Castle Stuart is a 17th century estate with an imposing and impressive castle. It is also the home to one of the latest additions to the Scottish golf portfolio – Castle Stuart Golf Club. This course is, in one word, spectacular. Comprising a relatively thin strip of land only 10 minutes from Inverness Airport and overlooking the Moray Firth (body of water) the course is laid out over some dramatic land and takes full advantage of its location with a series of holes that play along with the water to start each 9 before heading inland.
The course is only 3 years old and was designed by Gil Hanse (who was recently awarded the Rio Olympics site) and is owned by Mark Parsinen of Kingsbarns fame. Stuart McColm is the friendly General Manager and showed us around including taking us to the very top of the clubhouse which gave us a fantastic aerial view of many of the holes on the course.
The course is also host to the Scottish Open due to be held in 3 weeks time so initial preparations were well underway.
When the wind blows this course is tough! And did it blow when we were there. At times we felt we were going to be blown off the cliffs. Through all of this though the course was thoroughly enjoyable and one that will stay in our memory for a long time.
The course has a rugged feel with a combination of revetted and wispy grass bunkers, bumpy, wide fairways with lots of movement and large and heavily undulating greens. There are a number of holes with forced carries from the tee that tempt you to take on more than you (we…) should. Additionally 3 potentially drivable par 4’s (with the right wind conditions) give you a chance to claw back some strokes invariably lost playing into the wind.
It really is a small world. As we were registering David heard a familiar sounding accent and it turned out that Jona, our starter, came from a small town (Killaloe) 35 minutes from David’s home town of Renfrew in Canada. Jona played ice hockey for the same team as David although in different eras (Jona is 21, David is…a lot older than that).
The Ottawa Valley accent made the Scottish accent sound very clear.
We were fortunate that Jona could join us for the round. David and Jona spoke for hours about ice hockey, fastball and life in rural Canada. Gary listened in from time to time but it became too much by the time we reached the first fairway so he ran ahead and took photos (plenty to take also!)
Our lodging in Inverness was at the very nice Kingsmill Hotel. Gary’s contact at Kingsmill Paula was a lovely host and she gave us a full run down about everything to do with Inverness including people and dates who helped to make Scotland famous including Robbie Burns.
Who is Robbie Burns anyway? Well to let you know he was a poet and composed, among many famous songs, the unforgettable “Scots Wha Hae” (never heard of it) and Auld Lang Syne (we think we remember this from New Years Eve. It was a history lesson with a difference!
If you intend coming to the Highlands to play golf then this is the place to stay. Well located, friendly and efficient service and with comfortable rooms Kingsmill provides a central base for golf in the Highlands.
Inverness is also the home of the Loch Ness Monster who lives about 8 miles away in some big Loch…called Loch Ness. She pops out from time to time and must actually exist because Paula’s mum has seen her as have many others (including the local tourist industry who rely on visitors seeking out “Nessie” to make a living.
Shot of the Day
Playing into a strong wind the 10th is a mid length par 4 with water running down the left hand side. The approach shot is to heavily contoured green with fall off on both sides. Gary hit a 4 iron into the wind (only about 130 metres) onto the green 15 feet from the hole.
Overall birdie tally
Gary (3 birdies, cumulative 31)
David (1 birdie, cumulative 11)
Tomorrow is a special day. We have been granted access to the uber exclusive Skibo Castle (where Madonna and Guy Ritchie spent their honeymoon) – a strictly members only course with lodgings located on the way back to Dornoch, one hour from Inverness. We had to add this to our schedule at short notice but from everything we have heard it will be worth it.