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Steve Salmen

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Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« on: August 03, 2009, 06:21:19 PM »
Today I played Durness Golf Club.  It's a nine hole course that is the northern most course on the UK mainland.  The course sits in one of the most beautiful locations I've ever seen, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The water is near tropical blue against a backdrop of beach and giant dunes covered in native grasses.

The holes are not long or particularly difficult, but with all links courses it's advisable not to stray far off the desired line of play.  There is plenty of trouble for poor shots.  There is not a lot of quirkiness.  The approach to the first is one of the most severely uphill shots I've ever played.  The sixth runs along a loch and is more reminiscent of something you'd see in Florida.  Though it is not consistent with the rest of the holes, it is a very good risk/reward hole.  Finally, the ninth is as spectacular a finish as you can imagine.  Tees can be placed anywhere from 100 to 150 yards over a chasm of rocks and beach.  The green sits on a plateau that reminds one of the first green at North Berwick.  Personally, I think the hole blows 7 at Pebble away.

Opening tee shot


First Green


Second hole looking back to the tee


View of the third green and fairway (to left) from the fourth tee


Fourth hole from the tee


Fourth green


Fifth hole from the tee


Sixth hole from the lower tee.  Notice the green on the far side of the loch


View of the sixth fairway and green from above


Seventh hole.  Small target from 178 yds.


Eighth tee shot (don't laugh)


Approach to 8.  Notice the beautiful background.  Approach is similar to #10 at Elie and #14 at North Berwick.  Downhill to a green that sits just above the sea.


Stunning ninth across the chasm.


Ninth green from clubhouse


If in the Highlands of Scotland, I would highly recommend playing Durness.  It's a lot of fun and there are no bad holes.





David_Tepper

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2009, 07:07:36 PM »
Steve -

Nice pics. What is the approximate drive time from Dornoch to Durness?

DT

Bill_McBride

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2009, 07:23:00 PM »
Steve, if you've played Elie too, how would you compare the first tee shots at the two courses?  Elie's is pretty steep to say the least!

The sixth looks like the model for the famous par 5 at the Dunes at Myrtle Beach.

The ninth is stunning indeed and I'll bet made you want to hustle over to the the first tee to start over.

I see the comparison between #8 at Durness and #10 at Elie, but North Berwick #14 is uphill and blind second shot so don't understand what you are getting at there.

Is the turf as firm and springy as it looks?

Thanks for the photos and tour, that's a really cool course!

Adam Russell

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2009, 09:46:20 PM »
Steve, unbelievable pictures. It didn't think there were anymore undiscovered places left with golf that close on the edge. The place looks to be the Cypress Point of 9-holers.
The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it. -Lewis Grizzard

Anthony Gray

Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2009, 10:15:02 PM »


  Steve,

 Thanks for the thread. Glad to see you are having fun. Wheather looks perfect. Number 9 is a gem. I'll be your way Sept 22 and 23.

  Anthony


Gary Gruber

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2009, 12:59:44 AM »
Steve,

Glad you enjoyed it, it's one of my favourite places in golf.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2009, 01:04:23 AM »
Steve:

How was the drive?  How many visitors do they get in a year?

It is known to a few that Mike Keiser spent some time looking through those big dunes across the bay, trying to figure out if you could build a very low-budget course in among them.  He eventually decided it wouldn't work, but what a pity.

Rob Rigg

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2009, 01:21:50 AM »
Wow - that is a "Golf in the Kingdom" type setting - absolutely spectacular. I love how the fifth hole is routed down into the valley with the rocks popping up here and there - only in the old country could it look so natural and fitting. The ocean holes must be a blast - how was the wind when you played?

Also - how abnormal was the incredible weather?

Mike Nuzzo

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2009, 01:23:33 AM »
WOW
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil & Tiger.

Philip Gawith

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2009, 01:51:00 AM »
Thanks Steve - what a wonderful looking course. I wonder how many days a year it looks like that?! in more typical Scotch weather i suppose the charms could pale somewhat - like many courses! I am sure many of us are interested in the answer to the Dornoch-Durness travel time!

Chris Kane

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2009, 03:07:02 AM »
I'm blown away - a mate of mine at the university at St Andrews comes from Durness and grew up playing there - he never mentioned how spectacular his home course is!

