DOES Royal Dornoch offer the most challenging collection of Par 3 holes in world golf?
General manager Neil Hampton often hears first-time visitors making that claim over refreshments in the clubhouse after pitting their wits against the Championship Course.
It’s certainly a view shared by one member of the judging panel which rates Royal Dornoch at number 3 in the “Golf World Top 100 Courses in Scotland.”
The Par 70 Championship Course, which regularly features towards the top of any ratings, is tucked in behind The Old Course and Turnberry’s Ailsa Course on this list being highlighted on Twitter by @The Today’s Golfer.
Neil said: “It is always nice to be regarded so highly but we certainly won’t allow ourselves to become blasé or take our reputation for granted.
“It was intriguing to see that one of the Golf World panellists had commented ‘To my mind, Dornoch has the best-combined set of par 3s I have played anywhere in the world.’
“Obviously there are memorable Par 3s on other celebrated courses, particularly ones which feature on The Open rota or host Majors in the USA that may be more immediately recognisable to television viewers.
“The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, the 17th at Carnoustie and, of course, the 12th at Augusta’s Amen Corner spring to mind immediately.
“The 17th at TPC Sawgrass, host to The Players Championship, is another instantly recognisable golf hole.
“But is there a more challenging group of Par 3s than you find here at Royal Dornoch, whichever tee you are playing off?
“I’d certainly be interested to hear of other contenders for that particular crown.”
Multiple Majors winner Tom Watson famously remarked the toughest shot in golf was the second to the second green on the Championship Course, given the degree of difficulty in finding, and staying on, that putting surface, which measures 184 yards off the blue tees.
Hole 6 Whinny Brae comes in at 161 yards. With spectacular seasonal golden gorse providing the backdrop to a slim uphill target, bunkers to the left and an anxiety-inducing slope to the right focus the mind.
The inward journey along the coastline begins with the teasing 174-yard 10th.
Club selection will be entirely down to the wind speed and direction, although anchoring on this green is notoriously problematic.
Finally, the last in this fabulous foursome is the 171-yard 13th, where the bunkers may be intimidating but the green is more expansive than it appears from the tee.
Glorious vistas, fast-running natural links land and shot-making challenges prompted Today’s Golfer to conclude: “This beguiling Highlands links is hardly under-appreciated but don’t be surprised to see it nudge up in future lists.
“It boasts the most mind-bending green complexes, the perfect balance of long holes, short 4s, ‘gettable’ par 5s and terrifying 3s.
“The split-level 8th is so good it inspired holes elsewhere in this ranking at modern greats Castle Stuart and Kingsbarns.
“It starts relatively sedately, but the rest of the front nine is truly epic, with the view from the 7th tee one of best in the game.
“A brilliant run from the 13th ensures you leave Dornoch having fallen in love.”