After thawing out in the Castle Stuart clubhouse it was onto Nairn for an afternoon round. The weather was abysmal at this point so confidence wasn’t high for the afternoon but we drove over nonetheless. Fortunately the wind started to abate when we arrived and even though it was bitterly cold started to prepare for the round. As mentioned in the Castle Stuart post, the deal to play the three courses is fantastic. You can either play CS twice and Royal Dornoch or play CS, Dornoch and Nairn. For me this is a no brainer, you have to come play Nairn. This was my first real experience of links golf in Scotland. We were greeted at the tee by 4 Nairn members hailing from Dundee. They saw we were a two-ball and let us go ahead of them. After hearing I was over from Melbourne, they sympathised about the weather but were pleased we were have a hit on their track. Managed to hit a good drive off the first so off we went again. The club’s website contains a good page summarising the club’s origin, details can be found here.
The opening 7 holes are famously located right next to the Moray Firth. A badly sliced teeshot on the first could end up on the beach which makes for a fairly thrilling start, incidentally the first is aptly named ‘Sea’. There was a strong cross-wide so a significant challenge awaited but luckily glimpses of blue skies were starting to appear. The 2nd is a tougher long Par 4 with bunkers located to the right of the fairway for long drives and a ditch for those of us who can drive like Dustin Johnston. Hole played like a Par 5 for us mere mortals though. The 3rd (Nest) is another Par 4 which again plays alongside the Firth but doglegs right. Narrow fairway here so accuracy from the tee is needed which sets up a mid-iron to a well protected green. Great hole! The 4th (Bunker) is the first of the Par 3s and plays to an opposition direction from the first three and directly towards the beach and the wind. Hole is only 135 yards but we were playing into a 3 club wind on the day. Huge pot bunker awaits before the saucer link green complex which we both missed on the day. Nets (5th) is another beachside Par 4 with a more generous fairway (by Nairn’s standards) to aim for. Elevated tiny green is again well protected and a tough approach awaits. 6th (Ben Wyvis) is a long Par 3 followed by a Par 5 hole really called ‘Long’. The 7th snakes to the left and required three good shots into a strong headwind. The 8th (Delnies) and 9th (Icehouse) are short risk reward par 4s that lead to the furthest distance from clubhouse. Rugged beach splintered with gorse is everywhere at this point and is a sight to behold. I took a moment to pause at this point and take things in. Felt a million miles away from the corporate world for sure!
The second nine are played more inland but are similarly strong. The 10th (Cawdor) is a par 5 with thankfully the wind behind. 3 Bunkers litter the left of the fairway so middle right is the line and the possibility of reaching the green in two. The 11th (Gate) is a pretty Par 3 featuring gorse and a white house for company around a heavily bunkered green. The 12th(Table) is a long Par 4 which shapes slightly to the right, ideal line to attack the green is left of the fairway though this flirts with the bunker. The 13th (Crown) is one of my favourite holes on the course and incidentally is rated SI 1. A long hole measuring 400 yards uphill, the second shot is a tough one played to elevated green. Any misses here are harshly dealt with, my time playing the Old Course at the National helped me out with this one! From one of the longest Par 4s to the longest Par 3, the 14th (Kopjes) is a long iron\hybrid from the tee played into a heavy crosswind. Great views from the teebox here. 15th (Sutors) is a short Par 4 that is reachable from the tee, I almost drove the green but ended up three putting. 16th (Road) and 17th (Burn) are two strong Par 4s with ditches guarding the green complex, the Road hole in particular was green fine to play and offered the dilemma of trying to hit the green in two. Luckily, the tailwind on the day helped greatly. The round closes with a Par 5 called Home. That tailwind was helping again and was able to reach the green in two but three putted again. The green faces the clubhouse so everyone was able to see my torment!
That was Nairn, great course which I really hope to come and play again. I would imagine the course hasn’t changed much in the intervening years so great playing a largely unaltered track from James Braid’s original design. I played my best golf of the trip at Nairn and really was in my element. Got speaking to a couple of folks in the clubhouse who were waiting for their colleagues to finish (they chickened out on the day!). One of them ruefully relayed the appalling forecast for Dornoch for the next day but mentioned that Dornoch along with Valderrama and Ganton were the three best tracks he’s played. Nairn might not be among those three but I had a blast out there.
Favourite Hole – Nest (the 3rd)
Hardest Hole – Crown (the 13th)