THREE of the Highlands’ most prestigious golf courses have been named in the top 35 best places to play in Great Britain and Ireland.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Castle Stuart Golf Links and the Nairn Golf Club have all moved up the rankings in the latest list of 100 leading GB&I courses compiled by Golf Monthly magazine for 2017/18.
Royal Dornoch’s Championship Course is placed 7th (up one place on last year); Castle Stuart 21st - up two places - and Nairn 33rd - up one place.
The three courses - along with leading hotels the Kingsmills and Culloden House, in Inverness, and the Royal Golf in Dornoch – make up the partner organisation Highland Golf Links (HGL) which promotes destination breaks in the area.
Fraser Cromarty, chairman of HGL and CEO at The Nairn Golf Club, said: “Having three HGL courses inside the top 35 of the GB&I list is fantastic news for the Highlands.
“The fact that these courses are moving up the rankings is also very encouraging.
“It reflects investment that has been made to improve our offering, as well as a growing awareness of the outstanding link courses we have here and that the Highlands is a wonderful golfing destination.
“All three links courses can be played over the course of a weekend and, with our partnership with the leading hotels in the area, golfing breaks in this part of the world are easy to manage and very rewarding.”
This year Royal Dornoch hosted the Tartan Tour’s Northern Open and the biggest gathering of ‘royal’ clubs ever organised as part of the celebrations to mark 400 years of golf being played in the town.
Golf Monthly said the Championship Course “is as natural a links as you will find anywhere” and added: “The course at Royal Dornoch is simply meant to be. There’s no layout on earth that has a more natural feel than this incredible northern links.
“Royal Dornoch delivers a selection of highly individual and unadulterated golf holes flowing across the most exquisite playing surfaces. This is golf in its purest form.
“If a trip to any course constitutes a pilgrimage, Dornoch is that place.”
Castle Stuart hosted the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open this summer, the fourth time in six years it has staged the European Tour event.
Golf Monthly said: “Castle Stuart is a visual feast both internally and externally over the Moray Firth to the Black Isle.
“It’s an extremely versatile course and it is no surprise that it’s already hosted four Scottish Opens. The course is set over a fabulous stretch of coastline with a number of the most striking holes played right along the water’s edge.
“Castle Stuart’s eye-catching, art deco-inspired clubhouse offers panoramic views of the course and surrounding countryside from all three floors.
“A hugely impressive modern classic that can be played by all.”
Nairn, which has previously held both the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup, was the setting for the Fairstone Men’s Home Internationals this year.
Golf Monthly said: “Gorse lined, criss-crossed by burns and pockmarked by pot bunkers, Nairn delivers typical Scottish links golf.
“It’s an out-and-back layout with the sea visible on every hole. A stunning links with beautiful views to the Black Isle over the Moray Firth. A testing but fair track.”
This year saw the highest number of golfing visitors take advantage of Play and Stay packages offered by Highland Golf Links to boost business during the ‘shoulder’ months of April, October and November.
Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn all feature in the prestigious HGL 54-hole Pro-Am, sponsored by Blue Group, which this year attracted a capacity field.
All three courses are also part of the Paul Lawrie Foundation’s Winter Series of events for young players in the Highlands.