Golspie is a course in three acts. First you play the links holes. The first not strictly in this bracket, but the next half dozen fine examples. Then, you move to the heathland holes - almost as if you had been transported to the Surrey sandbelt. Finally, you close up with a collection of parkland.
Golspie is another highland course that spent its formative years as a 9 hole track, having been established by members of the Sutherland Golfing Society. It was extended to 18 holes in 1905, before receiving the James Braid treatment in 1925. The course still plays as Braid intended, winding through the different terrains - all over immaculately presented turf.
I was so impressed with the greens. I had heard good things about the conditioning, but on a damp day in late October I wasn't expecting all that much. They were immaculate - firm and true.
Of the first half dozen, the two par 3s are particularly good. Two played straight down wind for me - bunkers directly short and long of the green immediately testing distance control in the wind. Six plays from a beautiful tee - set on the sea wall and playing in land. The right half of the green is slightly obscured by a dune - a bit of visual intimidation if nothing else.
My pick of holes in this opening section though is the short par 4 fifth. At only 288 yards, its drivable for many - but a true risk/reward hole. The beach plays as a lateral hazard up the left hand side. If a ball was to ricochet from the rock armour to the sand, the bold will play it as it lies. The green is hidden by a ridge to the fore. Either run it up and over, or make sure your lofted shot holds the green - because two pot bunkers lie in wait behind the green. A bounding kick from the backside of the ridge will likely find one of these pots. Choose your approach shot wisely.
Seven and eight begin the transition into heathland golf, while nine is something that wouldn't look amiss at Sunningdale or Woking. A beautiful cambered fairway sweeps left through the heather towards a green set on the edge of a Pine forest. Like many holes here, the danger lies beyond the green - this time in the shape of a steep run off toward the pine needles.
Eleven looks like a hole that may once have had greater width at 200 yards out, before tapering away closer to the green. Now, it is pretty narrow the whole way down - flanked by heather on both sides. A pretty hole, but without the variety it looks like it previously enjoyed.
Twelve and thirteen are another couple of short par 4s, both with excellent green complexes. Again, miss long at your peril - steep run offs can make saving par a real challenge.
Fourteen is where you notice the transition away from the heather lined holes to the parkland. These are undoubtedly the weaker holes of the course, but still enjoyable to play. 16 is an exception though - an excellent par 3. The green is insane. Two distinct tiers and expansive - putting from the back to a front pin is nigh on impossible. Your ball may well end up rolling off the front edge and 30 yards down the apron. A great hole.
Seventeen and eighteen both take in great topography, incorporating blind shots over some steep hills - they make for an interesting end to the round. For me, not quite in the class of the earlier holes - but enjoyable enough.
Golspie gave me more than I was bargaining for. Nothing at all like Brora or Tain, it is three styles of golf in one - unified by a beautiful location by the Dornoch Firth, and with some of the best presented greens in the Highlands.
While you're here...! If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a golfer, may I humbly suggest a 2021 Links Calendar? 12 of my favourite courses to visit when the world is back open for business, and more importantly, golf. Thanks for following, Sam.
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