Friday, May 13, 2011

Stuart Castle Stuart Golf Links Inverness, Scotland 7,009 yards, par 72 Green fees: £160 ($260) 011 44 1463 796111 Finicky Tour pros rarely enjoy playing a new venue for the first time. But that sentiment may very well change next month at the Barclays Scottish Open, to be played at Castle Stuart near Inverness, three hours north of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
There's more than enough to like, if not love, at this two-year-old links, including a highly enjoyable routing created by Mark Parsinen (of Kingsbarns fame) and Gil Hanse. The opening three holes on each side sit at the property's lowest point, sandwiched between a gorse-filled hillside and the water, while the remaining holes climb up, down and around multiple plateaus. Drivable par 4s, like the third, 14th and 16th offer eagle chances, and most fairways are easily wider than the wingspan of the planes flying directly overhead to nearby Inverness Airport.
Still, you must choose your angles wisely into the smallish greens, which are surrounded by miniature mounding that can easily devour strokes. The course namesake is now a B&B but dates back to 1625, its distinctive turret and Scottish flag visible in the distance behind the par-3 4th.
A clubhouse that looks more South Beach than Scottish Highlands stands out amid the fescue, and with other quality venues like Nairn (five minutes to the east) and Royal Dornoch (45 miles north) within easy driving distance, what's not to love? Even the pros should find that to be the case here at Castle Stuart.

(Photo: Castle Stuart Golf Club)

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