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Nairn Golf Club

Want to know how good a golf course Nairn Golf Club is? Ever hear the expression "you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps"? Well, the Walker Cup has been played at the finest venues in the world including Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Portmarnock, Brookline, and St. Andrews. In 1999 it was played at Nairn Golf Club. How's that for keeping good company? You say you want more proof? Okay, Golf World 2008 rated it the 25th best golf course in the United Kingdom and rated their greens among the top 10. James Braid, one of the greatest and most famous of the Scottish golf architects, said about Nairn, "The texture of the turf and the character of the greens is unrivaled."

Nairn Golf Club in the Scottish Highlands
Nairn Golf Club in the Scottish Highlands

Nairn Golf Club is a great golf course, no doubt about it
"Formidable" would be a better word to describe it. It's one of those special traditional Scottish links layouts that is in sight of the sea on every hole and flirts with the sea on about half of them. In the classic links tradition, like St. Andrews, it's an out and back golf course with the first 7 holes built right along the edge of the Moray Firth, so slicers beware. It's the kind of golf course that lulls you into submission with its beauty on the front nine only to mug you when you least expect it on the back nine.

The first nine holes, in fact, do play much easier than the back nine. It's not that one thru nine are easy--not a chance. It's just that if you are going to score, do it early. It will be a struggle to do it late because the degree of difficulty builds. By the time you get past the run of 12, 13 and 14--three of the finest and most difficult consecutive holes in Scotland--you will be happy to be facing an innocent looking #15, a281 yard par 4 . But don't let even this seemingly tame hole fool you because the green is plateaued with a severe fall off in the back and you still have a 490 yard finishing hole with nine statregically placed bunkers and gorse and out of bounds on your right. Oh, the green is pretty well protected too. It's the kind of hole that can easily cost you a double or triple bogie and make you cry if you are playing a good round up to this point.

Nairn Golf Club ladies first tee
This is the view down the 1st from the ladies tee. It looks innocent enough but note the gorse and the bunkers on this 400 yard par 4 starter--and, of course, the beach on your right. For the first seven holes the Moray Firth is your constant companiont.

This is a physically beautiful golf course as well as being a difficult one. The views across the Moray Firth to Black Isle and beyond are spectacular. I played the golf course on a gorgeous day with fluffy white clouds in an azure blue sky. The gorse was blooming and the golf course was in spectacular shape. (But then it has a reputation of always being in spectacular shape.) The wind was relatively mild. Lucky for me because I'm not a big hitter and the first seven holes play into the prevailing wind, which can often cost you 2 to 3 clubs in length. And the wind will exaggerate any slice and send ball after ball into the Firth. On a very windy day, forget par and just hold on for dear life.

Nairn Clubhouse and 18th hole
Nairn 18th hole and clubhouse

A few words about some of my favorite holes at Nairn

I'm a golfing masochist, I guess, because my favorite holes always turn out to be the most difficult and most treacherous--usually the ones that I score highest on. Anyway, numbers 3 and 7 on the outward nine are two of these. Number 3 is played with the Firth to your right but it demands a slight draw--something I certainly can't do on demand!. However, there are strategically placed very large fairway bunkers located a drive away from the tee on the left. So the water is right and bunkers are left. That leaves the center of the fairway, but the second bunker sticks way out into the fairway so the tee shot has to be VERY accurate. I'm not even going to go into the lumps and bumps that make up the fairway. The second shot on this 361 yard par 4 is to a green that falls off precipitously in the back. Better hold it or your third shot will be very difficult. The 7th hole at 488 yards demands another precise tee shot or the ball will be gobbled up by gorse. Lots of luck getting par if it does.

Nairn #5 green
Nairn 5th green

As I said, 12 thru 14 are among the best consecutive holes I've ever seen, number 13 being the best (or worst) of the three. It requires another very precise tee shot to the narrowest of fairways. Again, bunkers in the middle of the fairway and protruding out into the fairway make this a pretty tough task. And the green sits atop a severe false front and is further guarded by 4 bunkers. Oh, and did I mention the green has a ridge running right through the middle? The next, number 14, will become one of your favorite par 3s. First of all it's195 from the medal tees. I don't know about you but that's about all I can handle on a par 3 and if there's a wind in my face, I'm either laying up or hitting driver!. It has 4 bunkers guarding the green, but the two forward ones are a deceptively far distance from the green and so give a false read. The green itself is severely sloped in the very front so any ball coming in too short will not roll too far onto the green. And the green itself has two ridges in addition to the usual undulations.

Nairn 18th green
The 18th green from the left side. You'll be coming in from the right. Note the large bunkers on either side. You'll need good position off your second shot on this 490 yard monster finishing hole, so you can hit a low roller into the wind between them if you have to. Otherwise, you'll be hitting over these monsters and they can spoil a good round fast.

Play this relatively undiscovered treasure. If you are in the area playing Royal Dornoch Golf Course, stay an extra day and play Nairn Golf Club. It's on the west side of the town of Nairn, along the shore on Seabank Road.

Golf Nook rating -- a solid EAGLE

Mary-Alice suggests....

What to do all day in Nairn

Visit the Northern Highlands page if you decide to stay in Dornoch for the day. But I suggest you come along to Nairn, a pleasant town with miles of white sandy beach along the Moray Firth. It's about an hour and 20 minutes drive from Dornoch.

Nairn town square
Nairn town square. (That notice board on the wall to the left is enlarged below.)

Directions from Nairn Golf Club --
If you feel like a long-ish walk, you can leave the car in the Nairn golf course car park and walk into town. Go back out Seabank Road (the one that leads to the golf course), turn left onto Academy Street (the A96) and in a couple of blocks you'll see the main town centre off to your right.

If you decide to drive to the town centre, you'll find free parking in the streets and in the plentiful carparks.

Boutiques and award-winning restaurants are plentiful on the high street (main street), all contributing to Nairn's charming character. Lots of places for a quick meal, too. The town centre of Nairn is a pleasant place to wander about and it's very walkable.

Speaking of walking --

Local map of Nairn, Scotland
Watch for this colourful notice board in the town centre.

Several well-signposted walks are available here, and large notice boards around town show where they are located. "Prince of Wales" Walk is especially nice and very easy--a short country walk along the banks of the River Nairn, just beside the town.

Take the time to visit Nairn. I think you'll be glad you decided to come along when your travel partner played one of the two championship courses in this compact Scottish town.