Nairn Dunbar: A Highlight in the Highlands
Feature by Ed Hodge
“It does take a little effort to get to this area, but the golfers who do come receive a typically friendly Highland welcome and more often than not are very surprised with the quality of conditions and service we offer here as a whole.”
Robbie Stewart, PGA Director of Golf at Nairn Dunbar, is perfectly accurate with his words. The wonderful Highlands of Scotland has long been a rewarding trip for golfers of all ages and abilities, but the overall quality of the offering for visitors in the region has perhaps never been better.
Nairn Dunbar is a case in point. Aided by the work of Stewart – who has been in position for two years – and course manager Richard Johnstone, the venue continues to grow in reputation. With Royal Dornoch, Brora, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Castle Stuart, Moray and Nairn among favoured destinations in the north, Nairn Dunbar is also in the ‘must-play’ category.
The fact visiting golfers can enjoy special offers such as the ‘Nairn Ticket’ and the ‘Moray Ticket’ to enjoy Nairn Dunbar and its neighbouring venues means there is little excuse not to tee up.
Part of that rich stretch of links golfing terrain in the north, Nairn Dunbar is set in 135 acres of undulating links land just east of Inverness. With views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle and beyond to the mountains of Sutherland, as well as inland to the neighbouring Cawdor Hills, it offers a fun, challenging and enjoyable test, characterised by holes such as the picturesque par-3 8th.
(The 8th at Nairn Dunbar)
Having celebrated their 120-year anniversary in 2019, club history is notable.
“We were founded in 1899, 12 years after our near neighbours along the road at The Nairn Golf Club,” continues Robbie. “Much the same as other clubs at that time, Nairn was mainly formed for the wealthy and the well-to-do. However, Sir Alexander Dunbar of Boath, who was the local landowner, decided the game of golf should also be accessible to the working people of the town, so he donated land on the east side of Nairn that could be used for their access.
“It was originally a 9-hole course here, designed by a local professional, Peter Robertson, and then became an 18-hole lay-out in 1924. It’s an excellent links course, well known for providing a stiff test and challenge, with good greens throughout the 12 months of the year. It is a par-72, but our standard scratch is 74, which is testament to the challenge for all standard of golfer.”
While proud of their history, it’s the club’s work in the present that is growing their status.
Over recent times, the renowned championship venue has undergone a series of adjustments to promote a true links experience at the layout. With a long history of hosting professional and amateur events – and the club looking forward to co-hosting qualifying with Nairn for The Amateur Championship next June – it has worked hard to improve and upgrade the course to keep pace with the expectations of members and visitors at great value for money.
After receiving consistent feedback that holes 9, 10 and 11 had a more parkland feel, the club put a restoration plan in place to unveil as much of the natural dune systems and undulations as possible.
(The 10th at Nairn Dunbar)
Through sustainable management under the leadership of course manager Johnstone, the club has also worked hard on producing more firm and fast greens for links golf and undertaken a rough, gorse and tree management programme.
US-based Russell Knox has watched on with pride, given the three-time Tour winner is an honorary member at the cub and developed his game on the links as a junior.
The 35-year-old said: “I’ve actually bumped into Richard a few times over the last few years as he has come over to the US to volunteer at some of the Majors. So I’ve got to chat to him a little bit and I follow him on Facebook. I see the pictures posted and updates on the new holes – it looks amazing. I guess holes 9, 10 and 11 probably did stick out a little bit, they weren’t really anything like the rest of the course, so if they are now a little more ‘linksy’ and more natural to the land there, that is only going to make the course better. Good on him for getting on with that. I would love to go back and play the course again.”
Knox, a former junior captain at Nairn Dunbar and three-time club champion from 2002, last played the course in 2018 when he travelled over to compete in the Scottish Open at Gullane.
The 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winner, who also has a junior open at Inverness and Nairn Dunbar named in his honour, added: “The condition of the course looks phenomenal in pictures I’ve seen online. It’s just a great course. Playing there in so many different conditions and tournaments was fantastic. I’ve played hundreds of rounds there. My upbringing, getting to play Nairn Dunbar, winning the junior tournaments, winning the club championship, the 5-Day Open; I mean those were the reasons why I’m here where I am now.”
(The Stunning Restoration at Nairn Dunbar)
New members are now enjoying the experiences Knox previously enjoyed. With the club promoting its assets and offering new membership offers, such as a Lifestyle category, it has welcomed 80 new members since May as golf continues to enjoy a feelgood factor post-lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Laura and Colin McChristie have recently joined, also enjoying coaching as part of their welcome to the club. All Introductory members receive two free lessons from Stewart, including a group lesson to meet others in the same category and with similar abilities.
Laura said: “It is a great and friendly course to play with stunning views and some challenging holes, with the wind making each hole different every time you play it. The coaching is fantastic with such a friendly approach and good visual tools to help explain the points and a follow up email to help you remember.”
Reached by excellent travel connections only 15 minutes from Inverness Airport and two hours from Aberdeen Airport, Nairn Dunbar measures 6,765 yards from the championship tees to 5,748 from the reds.
"We are delighted with the quality of the course and continue to pride ourselves on product, condition and service for members and visitors at the club,” added Stewart. “It has been a challenging year for everyone, but with the autumn now here and winter approaching, we boast a superb all-year round links test at Nairn Dunbar.” Like the Highlands itself, it is well worth the trip.
For more information on Nairn Dunbar and their membership offers, please contact Kieran Maclean, Club Manager, on email at: [email protected].
Nairn Dunbar has an impressive Golfshake Rating of 4.67 from 16 independent reviews. If you want to know more about the venue, visit https://www.nairndunbar.com/.
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