Just a half-hour drive from Inverness, the small town of Nairn is home to two top quality championship golf courses. The first one you’ll encounter is The Nairn, tucked away on the west side of the town.
The club has a rich history, dating back to 1887, when Archie Simpson laid out the course. Just two years later, the legendary Old Tom Morris made his changes to the layout, extending it west along the coastline. The club is rightly very proud of its history and you can evidence in the Archive Room. If you can spare some time to have a look around here, you absolutely should.
In more recent times, the links underwent changes that saw the route of the first and seventh altered, with both greens now closer to the Moray Firth. Each hole is longer, too; the par-5 7th can play as long as 600 yards from the back tees. These changes were showcased in 2021 when the club hosted one of the most dramatic Amateur Championship finals in living memory, where Laird Shepherd, who is now an honorary member, came from eight holes behind to win the title.
The round starts with seven holes heading west, except for the short par-3 fourth, which heads back towards the beach. If you get a strong westerly wind, this stretch can be a real slog but, with favourable conditions, it includes some of the most enjoyable coastal holes you’ll find in Scotland.
In particular, the par-4 fifth is a tremendous test. It’s not a long hole at under 400 yards but the tee shot requires you to play over the previous green or you’ll be headed to the beach. On this line, you’ll also need to navigate some penal bunkers with vertical, revetted faces a common theme throughout the round.
Walking off the ninth green, you’ll be reminded once again of the historic land you’re walking on. The Bothy, which acts as the halfway house, is ten years older than the club. It was previously used for storing salmon but now you’ll find the usual snacks you’d expect at the turn.
A decent birdie chance awaits at the tenth before the course really shows its teeth. If you thought the holes beside the water were the tough, you’re in for a rude awakening.
The stretch from the 12th tee to the 14th green is undoubtedly the toughest on the course. Wayward shots here are probably going to require a reload, and the length of the holes mean that you’ll probably be reaching for a headcover from the top end of your bag.
This includes the par-3 14th, which has also recently had a renovation around the green. The hole plays downhill but, at over 220 from the back tees, it’s still a brute.
The closing stretch offers chances to gain shots that you might have lost beforehand. This includes the par-5 closer, which, if you avoid the out-of-bounds and the bunkers, gives you a fighting chance to be greenside in two.
No one denies that Nairn is a top links course, but it’s perhaps unfortunate to be so often referred to alongside the powerhouses of Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart. While the three courses all enjoy great business from visiting golfers, Nairn is certainly the toughest of the three and, for that reason, many will prefer the alternatives.
Saying that, Nairn is a superb course in its own right, and you’ll probably learn to appreciate it the more you play it. One thing that will strike you from the start is the condition of the course, particularly the putting surfaces. Locals will tell you they’re the best in the area, and it’s hard to argue.
The fact that Nairn has hosted so many top championships down the years speaks volumes. The Walker Cup and Curtis Cup have both been played over this links, which is a real testament to its quality.
For the average player, there’s no doubt that Nairn offers a test that, on a tough day, might be too much for some. Regardless of your ability, though, you will appreciate one of the best links courses in the north of Scotland.
It’s tough to pick one standout hole at Nairn but, if you’re choosing a hole that tests your strategic prowess, then it’s tough to see past the fifth. For purely scenery, the seaside seventh takes some beating.
However, the 14th is the hole on the course that offers the best of everything. The elevated tee offers a panoramic view of the Moray Firth and the Black Isle, and it can also stretch the hole to over 220 yards. While long par-3s can sometimes be much maligned, this one plays less than the number on the card, while not punishing a shot that lands short.
The green features several tiers but, barring a wacky pin placement, a decent tee shot will give you a fighting chance at a par.
Did you know?
Back in 1987, Nairn hosted the Scottish Amateur Championship. The event attracted the best players in the country at the time, with several going on to make it in the game.
One of these was a fresh-faced young man by the name of Colin Montgomerie, who went on to win the championship. He's done alright since...
And another thing...
Weather can roll in pretty quick around these parts. Although it might be dry where you are, if your local playing partner starts putting on their waterproofs then you should do the same. Look over the Moray Firth, if you can’t see the Black Isle across the water, then you’re about to get wet.
The quality of the course is certainly reflected in the green fees. Depending on the time of year, you can spend £130 for the shoulder months, or £190 in the middle of summer. Compared to other courses in the vicinity, this isn’t cheap.
If you’re planning making the journey up here, our advice would be head to the bunkered Golf Breaks website and get the best deal for you. You can match up Nairn with some of the other top courses in the area, where you’ll get seriously good value for money and the best accommodation in the area. Visit bunkeredgolfbreaks.com for all the details.
Contact the club
T: 01667 453208