#24: Golspie Golf Club: Great Golf and More!
Golspie Golf Club is 126 years old this year, and I have been meaning to play it for the last 15 years - virtually ever since I joined Brora. As both clubs are here in the Highlands and designed by James Braid, it’s a wonder I hadn't done so before now. But finally I found myself here on this great October morning. In Golspie's Pro Shop I was given a cheery welcome and had a good chat before heading off to enjoy the golf.
Golspie is a lovely course which unlike Brora, turns sharply inland so there is a ‘parkland loop’ to as well to its layout. But Golspie starts off with a challenging par 5 whose green is adjacent to the road! And we are not talking a service road, (like in St. Andrews on the Old Course), this is the main road into the golf club! It was reminiscent of Aberfeldy. So, as I was not looking for trouble, I played it short of the green to be sure of just a chip on. Here is the view from the road: go long at your peril!!!
The first holes parallel the sea and it was a serenely calm day. The sound of the waves was pure magic as it gently washed against the rocks. Golspie golf course nestles in next to the sea in the shadow of Ben Braggie under the watchful eye of the Duke of Sutherland’s statute. Here is the view looking back towards the clubhouse from the 4th.
I was warned at the start not to go left, and this time I paid attention. But, apparently, playing from the beach is legal and many do. I imagine all too well how tricky this course must be when the wind is blowing in from the East!
Braid certainly made the greens at Golspie extremely interesting. They surely are a quintessential feature of this course especially as you make the turn to the back 9 holes. They are in great condition and they make the ‘heathland loop’ as they called it in the pro shop a true delight. From the 8th to the 12th, Golspie’s course is lined with heather and it must be stunning in August with the green fairways framed in purple. This time of year the brown and green hues were fine as well - as long as one was not having to search for a stray golf ball! (Not that I am admitting that I did too much of that!)
Golspie’s course is flat and easy to walk. It comes back to the clubhouse in 14 almost lulling you into a sense of false security. Braid seems to have saved the best for last. And one must have their game in order to take on the difficult finishing par 3’s of the Cairngorms and the Sahara.
And just when one thought there was nothing more to come: 18 holds a tricky blind shot to finish. I decided not to 'hit and hope' but ran up to have a look at the green. I was certainly glad I did, because it is protected by some strategic bunkers so typical of Braid. Here is the view of it from the clubhouse ... it looks so benign!
But you can just see the bunkers hiding to catch one out! I had a fantastic round filled with fun and unexpected challenge.
It is hard to pick a favourite hole… the green on 9 was amazing, as well as on 10. And again, they are in superb condition. But I think I have to concede that my favourite hole was the 7th. Here is the view from the tee:
It is a challenging, blind par 4 up the hill to a green protected by gorse. I hit two fantastic shots to be just short of the green and was glad to get a par. But I think I liked it best for its bell. Again, even though no one was around, I just couldn’t resist giving it a ring. (I never can.)
This is even more special as it’s dedicated to a Duncan Ewan, born in Dunrobin.
I really loved that line: ‘He was a man for all seasons.’ I had a vision of him playing these links in all types of weather. He must have been quite a guy. And I felt sure he was out there helping me today. The sun came out as I finished as if I needed any added bonus and I thanked Mr. Ewan for giving me a taste of another season. I felt supremely lucky to have played golf on such a lovely day.
Thank you Golspie Golf Club, I can’t wait to return! I am certainly this is a course to relish in ‘all seasons.’
But golf is not all that is on offer in this wonderful Highland town.
It has a great coffee shop in the ‘Coffee Bothy’ located in the heart of town, and one of the best castle’s in Scotland! Dunrobin Castle is still home to the current Duke of Sutherland and his family. The Castle can trace its history back to the 16th century. It is open to visitors April to October, and they have special events throughout the year. It harkens back to a French Chateau....
And pictured here are the fantastic gardens in the Spring.... They are a great place to play 'hide and seek'!
And in my considered opinion, Dunrobin Castle also has the best falconry display in all of Scotland!
Here are pictures from prior visits we have made to see it over the years.... (But we try to go every time we find ourselves in the Highlands!)
Andy is the Falconer, with the Golden Eagle above and watching the falcon come to post below...
Siobhan catching the lovely white owl on her arm...
And enjoying the sunshine with the Wise Old Owl ....
Just north of the Castle there is an Iron Age broch, Carn Liath.
It is a type of round house used by the people of Scotland over 2300 years ago and it’s a fascinating look into life back then. Historians believe that this broch, or round house, would have been over 9 meters tall and could have been home, farm and defensive fortification all in one. It is well worth a visit!
But if you aren't into history Golspie also is home to some great mountain biking, called the ‘Wild Cat Mountain Bike Trails as well as some great hikes. The Big Burn Walk is pictured here,
As it meanders down the gorge it created over the centuries ....
And it's a great place to stop and have a picnic or just toss some stones in the burn ....
But watching over it all, is Ben Bhraggie with the statute of the contentious first Duke of Sutherland.
Here is a view from the golf course- you can see the statute in the distance....
The mountain is a great hike at just 397 M with part of the way shared by mountain bikers and walkers alike.
Known locally as ‘The Mannie,' there is an ongoing campaign to have the statute removed from the summit of Ben Bhraggie. It is over 100 feet tall and is of George Levenson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford and the first Duke of Sutherland which he obtained through his marriage in 1785 to Elizabeth, daughter and heir to the Sutherland estates. It was they who undertook the notorious ‘Highland Clearances’ ruthlessly removing people to make way for sheep. When George died in 1833, Elizabeth had the statute erected in his memory.
To this day, the statute is constantly vandalised. Its plinth stones are continuously tampered with in hopes that with the assistance of the highland storms, it will be toppled. There have been unsuccessful (to date) campaigns to try to legally remove the infamous Duke and in its place put a memorial to all the innocent victims of the clearances. But, for the time being, ‘the Mannie’ remains atop Ben Bhraggie surveying the area upon which he had such a profound impact.
So as you can see, this 'Lady of the Links' enjoyed her golf and all the Golspie has to offer!