Robin_Hiseman

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2009, 03:55:32 AM »
It's just about 80 miles from Durness to Dornoch, so allow 2 to 3 hours to wend your way along some of the most beautiful roads in the World.  I did the drive back in '94 and Dornoch felt like Metropolis compared to the wilds of the North-West!
Best of '22: Al Mouj; Cleeve, Painswick, Minch Old, Silloth, Balfron, Archerfield, Roxburghe, Stoneham, Woburn Marquess, JCB, Hayling, Wentworth (East), East Sussex West, Dunes, Arcadia Bluffs South, Crystal Downs, The Loop, Shoreacres, Chicago, St. Patrick's, Rosapenna Sandy Hills & Old Tom Morris

Rich Goodale

Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2009, 04:11:27 AM »
Thanks for that, Steve

I've travelled to Durness many times, but always with family so I've never played the golf course.  It doesn't get many props up in Dornoch, so I've never felt the need to play, but if astute observers like Gary G. and you like it, obviously I've missed something.  The pictures also show a course much better and less uni-dimensional (all the hype of the 9th/18th hole) than I had imagined or envisioned from my brief views from the parking lot.  It also looks like it has settled in very well.  Let's have a show of hands from readers of this thread:

When do you think the course was built?  (Answer below, no peeking!).

As for the drive from Dornoch it's about 2 hours, through some of the bleakest landscapes you will ever sea--but it's a bleak beauty.  If you have the time, drive back by going east to Thurso and then back down to Dornoch.  That drive around the northern lochs is absolutely spectacular and justifies the extra 2 or so hours added to the return.  If you are really bold, add another hour or so and go on to John o'Groats, just to say you've been there.

As a final fillip for visitors, there is more to Durness than the golf course!  Nearby Smoo Caves offer a great subteranean walk, and in the village itself there is a garden and other paeans to John Lennon, who used to spend his holidays there!

Enjoy

Rich

PS--the course was built in the mid-80's, laid out (i.e. designed and built) by local aficionados (aka "experts").  Gary probably knows more of its genesis, even though he was just out of nappies when it was built.  

Then again, I have heard a rumour that there is a rumour that the course was laid over a pre-existing design drawn in hand by HH Barker in 1894 when he was a wee boy from Hudderesfield--it is known that he had a holiday in Seaton Carew that year, and it is just a few hops skips and jumps from there to Durness, so it could possibly be true.... ;)

rfg

Steve Salmen

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2009, 05:28:11 AM »
Thank you all for your kind comments.

David:  the drive time is about 2 1/4 hours if you go through Spinningdale.

Bill:  the opening tee shot is not blind like Elies, it's more uphill and sidehill (l to r).  I believe 14 at NB you go up the hill, then down to the green, which lies just above the water.  That was the comparison I was making.

Anthony:  Are you going to come up to Dornoch?  I really hope so.  I owe you like 13 beers for the day at Champions.

Gary:  Thanks for the recommendation.

Tom:  The drive was beautiful.  I will find out for you the number of visitors annually.  I knew that Mr. Keiser was looking for land to route 18 holes somewhere in the North of Scotland, just wasn't sure where.  I did not walk around those dunes.  Somehow, I believe the greatest golf course in the history of the world is just waiting to take shape in that area!

Rob:  The pic does not do justice to how tall the dune is in the middle of the fairway.  It's a wonderful hole because there is a fairway right and left of it.  I poor drive will catch the rough on the mound and leave an ugly lie and stance.  The wind was not too bad, maybe 2 clubs at worst.  I think there was a little less wind than normal for this time of year.

Philip:  I don't know how often it's that nice up there but the locals did not seem too surprised.  They said they get a lot of nice days up there.

Rich:  Thanks for the great info.  I will be returning.  In fact I have to.  I liked the place so much my wife and I joined.  We are the first American members in the club's history.

Emil Weber

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2009, 05:41:35 AM »
Wow, that looks absolutely fantastic... I like the solitude, the endless,sweeping and the soft, undulating terrain in your photos, that must be like a trip into another world.

Phil McDade

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2009, 07:38:54 AM »
Peter Allis has played here and views it as one of the real nine-hole gems of Scotland.

