hotel with a long history as the spot to stay in Dornoch, the hotel closed in 2006 after its parent company (Swallow Group) went bankrupt.  Entrepreneur Peter de Savary, who once owned Skibo Castle, where he founded the Carnegie Club, immediately bought the hotel with plans to turn it into a top luxury resort.

Two years later, with the hotel untouched, de Savary's plans changed and the hotel was sold to local investors.  The investors spent £9m to refurbish the hotel and return it to its former glory, as a perfect little four-star golf hotel.

The lead investor, Grant Sword is also a director of Castle Stuart Golf Links, so there is a marketing connection between the Highlands newest golf course and the restored Royal Golf Hotel.

Royal Dornoch is a must-play on every Highlands golf trip, and Royal Golf Hotel is the perfect complement for a two-night stay.

The entrance of the hotel

There are two suites, this is one of them

The proverbial "Room with a View"

Hanging from the ceiling of the bar are bag tags from around the world

The dining room appropriately set for tables of 8 overlooking the course

This shot illustrates how close the hotel is to the first hole

The view of the hotel from the first hole

Royal Dornoch

Located an hour north of Inverness, Dornoch is a long trek, a good four hours from Edinburgh and St. Andrews.  Dornoch is so far north that it is on the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska.

Due to its location, Royal Dornoch is often overlooked by people planning an inaugural golf trip to Scotland. But that is a big mistake, as this is golf at its purest. The club was formally founded in 1877, but there is record of golf being played at Dornoch since 1616 and it doesn't feel as though it has changed much since then.

It is a classic nine holes out and nine holes back layout, where the wind is your friend for half your round and your foe for the other half.  Especially memorable is the 401-yard 16th hole, up hill and directly into the wind.  This makes for a very long hole and forces one to be creative by keeping the ball low to the ground and using the hard links fairway to get the requisite yardage off the tee. For North Americans, this is a different game, fun and creative golf.

This course is a real treat that one never tires of, even inspiring Lorne Rubenstein, The Globe and Mail golf columnist to spend three months there in the summer of 2000. At the end of his stay, he wrote a book entitled "A Season in Dornoch" about his experience. It is a great read about both golf and life in the Highlands.

At this point in our trip, this is our favourite course.

Next posting: Royal Golf Hotel, located 50 yds from Royal Dornoch's first tee.

The flags represent the nationalities of the guests at the club, a nice welcome

The front of the scorecard

Hole #2, a par-3 that Tom Watson called the hardest 2nd shot on the course

Highest point of the course offers a great view

It is either long arms or hit it backwards

Bunker on the right, swale on the left and a green sloping downhill, a delicate putt

The golfer looks like he is putting from the edge of the cliff

Our caddy Hamish, a 52-year member who knew a thing or two about the course