The most northerly golf course on mainland Britain

Thurso is home to the most northerly golf course on mainland Britain. Here's what we made of it

Alex Dawkins's picture
Fri, 15 Nov 2013

Thurso Golf Club is the most northerly golf course on mainland Britain, perched on the north coast of Scotland. Established in 1893, the course itself has moved home a few times since then and be remodeled and expanded in the intervening years. 

The first nine holes of the course in its current guise and location were laid out in 1921, and it remained that way for over 40 years before being expanded to a full 18 in 1963. A long-running dispute over course upkeep and finances between the club and the council during the late 1970s and 1980s almost led to the club’s extinction, but Thurso survived and is now on the up.

Over 100,000 trees have been planted to help give the course its parkland feel – although gorse and the wet and windy weather will make you feel like you’re playing a links course at times!

With a population of just under 9,000 and situated over 100 miles north of Inverness, Thurso’s catchment area is limited, and the nearby Reay Golf Club steals those who are looking to play some links golf. Consequently, Thurso is a small and friendly club, whose small team of greenkeepers do a great job in maintaining the course.

The first thing to say about my round at Thurso is that I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen at all. With a tee time of 8.00am, I was slightly concerned that the sun had yet to show up at 7.30am, but thankfully it rose just in time for me to see where I was aiming off the first tee.

Accompanied by club secretary Bob Black, I found Thurso to have relatively generous fairways, although when I did stray from the short stuff I discovered that the rough was up and the rainfall had made it even more punitive.

Unlike most of the neighbouring links courses in the north of Scotland, the greens were very slow to begin with, although they did quicken up as the sun came up and dried them out.

Due to the course’s gradual expansion over the years, it has grown out in all directions, crossing marshy swampland in some areas, particularly the short par-4 13th. The boggy nature of some of the terrain is in stark contrast to what most golfers are used to in the Scottish highlands and provides a different challenge.

The course is, however, just a couple of miles from the coast and the strong wind is nearly always a feature of play at Thurso. Although the par-69 course measures just 5,853 yards from the men’s tees, the combination of the prevailing winds and the soft turf often make the course feel much longer than it is.

The course offers some spectacular views of Caithness, Dunnet Head (the most northerly point on mainland Britain), and across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands, which rise up on the horizon at various points.

The green fees are reasonable at £25 and, while the links course at Reay tends to garner more attention from visitors, the course at Thurso – though very different in its design and structure – is certainly worth playing too.

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