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Cabot Highlands, the home of Castle Stuart Golf Links, is undergoing huge changes, including a new Tom Doak-designed course, 16 lodges, and changes to Castle Stuart itself are in the pipeline.

The Highlands venue, which has hosted four Scottish Opens, was taken over by the Canadian luxury resort group in 2022, and things have moved quickly at the brand’s first UK project.

Doak’s latest track has already started to take shape and is set to open on the 400th anniversary of the opening of Castle Stuart, to which the course will get incredibly close. As well as that, Cabot – pronounced ‘Kah-bit’ – currently have 16 lodges in the pipeline, with potentially more in the pipeline in future.

The as-yet unnamed golf course itself will accompany what is already one of the leading layouts in the UK, but those at Cabot Highlands believe it will rival the quality of Castle Stuart.

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There were always plans for a second golf course on the property and Doak will be the man to bring that to life with his original design. It won’t be his first in Scotland, with current Scottish Open venue, the Renaissance Club, also on his CV.

To accommodate the new course (pictured below) which will be the first original design on a Cabot property, there’s set to be big changes on the 425-acre site.

Cabot Highlands

The current site of the driving range (pictured below) will soon be home to the opening and closing holes of the Doak course, with golfers playing a route that will see them cross over each other. That might sound complicated, but Doak has assured those on site that golfers won’t get in each other’s way. The new driving range will be moved closer to Inverness Airport, which is less than a five-minute drive from the property’s front gate.

Cabot Highlands driving range

The first tee of the new course will be to the airport side of the current driving range, which means the short par-3 course, built in 2019, has been ripped up to make room for the championship layout. Don’t worry though, some of the ground that’s been moved here is being used elsewhere around the property.

Other changes to the landscape of the course include the moving of the current maintenance shed, which will now be located just off the A96, in the place of buildings which are home to farming equipment.

The opening two holes of the new course will head towards the 400-year-old castle, before the third hole, set to be a drivable par-4, takes golfers close to the entrance of the ancient building. If golfers play down the left side, they’ll be up close with the building which has been there since the early 1600s.

Cabot Highlands Castle Stuart

The castle in question is something the team at Cabot Highlands are keen to explore, with tentative hopes that the now abandoned building can become part of the property. The building, which has previously been home to Mary, Queen of Scots has more recently been open for tours and festive celebrations.

While the existing course features only one view of the castle, from the fourth hole, Doak is keen to get players as close as possible to Castle Stuart, with views of the building available from around the new course.

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The design might remind golfers of the neighbouring Royal Dornoch, where players are greeted with an expansive view of the course following the first two holes.

The rest of the course will be routed around the area between the A96 and the existing Castle Stuart course, further away from the Moray Firth than the current course. From the highest point of the golf course, which is set to be the 13th tee, players will be able to see the 3rd green of Castle Stuart, with views stretching across to the Black Isle.

Unlike Castle Stuart, where almost every hole will play straight back or straight into the wind, the new course will have holes where players will battle a crosswind.

Cabot Highlands Castle Stuart

This is land that has remained largely untouched for years, and initial works uncovered several ancient artefacts, including a pot dating back 5,000 years. This find has led to the design team taking care in certain areas, which have been fenced off before experts can remove anything of note. It’s something those working on the site will need to be mindful of going forward.

While the new golf course isn’t set to open until 2025 and the lodges planned could take up to around ten years to be completed, small touches around the property are already being implemented by the Cabot team.

For one, ‘Cabot couches’ now sit just off the 18th green, something that is common around all Cabot properties. Staff are also excited by the prospect of the new owners, a group who are rapidly expanding several properties around the globe.

Cabot Highlands clubhouse

Caddies may also be in for a new look, as other Cabot venues have loopers wearing white boiler suits with red hats while out on the course.

As well as that, golfers are now greeted at the starter’s hut with a ‘Cabot cookie,’ something commonplace at all other Cabot venues. Players will also be in for a surprise when they hole out for the first time, with signature ‘Cabot Cups’ soon to line the holes, giving a loud ‘ting’ noise as the ball hits the bottom.

For now, those looking to stay nearby can head to the newly built AC Marriott hotel in Inverness. It’s just a short drive from the course along the A96 and sits beside the River Ness. Ideal for those looking to experience some Highland hospitality. Rooms here, including bed and breakfast, start from £89 in November to March, with rates from April to June starting at £179 per night. July to August prices start at £219 with September to October from £199.

Will this new look see championship golf come back to the Scottish Highlands? The soon to be 36-hole venue is set to take on a feel similar to that of Gleneagles or Archerfield, but whether that will be enough to take the Scottish Open back north is likely to be dictated by crowd sizes and the current deal with the Renaissance Club.

When Mark Parsinen opened the original layout at Castle Stuart, he hoped that one day the Open Championship might head north to Inverness.

While that might be a long way off, those at Cabot know that if things keep moving in the right direction, anything is possible.

Tee times at Castle Stuart start from £100 for Scottish residents between March and April. During the Summer, Scottish golfers can play for £140. For a summer round for those outside Scotland, tee times are £270.

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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

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