Although Nairn Dunbar Golf Club is not located next to the coast, it is a links course which presents a serious challenge.
To say the people of Nairn are spoiled for choice when it comes to golf courses would be an understatement. Nairn Dunbar is a short drive from the Nairn Golf Club, and if you continue ten minutes down the road you will 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, the number of healthy members has grown and they are rightly proud of the quality of their golf course. The club also benefits from a team of hard-working greenkeepers who have carried out work to give Nairn Dunbar a feeling of authentic links. Think fewer trees, riveted bunkers and firm turf.
The three opening holes are a relatively soft introduction. You are unlikely to lose a ball here and the par 4 second will give longer hitters a chance to drive the green. If you get any birdie chances here, try to grab them, because things are about to get tough.
The short walk to the fourth tee takes you over a stretch that destroyed some turns before they really started. A series of par-4s to the eighth tee which, if you can navigate anything close to your handicap, you can be very pleased with yourself. Anyone struggling with a misfire right off the tee, you’ll want to close your eyes and brace yourself here.
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Once you get past the seventh, things become a bit more manageable and some of the best holes on the course await. The par-3 eighth in particular is a quality one-shotter. Usually this is the first time you will have a crosswind in your turn, so if you can find a very narrow putting surface, you have done well.
The ninth is a short par-5 and if the wind blows over your left shoulder as you stand on the tee, you’ll be two solid shots away from a good birdie chance. You’ll probably need it after a front nine that can beat even the best ball forwards.
Standing on the 10th tee, you’ll head home, but there’s still plenty of golf to play. If you feel things are going badly, don’t throw in the towel. The inside half has three par-5s and a short par-4 that will provide great scoring opportunities.
These start with the 13th, aptly named Long Peter, who demands an accurate tee shot with bunkers and a small burn in play from the tee. As the name suggests, this is a long hole and the sloping green doesn’t make it any easier. The 14th is a par-4 that, along with a solid tee shot, will give you a chance for a corner on the putting surface and another birdie chance.
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The 16th and 17th holes both require a lot of thought. Tee shots on these two holes should avoid a gaping burn that cuts across the fairways. The big hitters will be looking to take the penalty area with their penultimate tee shot, but it’s a risky game that could get you in trouble.
Nairn Dunbar finishes with a par-5 that features a steeply sloping green, with a putting surface you won’t see until you’re at the edge of the green. If you take this one, be aware that the parking lot is just to the left of the green, and if you’re a bit finicky you might find yourself out of bounds. The last hole reflects the rest of the course well, the good shots are rewarded, but the danger is never far away.
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Nairn Dunbar is a tough course, especially when the conditions are tough. The bunkers are deep and the fairways can be narrow. That said, it’s extremely enjoyable.
Here, accurate hits are rewarded and bad hits 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. If you miss the tee fairway, you’ll be happy to walk away with a five.
You will also enjoy the atmosphere here. It’s a fairly relaxed setup that you might not find on other courses of the same quality, but you can expect a warm welcome.
Firm but fair, Nairn Dunbar is a quality addition to a series of excellent golf courses.
About 130 yards from the limb tees, the eighth is not a long hole, but it is probably the best test of the course. As mentioned earlier, this is the first hole that is not parallel to the rest of the course, so you will likely have a crosswind.
If you can control your ball and get it flying over the bunkers guarding the putting surface, you’ll be rewarded with a doable birdie putt. Get short in the sand and you won’t be able to see the top of the spit.
You won’t see the bottom of the pin from the tee box, so you’ll be playing a guessing game walking to your ball on the green. Hopefully your ball is closest to the pin when you finally see it.
Did you know?
PGA Tour player Russell Knox grew up playing here and is now an honorary member. Roo, as he is known in these parts, even sponsors a Junior Open which alternates between here and his other former club, Inverness Golf Club.
And something else…
Nairn Dunbar won the 2021 Environmental Golf Course of the Year award for its commitment to sustainable projects on the course. The team here not only puts on a tough test of golf, but they do so while providing habitat for wildlife and natural grasses across the course.
In the summer you charge £100 pp for a round here, but if you’re a member of a Scottish golf club you’ll get it for £85. If you are here outside of the summer months you can expect a discount, same goes for a late afternoon departure time.
As always, you’ll get the best deal at bunkeredgolfbreaks.com. There are plenty of other courses in the area that you can mix and match with, and the bunkers give you the best value.
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