Links Golf is the original form of the Game even though these days, there have been worldwide developments creating challenges with plenty of water all too eager to catch wayward shots. Resort type courses often involve luxury accommodation, pristine courses and 5-star service. If you prefer the challenge that traditional coastal links courses provide, with the wind being a major factor, there are the old courses, primarily in the UK. A few new creations have been able to take the best of what has been around elsewhere for decades and use those ideas in new creations. Castle Stuart near Inverness is a fine example. No one would know after playing 18 holes that it has only been there for a decade or so.
The advantage of having enough available land is that a course can be designed to challenge even the best professionals while from forward tees to provide an enjoyable experience to average handicappers. This is the case at Castle Stuart where the Black Tees, suitable for only top golfers, make a 7,000-yard course, Par 72 but Standard Scratch 74. Single handicap golfers can play the ‘’White Course’’ at around 6,600 yards and average golfers, the ‘’ Green’’ at 6,200 yards. The two Ladies’ Tees offer 5,700 yard and 5,200-yard alternatives.
As a result, Castle Stuart can offer enjoyment to golfers of varying abilities. No one enjoys playing 18 holes, losing plenty of balls and registering an embarrassing score. Golfers being realistic about their ability, and selecting the correct tee to reflect that, will enjoy the Course as well as the excellent 19th Hole facilities. Incidentally, no one is allowed to play the ‘’Black Course’’ without permission anyway.
Each nine is made up of 2 Par 3s, 2 Par 5s and 5 Par 4s. If you are playing the White Course, you will find that only 4 of the 10 Par 4s exceed 400 yards while the Par 3s range from 130 yards to 210 yards. The result is that golfers will be asked to use their skills to be accurate, rather than be expected to hit huge drives off the tee and follow them up with fairway woods or long irons.
When the Scottish Open has been played at Castle Stuart, the Course was capable of playing 7,400 yards, a daunting length for even low handicap golfers. Add that length and with the wind blowing, it is daunting for everyone. Luke Donald won the first of three Opens here in 2011, Jeev Milkha Singh the second and Phil Mickelson the third and last in 2013. He followed up by winning the Open Championship at Muirfield a week later; it was obviously good preparation.
While Castle Stuart has its own accommodation available, it is not compulsory to stay and play. You can pay a green fee and perhaps book something with Nairn Holiday Rentals; Beach House Nairn and Beach Cottage Nairn are lovely places for a golf break?