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Bumper tourism season on cards for Sutherland as Royal Dornoch Golf Club reveals 'unprecedented' demand for tee times


By Caroline McMorran

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Sutherland could be in line for a bumper tourism season with Royal Dornoch Golf Club revealing it is experiencing “unprecedented” player demand.

The world-renowned golf course is no longer accepting new bookings from non-members for its championship course amid soaring requests from golfers across the UK and overseas for tee times.

The club's general manager Neil Hampton said earlier this week: “We have reached capacity very quickly. This is unprecedented.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club general manager Neil Hampton. Picture: Peter Jolly
Royal Dornoch Golf Club general manager Neil Hampton. Picture: Peter Jolly

A surge in visitors to the county would be a welcome boost for accommodation and food and drink providers after two years in which the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on businesses.

As well as its championship links course, which regularly features among the world’s top ten, Royal Dornoch has the 18-hole Struie course, on which bookings have not been restricted.

The club looks forward to welcoming some 12-14,000 visitors in a normal year.

But 13,000 tee time reservations on the championship course have already been accepted for the 2022 season, with many of the club’s 2000 plus international members keen to visit Scotland now coronavirus travel restrictions have been eased.

Mr Hampton said this was piling pressure on the course’s administrative team, leading to the decision to close the book.

The move means that no tee times are now available for any non-members seeking to play the championship course this year.

“There has been a pent-up demand as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns which meant many of our members from abroad have been unable to travel,” said Mr Hampton

“We have a huge out-of-town membership waiting to come back this year and we were already up to more than 13,000 visitor bookings so we had to grasp the nettle.

“It was a difficult decision but we felt obliged to give as many of our members as possible the opportunity to play. We have tried to be fair to everyone.”

He added that he was not surprised at the demand for playing times.

“Past experience tells us that whatever world event we endure, such as a banking crisis, an ash cloud or the tragedy of 9/11, we bounce back very quickly,” he said.

“We have a prestigious links course where golf has been played for more than 400 years and golfers from near and far are eager to experience it,”

He stressed that visitors could still enjoy access to the Struie sister course which he described as a “memorable challenge in its own right".

“It is a fast-running links in the summertime and perfect for playing as part of a break which might include the likes of Fortrose, Golspie, Tain and Brora," he said.

"The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) has selected Royal Dornoch to host both the 72-hole Men’s and the Women’s Senior Amateur Championships this year.

“The first two rounds in each event will be played over the Championship and the Struie, which tells you all you need to know about the quality of the Struie golf course."

The demand to play Royal Dornoch's Championship Course this year is "unprecedented".
The demand to play Royal Dornoch's Championship Course this year is "unprecedented".
Visitors can still book tee times for the Struie course.
Visitors can still book tee times for the Struie course.

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