Past John O' Groats, the first course on the East Coast we reach is Wick GC. Club life moved around in the early years, before a 9 hole course was built on the Reiss Links land, a few miles north of Wick in 1873.
In the early 1900s, the course was extended to 18 holes - with the help of John Sutherland, the famous secretary of Royal Dornoch. The course follows a classic 'out and back' routing - in the same clockwise fashion as Dornoch.
The land is relatively flat. The opening 8 holes run adjacent to the arable land, before playing a splendid par 3 Ninth towards the sea, and running back alongside the tall dunes on the back 9.
Perhaps to be expected with the Dornoch influence, the green complexes are the most interesting feature of the course. They couldn't be described as 'dramatic', but are full of interest and subtlety. Especially on the back 9, I thought they were excellent.
The subjectivity in golf always makes for great debate. Typically, more people I have spoken to prefer Reay GC (20 minutes away) to Wick. I can understand why. At the former, the views are better, the holes are more 'interesting' - uphill, downhill, blind etc. But I would go against the grain and take a round at Wick over Reay, any day.
Perhaps it breeds from my roots growing up at Hoylake. Wick is flat, subtle - playing alongside the dunes rather than over them. Hoylake was much the same, until HS Colt decided to make better use of our wonderful dunescape in the 1920s. Before this time, the technology to put a green atop a sand dune simply didn't exist. Colt created Hoylake's best two holes by employing the new technology in a bold style - even upsetting the great John Ball Jr along the way, who preferred the old blind par 3 11th to the masterpiece Colt replaced it with.
Wick quite obviously didn't receive the Harry Colt treatment in the 1920s. Its holes remain flat. You occasionally play from an elevated tee - the 10th is one, and the few towards the end of the round (most notably 16) finish in style. But aside from this, the dunes serve little more than an aesthetic reminder.
By not changing, it retains its authentic links character: 9 holes out, 9 holes in. True links land by the sea, subtle greens and interesting holes. It is a recipe that has stood the test of time,.
It was left out of the True Links book, the authors suggesting the meadow grasses had replaced the links character that previously existed. I found it to be no more or less 'linksy' in turf and firmness than many others that made the book - so am not sure I could agree with that assessment.
Wick is an authentic links, well worth a play if you ever find yourself in its vicinity.