The most intriguing course on my mini tour of the Scottish Highland was my visit to Fortrose and Rosemarkie, officially the 15th oldest course in the world. Golf has been played on this beautiful stretch of coastline next to the Moray Firth since 1702. It was in 1793 that a club was founded and its first meeting was held in Williamson’s tavern in the town.
The Moray Firth is the largest firth in Scotland and stretches from John O’Groats to Fraserburgh and is part of a coastline that is famous for dolphin and whale watching, as well as golf.
When I was a Club Manager, I had actually arranged a reciprocal golf agreement between F&R and the Club I managed but this was the first time I had the chance to visit.
I arrived at the Club and was delighted to find that it had a full size range next to it. This is not common in Scotland and it was the only course with a full range on this trip. Even better, it had grass tees to hit balls off.
It was a spectacular day to play golf, 21 degrees and a light breeze. The course is laid out on the Chanonry peninsula and is surrounded on 3 sides by water. The course is relatively short, at only 6085 yards off the back tees but its a challenging par 71. The first 4 holes are a delight as they run alongside the beautiful beach, plenty of wonderful photo opportunities on these holes. After opening with three par 4’s, the 4th is a par 5 and is short by modern standards. The holes defence is that the fairway is undulating and cambers from left to right so getting a flat stance to go for the green in two is almost impossible. The green is small and slopes from left to right and has trouble all around it, the prudent play is to lay up and try and make your birdie with a wedge and a putt.
The 5th, a short par 3, is a risk and reward hole with a small green. The risk is trying to hit your tee shot and avoid the cars heading to the beach car park along the road in front of the green!!
The 6th hole is a par 5 and is easily reachable in 2 although play to the correct flag as its the only double green on the course.
The 7th and 8th holes are short par 4’s and give you the chance of birdies if you hit the fairway. The front 9 ends with an uphill par 3 where you can’t see the green, just the flag.
The back 9 hole layout is unusual with eight par 4’s in a row with the last hole, a par 3. There are plenty of birdie opportunities on this 9 with the 10th and 13 through 16, all under 340 yards. Point Road runs through the course down to the car park at the lighthouse. The road is on your left when you play the 10th to the 14th holes and traffic doesn’t stop just because you are hitting a golf ball.
Looking all around you while standing on the 15th green, you really appreciate how natural the terrain is for links golf and can marvel at the imagination of James Braid to redesign the layout and fit 18 holes in a small triangle of land. Gorse bushes and bunkers give definition to the holes and are to be avoided at all costs.
The eighteenth is a strong par 3 of over 200 yards and a tough finishing hole.
Fortrose and Rosemarkie is a very enjoyable course and when the weather is good, an absolutely fabulous place to play golf. There is so much to do around here. You can visit the Dalmore, Glen Old and Tomatin Distilleries to learn more about Scottish Malt whisky or for the history buffs, visit Fort George, built after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat at Culloden in 1746 and considered to be the strongest artillery fortification in the UK.
My thanks go to Club Secretary Mike MacDonald for arranging courtesy of the course and for his warm welcome on our arrival.
At a Glance:
- Traditional and historical links golf redesigned by James Braid
- Large practice area
- Small functional Clubhouse with good food
- Modern office and Pro Shop
- 30 minutes from Inverness Airport, three hours from Edinburgh Airport and three hours 15 minutes from Glasgow Airport
- Several cracking courses can be found within an hour’s drive including Brora, Royal Dornoch, Golspie, Tain, Castle Stuart, Nairn and Nairn Dunbar making it ideal for a golf trip
- Read about Fortrose and Rosemarkie’s history here.