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Although Nairn Dunbar Golf Club doesn’t sit directly on the coast, it is a links course that presents a serious challenge.
To say the residents of Nairn are spoilt for choice when it comes to golf courses would be an understatement. Nairn Dunbar is just a short drive away from The Nairn Golf Club, and if you go another ten minutes down the road, you’ll find Castle Stuart Golf Links.
For this reason, many will overlook Nairn Dunbar as a destination, but they shouldn’t. Since the club was founded in 1899, a healthy membership has grown, and they are rightly proud of the quality of their golf course. The club also benefits from a hard-working team of greenkeepers who have carried out work to give Nairn Dunbar an authentic links feel. Think less trees, rivetted bunkers and firm turf.
The opening three holes are a relatively gentle introduction. You’re unlikely to lose a ball here and the par-4 second will give longer hitters a chance at driving the green. If you get birdie chances here, then try and take them, because things are about to get tough.
The short walk to the fourth tee takes you a stretch that has destroyed some rounds before they’ve really got started. A run of par-4s to the eighth tee that, if you can navigate in anything close to your handicap, you can be very pleased with yourself. Anyone who struggles with a miss to the right off the tee, you’ll want to close your eyes and brace yourself here.
Once you get past the seventh though, things get a little more manageable, and some of the best holes on the course await you. The par-3 eighth in particular is a quality one-shotter. Usually, this is the first time you’ll have a crosswind in your round, so if you can find a seriously narrow putting surface, you’ve done well.
The ninth is a short par-5 and if the wind is blowing over your left shoulder as you stand on the tee, you’ll be two solid strikes away from a great birdie chance. You’ll most likely need one after a front-nine that can beat up even the best ball strikers.
Standing on the 10th tee you’ll be heading for home, but there’s plenty golf still to be played. If you feel like things are going badly, don’t throw in the towel. The inward half has three par-5s and a short par-4 that will offer great scoring opportunities.
These start with the 13th, appropriately named Long Peter, which demands an accurate tee shot with bunkers and a small burn in play from the tee. As the name suggests this is a lengthy hole, and the sloping green doesn’t make things any easier. The 14th is a par-4 that with a solid tee shot will give you a chance at a wedge onto the putting surface, and another birdie chance.
The 16th and 17th holes both require plenty of thought. Tee shots on both these holes need to avoid a gaping burn that runs through the fairways. The big hitters will look to carry the penalty area with their penultimate tee shot, but it’s a risky play that could put you in trouble.
Nairn Dunbar finishes with a par-5 that features a green that slopes violently, with a putting surface you won’t see until you’re greenside. If you’re taking this one on then be aware that the car park is just to the left of the green, and if you’re a little wayward, you could find yourself out of bounds. The final hole reflects the rest of the course well, solid shots are rewarded, but danger is never far away.
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Nairn Dunbar is a tough course, especially when the rough is up. The bunkers are deep and the fairways can be narrow. Saying that, it is extremely enjoyable.
Accurate shots here are rewarded, and bad shots are punished. It’s a simple concept but Nairn Dunbar executes it very well. The par-5 16th is the perfect example. At around 500 yards, by modern standards it should be an easy birdie, and if you hit two good shots, it may very well be. Miss the fairway off the tee or with your approach though, and you’ll be happy to get away with a five.
You’ll also enjoy the atmosphere here. It’s a pretty relaxed set-up which you might not find at other courses of the same quality, but you can expect a warm welcome.
Firm but fair, Nairn Dunbar is a quality addition to a stretch of excellent golf courses.
At around 130-yards off the middle tees, the eighth is not a long hole, but it’s probably the best test on the course. As mentioned before, it is the first hole that doesn’t run parallel to the rest of the course, so you’ll probably have a crosswind.
If you can control your ball and get it flying over the bunkers that guard the putting surface, you’ll be rewarded with a makeable birdie putt. Come up short in the sand and you’ll not be able to see the top of the pin.
You’ll not see the bottom of the pin from the tee box, so you’ll be playing a guessing game as you walk to your ball on the green. Let’s hope your ball is the closest to the pin when you finally see it.
Did you know?
PGA Tour player Russell Knox grew up playing here and he’s now an honorary member. Roo, as he’s known around these parts, even sponsors a Junior Open which alternates between here and his other old club, Inverness Golf Club.
And another thing…
Nairn Dunbar picked up the Environmental Golf Course of the Year award in 2021 for their commitment to sustainable projects on the course. Not only are the team here setting up a tough test of golf, but they’re doing it while providing a habitat for wildlife and natural grasses across the course.
In the summer you’re looking at £100 per person for a round here, but if you’re a member of a Scottish golf club you’ll get on for £85. If you’re here outside the summer months, then you can expect a discount, the same applies for a tee time in the late afternoon.
As ever, you’re going to get the best deal at bunkeredgolfbreaks.com. There are plenty other courses in the area you can mix and match with, and bunkered have you covered with the best value.
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