Adam Russell

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2009, 10:48:19 AM »
The first thing I thought when I saw the picture of the second hole was how good a course would be tucked back into the dunes across the bay. That Keiser guy - smart dude  ;D Just for kicks I looked on Google Earth at the landform, which looks unbelievable coupled with a picture I found. Can't you just see a full course tucked into the headland?



This is taken from the top of the headland looking southeast...notice the two little blowouts. This place is begging for a great course, or at least an extension of Durness down the bay!


The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it. -Lewis Grizzard

David_Tepper

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2009, 12:06:14 PM »
Before we all get too carried away by the land forms around Durness, just remember that it is not too far from Cape Wrath. I suspect Cape Wrath was named Cape Wrath (and not Cape Sunshine) for a very good reason! ;)

Andy Hughes

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2009, 12:17:18 PM »
So the ninth hole is the one on the cover of The Scottish Golf Guide

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0862415314/ref=dp_image_text_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books
"Perhaps I'm incorrect..."--P. Mucci 6/7/2007

Adam Russell

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2009, 01:08:17 PM »
Before we all get too carried away by the land forms around Durness, just remember that it is not too far from Cape Wrath. I suspect Cape Wrath was named Cape Wrath (and not Cape Sunshine) for a very good reason! ;)

Not so fast my friend! Seeing as how wrath translates in Gaelic to "turning point", and even further back in time to "cape", Cape Wrath really only means Cape Turning Point or Cape Cape, not the current meaning of wrath. Google - such a wonderful device. :P ;D
The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it. -Lewis Grizzard

David_Tepper

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2009, 01:13:53 PM »
Adam R. -

I stand corrected on my lack of Gaelic knowledge.
However, I suspect that, if you spend a year in Durness, you will find that Wrath implies something other than "turning point."     

DT

Adam Russell

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2009, 01:30:03 PM »
David-
I can't let you rain on my dream man, its was such a beautiful fantasy  :D

Seriously though, I jacked the thread and need to steer it back to the course. I wanted to see if Steve will tell us more about the flow of the course.
1. The variety of terrain from the rock valley to the meadow, back down to the flat loch shore and back out to cliff edge seems wonderful, but is it disjointed coming so quickly in 9 holes?

2. Would Durness be better as a routed 18, with say two or three holes in each part of the terrain as opposed to one?

3. Also, is #8 a drive to a shelf with rough separating, or does the fairway fall off the cliff on the approach down to the green surrounds?
The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it. -Lewis Grizzard

Geoffrey_Walsh

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2010, 01:48:16 PM »
It is known to a few that Mike Keiser spent some time looking through those big dunes across the bay, trying to figure out if you could build a very low-budget course in among them.  He eventually decided it wouldn't work, but what a pity.

Courses like this one reinforce to me that it makes almost no sense to plunk down $500+ at Pebble when you can travel to a remote destination,  play in relative solitude and half the fun is in the adventure of getting there.  Durness reminds me of when I came across Whalsay GC in the Shetlands which you can play for 50 Pounds for the week!

I also hadn't heard that Keiser had legitimately explored the idea of building a course in Scotland, but it certainly doesn't surprise me.  Does he still consider it a future possibility?
« Last Edit: December 18, 2010, 01:52:41 PM by Geoffrey_Walsh »

Kris Shreiner

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Re: Durness Golf Club... What a gem!
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2010, 11:07:04 AM »
Durness is a course I visited, but have yet to play. It was a beautifully miserable day when my wife and I took a trip over that way from Dornoch. The tiny clubhouse, perched right above the ninth hole, was a cracker in need of some TLC. Had one of the greasiest bacon rolls ever there and have vowed to return to play it one day. That ninth tee shot would be an absolute bear in the typical winds that prevail there.

The weather in that region can be wicked quite frequently and any venture there would struggle mightily, much like Machrie is/has done. Mr. Kieser and anyone else had best save their money on that score. Simply too remote and harsh for all but the sturdiest folk to make that trek in numbers. The members at Durness are as nice as can be and the West Coast drive, in good weather, is off the charts awesome!

Cheers 8)
"I said in a talk at the Dunhill Tournament in St. Andrews a few years back that I thought any of the caddies I'd had that week would probably make a good golf course architect. We all want to ask golfers of all abilities to get more out of their games -caddies do that for a living." T.Doak

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