Sitting in the ultra cool Culloden House in Inverness, Scotland, after have braved 29 holes at Nairn, a sporty, pretty cool links in the northern reaches of the country. Without going into incredible detail, the trip so far has ranged from intriguing (Nairn) to suprising (Western Gailes) to a touch disappointing (Royal Troon). Surely it was a pleasant surprise to get off the plane and head to Cameron House to see Doug Carrick’s fine new design sitting right behind our room. I (along with my friend, golf designer Ian Andrew) wandered around several of the holes at the course. It does look like quite a fascinating project, and the course sits nicely within the context of Scotland. In other words it has the look one might expect — including the traditional sod wall bunkers. What I saw looked great — and Carrick explained over dinner last night that he made more than 40 trips to the site. It shows in the work.
Today’s jaunt was around Castle Stuart, the new course being built by Gil Hanse near Inverness. It is a collaboration with Mark Parsinen, who is the primary owner behind the project and the developer who created the wonderful Kingsbarns. The new course has a lot in common with Kingsbarns — it is also not the best natural site for golf, but with two shelves — one hard along the ocean and one above the water — it is equally as dramatic. Hanse and Parsinen have some fascinating ideas on how the course will develop, though you won’t see it opened until 2008.
On the golf front, Western Gailes impressed as a sporty, straight forward links, while Prestwick was an architectural wonder. Very, very cool. The final holes, including the world famous Alps hole, were intriguing, but the 10th was the one that caught my attention most. Royal Troon, in a gale with a nasty rain, was muscular in a way that was similar to Carnoustie. But it didn’t charm me in the way that Prestwick did. Today was a round and a half (I went out for another 11 holes in the final 1.5 hours before sunset) around Nairn, which has a lot in common with Western Gailes. In other words, sporty and conceptually clear. Interestingly, it was the uphill 13th, where Nairn comes away from the sea, and the downhill one shot hole that followed that were the best of the bunch, in my opinion.
Tomorrow — Cruden Bay or bust, which judging by the forecast of high winds, might just be the case.