Destination Golf - March 2016 Destination Golf - March 2016 - Page 45

This is the starting point for the region’s serious golf courses, stretching 60 miles north. Tain, Royal Dornoch, The Carnegie Club, Golspie and Brora make up a menagerie of magical links. But there is a heathland course nearby, which should not be ignored. Fifteen miles west of Fortrose is the Muir of Ord Golf Club [www. muirofordgolfclub.co.uk]. It was laid out by the great James Braid, in 1875. I became a big fan of Braid’s work on this trip and he is responsible for five of the courses on the NC500 route. Fortrose is one and Brora another. He embraced the joys of deceiving golfers and making them think, especially when approaching greens. Muir of Ord is but one example. I would be lying if I said this was the only reason for my detour: this was to be the first of my three whisky tours. The nearby Glen Ord Distillery [www.discovering-distilleries.com/glenord/] produces the Singleton Single Malt, but much of their whisky now ends up under the Johnny Walker label, destined for Japan. There is no shortage of distilleries in the Highlands, as almost every town has one. They’re as frequent as the tourist ‘discovery’ centres that so successfully explain the area’s rich history and culture. Some towns, such as Tain, even boast two distilleries, but I wanted a taste of Tain Golf Club [www.tain-golfclub.co.uk] first. 2015 was its 125th anniversary and a wooden carving of its designer, Old Tom Morris, greets you as you drive in. The links stretches over beautifully bumpy linksland, with holes shepherded by broom and gorse. Several of these enjoy a surprisingly tranquil isolation and Old Tom’s ‘Northern Jewel’ remains an enigmatic addition to any golfing itinerary. Tain is renowned for its Glenmorangie Distillery, but it was the nearby Balblair Distillery [www.balblair.com] that drew my attention. It is a smaller, more personal affair and Gabrielle, our guide, gave us a tour of the oldest distillery in Scotland. It dates back to 1715. We finished up in one of the dark, low warehouses where the whisky is stored. It was in this same warehouse where Ken Loach filmed scenes for The Angels’ Share, in 2012. I was out early at Royal Dornoch [www.royaldornoch.com] the following day. There was no one behind me so I was able to lap up every inch of a course dating back 400 years. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest courses in the world, often described by golfers as ‘magical’. I was certainly cast under its spell from the moment I arrived. Royal Royal Dornoch GC Volume 3 • Issue 32 45