Castle Stuart Golf Links
Designers: Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse
After the success of Kingsbarns, American developer Mark Parsinen was due for an encore. He found it in the golf rich region of The Highlands, on a stretch of property adjacent the Moray Firth near Inverness.
From the onset, Castle Stuart was not intended to simply be the “Kingsbarns of the North,” but instead stand alone amongst the ever longer and increasingly difficult designs of modern golf. In outlining his ethos for the course, Mark Parsinen captured the essence of Castle Stuart in the very first sentence:
The course should elicit anticipation and hopefulness in players of all skill levels; let it test one’s perceptual ability, judgment, decision-making, shotmaking, and emotional poise; let it not be difficult for the sake of being difficult, rather let it be interesting and engaging.
Simply put, playability is the order of the day at Castle Stuart. The wide fairways and large green complexes will likely be a sight for sore eyes for the golfer touring the historic courses of Scotland. Unlike many of the traditional links, at Castle Stuart a poor shot does not necessarily lead to punishing rough or a ball lost to the gorse. Instead, the golfer is usually presented with the delightful opportunity to recover. But don’t mistake this forgiveness for an ease that will make its way to the scorecard. Those same green complexes are precarious if out of position, turning bogey or worse into a distinct possibility.
Castle Stuart was blessed with a piece of property unlike any other links course in Scotland, but much of its rolling and rumpled appearance was crafted by man. A fact that will surprise many, as the natural and aged look Parsinen desired was achieved with great success. Landmarks like the Kessock Bridge, Chanonry Lighthouse, and Castle Stuart itself serve as the course’s stage, while the holes meander through the orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony sections of this theater. Numerous infinity edge greens brilliantly frame these landmarks, focusing one’s eye to the inspiring surroundings and conjuring a sense of indecision on club selection for the supposed distance at hand.
As one might expect with an engaged owner like Mark Parsinen, from the stunning clubhouse – itself a work of art – to the stones collected off the beach by his wife for use as tee markers, no detail is overlooked in the experience at Castle Stuart. When combined with the marvelous course, it’s little wonder then that Castle Stuart has quickly established itself on the world’s stage, serving as frequent host for the Scottish Open, while solidifying its position on every top-100 list.
Somewhere along the way, it was decided that the greatness of a golf course is directly proportional to the level of torture it inflicts during a round. Castle Stuart takes that notion and turns it upside down. The course is visually stunning, strategically intriguing and, above all else, it’s a whole lot of fun.
What a novel concept.
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
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