Royal Dornoch Plans Dramatic Changes To Championship Course Hole

Following the redesign of its 7th hole, Pier, the Championship Course is about to receive a further upgrade

Royal Dornoch Plans Dramatic Changes To Championship Course Hole - Hole 7
The spectacular new par-4 seventh on the Championship Course at Royal Dornoch
(Image credit: Royal Dornoch Golf Club)

Royal Dornoch Plans Dramatic Changes To Championship Course Hole

The Championship Course at Royal Dornoch is one that sends shivers down the spines of golfers all over the world. It features prominently in the rankings and has been in the top 10 of the Golf Monthly Top 100 Courses of the UK&I for the past decade.

Currently at its highest-ever position - number 6 - it attracts golfing pilgrims from all over the globe with many discerning Americans making the long but rewarding pilgrimage. And like most forward-thinking clubs, the members at Royal Dornoch Golf Club have not been resting on their laurels, but have embraced the concept that courses are living, breathing entities that need to evolve and grow. In recent years, leading architects Mackenzie and Ebert have made a number of subtle changes, the pinnacle of which has been the creation of a new 7th hole which opened for play in 2020.

Now, a new phase of work has just begun which will focus on the following hole, Dunrobin, a par 4 that currently stretches to 434 yards from the back tee. Here, hundreds of tons of gorse and soil are being removed in order to open up yet more excellent views of the 1,302ft-high Ben Bhraggie which the overgrown gorse had blocked out for years. The aim is to restore the challenge that had been created in the 1940s when a series of small changes were made to the original Old Tom Morris design.

Royal Dornoch - Hole 8 Construction Works

Clearance work on the first half of the par-4 eighth

(Image credit: Paul York)

According to greenkeeper Scott Aitchison, “This is the final piece in the jigsaw and we are confident it will further enhance the experience golfers enjoy when they play the Championship Course. The main challenge we face is ensuring the work is completed and the hole is back in play for the new season. The new tees are being pushed towards the location of the old 7th green and the likelihood is that more golfers will be playing their second shots into the green from the top of the hill, as was the case before the advances in golf club technology. There is sure to be a real wow factor with the views being opened up again - the backdrop of Embo, the sea and Ben Bhraggie in the distance is amazing.

Royal Dornoch - Hole 8 - Redesign

Blue skies at the start of the project

(Image credit: Paul York)

"Initially, we have had to do a lot of scraping, removing gorse and a layer of dead mulch over a 200-yard stretch, getting down to hard gravel on what was a raised beach. It will be replenished with sand and rootzone. We are liaising closely with the Mackenzie and Ebert team about the levels they want and all the material being removed is going to compost on-site. We are always very conscious of our environmental responsibilities. It will break down over the years and be used here in the future. The changes to ‘Dunrobin’ focus only on the first half of the hole, moving the tees a little, changing the angle of attack and opening up those fantastic views. Obviously a mild winter would help our cause, but we are not naive, we will have to protect the fairway initially but the new turf should knit in quite quickly with the rising temperatures in the Spring.”

Royal Dornoch - Championship Course

A view over the excellent Championship Course at Royal Dornoch

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If all goes to plan, the revised 8th will be open for play in time for the many visitors already booked in 2023. What is already one of the 10 most famous golf courses in Scotland is looking set to raise its game even further.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for over 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2021, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He has been a member of Tandridge in Surrey for 30 years where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at