If your golf tour of Scotland includes a round at Royal Dornoch Golf Club’s Championship Course, you’re in for a real treat… but tread lightly! The village of Dornoch where Royal Dornoch is located is said to be haunted by the ghost of Janet Horne, the last witch in Scotland.
A stone found near the 18th hole of the Struie Course, the other course at Royal Dornoch, marks the spot where Horne was burned at the stake in 1727. Could it be her otherworldly presence that makes golfing at Royal Dornoch so spellbinding, or is the Championship Course truly all it’s made out to be?
It’s most likely the latter. The older of Royal Dornoch’s two courses, the Championship Course has been meticulously updated since its first nine holes were laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1886. Morris returned three years later to extend the course to 18 holes. It was later revised by the duo of J.H. Taylor and John Sutherland, and again by George Duncan. The most recent changes to the Championship Course were made by Tom Mackenzie in 2017, who oversaw a number of improvements made to holes five, 10, 11, and 12. After this, work began on a new seventh hole, which opened in 2020.
Despite these revisions, the Championship Course remains a wholly natural links layout. With a fairly straightforward out-and-back routing and relatively few bunkers to navigate, the primary challenge of the Championship Course stems from most of the course’s greens being perched atop natural plateaus.
These domed greens were a trademark of Donald Ross, former Royal Dornoch head greenkeeper and professional. Ross, who was also born in Dornoch, would go on to emigrate to the U.S. and design Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
An example of one of Ross’ domed greens can be found on the Championship Course’s 14th hole. Named “Foxy” for good reason, the 14th is a bunkerless, long par four measuring almost 445 yards. It offers one of the most challenging approach shots on the course in order to hold the green. As one of the most simple, delightful, and natural holes in golf, it is best appreciated in the early summer, when the course lights up and becomes tinted with the soft yellow hues of flowering gorse.