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4 Magical Golf Courses You Must Play in The Scottish Highlands

By: Kevin Heggie | Wed 05 Apr 2023

Article by Golfshake Ambassador Kevin Heggie

The Highlands is home to some of the very best golf in Scotland, and the world. The likes of Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart are rightly considered to be world class experiences by a plethora of reviewers and world rating lists, and are must visit destinations for golfers looking to tick off some bucket list courses. However, beyond these headline acts, there are also plenty of other links courses in the area to make for an interesting and varied golf trip, and the goal of this article is to shine a light and raise awareness of some other options for consideration.

Tain Golf Club

Tain Golf Club

Situated just south of Dornoch, Tain came to life at the hands of Old Tom Morris, who crafted a 15-hole layout towards the end of the 19th century. Over time, the course has evolved, but a lot of the original features remain, and it’s a great example of how to make the most of some links land, with crumpled fairways and funky greens making for a really enjoyable experience, especially as the holes don’t follow a traditional ‘out and back’ links design, and so provide variable wind directions throughout.

The standout 11th hole (above) is played out towards the Dornoch Firth and requires a good drive and a committed approach to clear the significant dunes to a blind, punchbowl green. As a member of another Old Tom layout in Cleeve Hill, I could really see the similarities, and also loved the fact that the course was fully measured off all four sets of tees, allowing you to choose options from a short and fun course measuring 4,300 yards, or a sterner test off the back tees at 6,400.

Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club

Fortrose & Rosemarkie

Situated between Inverness and Dornoch, Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club sits on a spit of land in the Moray Firth, and dates back to the 1700s, making it one of the oldest courses in the world. The layout in play today is largely based on James Braid’s work in the 1920s, and its remarkable design fits 18 holes onto a constrained piece of land without holes feeling compromised or claustrophobic.

The front 9 largely plays along the shorelines either side of the peninsula, with the back 9 then inland, and a key feature that provides the course with some extra protection is gorse, which is literally everywhere! However, keep it straight and you’ll have a memorable experience, and may even see some dolphins frolicking in the water as you make your way out towards the lighthouse.

Golspie Golf Club


North of Dornoch, Golspie is a quirky mix of links and heathland holes, which combine to make an interesting and fun course that should definitely be on your list to play. The first few holes are typical links, with 3-7 running right along the shoreline and include a tough par 5 and a short par 4 to a blind green. Teeing away from the water on the 7th starts to take you inland to some beautiful heathland style holes, framed by tall pines and heather, before turning you back towards the clubhouse and more links-like holes. The finishing stretch is very strong - a long par 4 is followed by two great par 3s, and then the 18th surely plays like a par 5 for most as you tee off towards a huge mound before attempting a blind shot to the green.

Brora Golf Club


Maybe stretching the cliche of hidden gem, Brora has gotten a lot of love in recent years as it benefited from social media exposure to attract visitors from near and far, as outlined in this Golfshake article from a few years ago. Like Fortrose & Rosemarkie and Golspie, it’s yet another James Braid course, and adopts the traditional out and back design seen so often on links courses in the UK. 

It also has electric fences around the greens as it’s home to cows at certain times of the year, but don’t assume the conditioning is rough and ready - tee to green the course was in immaculate condition when we visited, and this conditioning helped make it a truly memorable experience, potentially my favourite of the trip.

Final Thoughts

The UK is truly blessed with world class golf, and these courses all demonstrate the strength in depth beyond the big hitters. I had a great time on Dornoch (a true championship test) and Castle Stuart (millionaire's golf with views to die for), but these four will also live long in the memory and added a nice variety to the trip in terms of course challenge and green fee costs, and there's a whole selection of other courses not referenced here that are worth exploring in the Highlands. 

Additionally, if you’re thinking of taking a trip to the area (which I highly recommend!) take a look at some of the country membership options, as many of the courses offer excellent reciprocals and discounts via Scottish Union membership.

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