Royal Dornoch

Attracting golfers from across the globe, Royal Dornoch course is truly a remarkable place to play, ranking consistently inside the top 15 courses of global standings. Its isolated setting adds to the charm and character of the course, with pure white sandy beaches separating the links from the Dornoch Firth.

In this blog post, we’ve shared some of our favourite hotels, restaurants and iconic landmarks in this magnificent part of Scotland, as well as our top tips for playing The Royal Dornoch Course as part of the Old Tom Morris Trail… 

Course Overview

Royal Dornoch Championship Course
AddressRoyal Dornoch Golf Club,Golf Road,Dornoch,Sutherland,IV25 3LW,Scotland
Location 45 miles North of Inverness
Holes18 holes
Style Links
Length6,514 yards
Championships HostedJacques Leglise Trophy, Men’s Home Internationals, Scottish Amateur, The Amateur, Women’s Home Internationals
Scottish Ranking3rd
UK Ranking5th
Recent awards/ AccoladesScotland’s best golf course 2020

Course design

The curving bay of Dornoch Firth and the impressive white sandy beaches, coupled with the softly contoured dunes make the Royal Dornoch Golf Course a truly phenomenal links course. 

The course itself is relatively straightforward, with the typical out and back layout as seen on many Scottish courses. The first eight holes follow the ridge out the way while the ten remaining holes are bounded in the opposite direction, apart from the 17th and 18th. 

One of the key features of the course is the plateau greens which were originally introduced by Old Tom Morris. The unique size and inverted shape of the greens make them particularly difficult to tackle – the perfect challenge for any adventurous golfer. 

Course history

There are written records which record golf being played at Dornoch in 1616, well before the first official nine-hole golf club was founded in 1877. In 1630, Sir Robert Gordon described the course by writing that Dornoch “doe surpass the fields of Montrose or St Andrews” showing his love for this incredible links course. 

In 1886, Old Tom Morris worked his magic by transforming the original nine-hole course and three years later returned to extend the course to the full 18 holes. Many years later, John H. Taylor alongside the club secretary, John Sutherland worked together to make further changes to the layout of the course. One of the most pivotal changes occurred after the second world war, where George Duncan added six new holes (the 6th to the 11th) which can be played to the current day. 

Regional history

Many recognise the Scottish Highlands as being a place of wild beauty, rich culture and history and breathtaking scenery, and this is certainly apparent throughout the town of Dornoch. Situated on the edge of the Dornoch Firth, Dornoch benefits from a favourable sheltered position allowing for a pleasant coastal climate. 

Dornoch is known for its impressive cathedral which was founded in 1244 and restored by the Countess of Sutherland in 1855 and more recently in the 20th century. The beautiful ornate stained-glass windows were paid for by famous Scottish philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. 

Local hospitality and retail

Where to stay

Located only a couple of steps away from the incredible 1st tee at the Royal Dornoch, the Links House at Royal Dornoch offers award winning luxury accommodation. There is no better place to stay if you are an avid golfer than this wonderful highland retreat!

Transport yourself back in time with a beautiful historic stay at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. Situated in the heart of Dornoch opposite the charming 12th century Dornoch Cathedral, this wonderful accommodation offers guests the opportunity to stay in some of the oldest parts of the castle.

Where to eat

The Highland Larder serves freshly produced dishes alongside a variety of sweet treats. What better way to enjoy a quick bite to eat or a warming cup of coffee than with impressive views of Dornoch beach? The Milk and Honey cafe is another fantastic little spot which serves delicious breakfasts, lunches and home bakes with fresh coffee provided from Inverness Coffee Roasting Co

Both Luigis and the Eagle Hotel have a strong emphasis on serving locally sourced produce – ideal for those looking to experience the true taste of Scotland. Open for lunch and dinner, both venues provide their guests with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, 

For a fine dining experience, MARA at Links House offers guests a unique dining experience providing ‘Gifts from Scotland’s waters, fields, forests and skies’ including fresh Dornoch mussels, langoustines from Portmahomack and game from the nearby Bonar Bridge. 

Where to shop

Specialising in top quality woollen goods including natural yarns, fabrics, scarves, throws and bags, Kingcraig has an unique range of locally sourced items perfect for gifting or as a keepsake. For something a bit more modern, Becca Mac Fashion is a local women’s and men’s fashion boutique based in Dornoch, offering a variety of stylish clothing and accessories. 

If you have a sweet tooth, why not treat yourself to a post-golfing goody by trying out some of the delicious luxury chocolates from the Cocoa Mountain chocolate shop? From tasty milk chocolates to dairy free options, there is something to suit everyone’s taste buds. 

Whether you’re looking to add to your ever-growing whisky collection or are just starting off, Carnegie Whisky Cellars is an award-winning independent whisky shop located in the heart of Dornochs town centre. From a large selection of rare collectable bottles to local gins, you are spoilt for choice in this incredible shop!

Iconic landmarks

Dunrobin Castle can be described as a ‘jewel in the crown’ of the highlands and is one of Britain’s oldest inhabited houses with records dating back to the early 1300s. It was also used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boarding school from 1965-1972. The exterior of the building is truly breathtaking, resembling a French Chateau and has seen the architectural influences of people such as Sir Barry Charles, who helped to design the infamous Houses of Parliament. 

Dornoch Beach stretches from Dornoch Point heading along Embo Beach to the beginning of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. With sheltering dunes and soft golden sands, this beach is ideal for taking a gentle evening stroll or capturing the beautiful morning sunrise. 

Located in a secluded corner of the Northern Highlands lies the magnificent Skibo Castle. The exterior of the building is lined with impressive Scottish baronial architecture while the inside of the castle showcases beautiful Edwardian splendour. You can also take a wander through the 8,000 acres of woodland and moors which make up Skibo estate. 

You can also take a trip to visit the home of the world renowned golf architect, Donald Ross. Born in St Gilbert Street in Dornoch in 1872, he grew up with a strong interest in golf, learning his greenkeeping and club making skills from the legendary Old Tom Morris. His true artistic flare will be forever rooted amongst many courses in America and his legacy remains an important part of golfing history. 

The best photo spots

  • Dunrobin Castle
  • Dornoch Cathedral
  • Dornoch Beach
  • The Witch’s Stone
  • Skibo Castle
  • Home of Donald Ross 
  • 1st tee next to the flagpoles 

Our top tips for playing this course

  • If you are in Dornoch on a Saturday night in the summer months, be sure to catch the pipe band in the town square 
  • Take extra care with your approach shots as most of the greens are upturned and difficult to hold 
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