The best Scots course you've never played

2016 11 Skibo Castle1012Th The third green in all its glory.

A whole host of treats, including a Skibo whisky miniature, shot glass and golf balls, are contained within a tan leather shoe bag, which has an embroidered Skibo logo on one side and Carnegie’s description of the estate – the aforementioned ‘Heaven on Earth’ – on the reverse. It’s not your average ‘tees in a pouch’.

Unlike the castle, the clubhouse is a much more modern building. It has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, with further expansion plans in the offing. The main dining area is fantastic and boasts a brand new, modern, open kitchen.
Amongst its many toys is a pizza oven which cost a five-figure sum to buy and cooks your pizza in just four minutes

Amongst its many toys is a pizza oven which cost a five-figure sum to buy and cooks your pizza in just four minutes. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides ensure the room is nice and bright, too, with the spectacular view over the 18th green also taking in the Dornoch Firth towards the Struie Hills.

Outside, the driving range sits adjacent to the 16th fairway. With it being rather a slightly chilly morning, David and I spent around 45 minutes hitting balls to get warmed up – during which time I got the best lesson of my life – before finally hitting the links.

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SkiboCastle15th

You know when people say ‘there’s not a weak hole on the course’? More often than not, they’re talking rubbish. Not, though, in the case of the Carnegie Links. It is simply awesome. Honestly, I have neither enough nor adequate superlatives.

I should qualify this statement with a couple of bits of context. Firstly, my favourite type of course is a quirky links. The Carnegie Links is most certainly that, in all the best ways possible.
"We need to set the course up in such a way that everybody can enjoy it" - David Thomson

Secondly, the weather on the day we played was, as I mentioned, not ideal. The rain had stopped by the time we teed off but it was still pretty overcast and the air was dank and heavy, so it’s not as if I was seeing it bathed in glorious sunshine. That, I think, makes the impression it made all the more noteworthy.

It’s a very fair course, in so much as the fairways are pretty wide and the fescue grass that flanks them is kept thin and wispy so you will, more often than not, find your mishits.

“Our members’ handicaps range from quite low to very high, so we need to set the course up in such a way that everybody can enjoy it,” explained David.

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The par-3 sixth begins an outstanding stretch of holes.
The par-3 sixth begins an outstanding stretch of holes.

“They are mostly hard-working people who put in long hours in some quite significant businesses so, when they come here, they want to be able to unwind – but they’re not going to be able to do that on a course that beats them up.” It’s a smart approach.

After an ‘iffy’ start, I settled into my stride after enjoying a Skibo custom between the third green and fourth tee: a mug of hot chocolate with Baileys.

For me, the sixth to 13th is the strongest and most memorable stretch of holes. The sixth is a brilliant par-3 that bears more than a passing resemblance to the same hole at Trump International Golf Links.

The seventh, meanwhile, is one of the best holes I’ve ever played. No word of a lie. A short par-4, the fairway is split in two by a thin bank of rough. The left-hand side has a narrow landing area but gives the best angle up and into the elevated green.

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