Fortrose & Rosemarkie
Designer: James Braid
“They don’t put pictures on the scorecard.”
Caddies are surely a wise yet utterly sarcastic bunch, as evidenced by this thinly veiled contempt for a bladed pitch shot that screamed into the flagstick and dropped for an improbable birdie. When taken in a broader context, however, this stinging indictment of a lackluster short game applies brilliantly to many of the links of Scotland. Perhaps the best example is Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club, which judged by the scorecard might appear as a pushover that’s only worth a visit with extra time to kill on the journey to Dornoch. But as we’ve already seen, the scorecard rarely tells the full story.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie measures to just over 6000 yards, a paltry sum by today’s standards, and one that was only just reached thanks to the addition of 200 extra yards in 2013. As they say, however, good things come in small packages – in this case the tiny Chanonry Peninsula, which guards the entrance to the Moray Firth.
That an entire links course was able to be built on this inspiring point of land is a truly remarkable feat, one that is mostly attributed to the genius of James Braid. The first eight holes are aligned in an out-and-back formation, but in a twist that is perhaps only possible here, the sea is always on the golfer’s left. By contrast, the back nine plays along the interior of the peninsula, criss-crossing the lighthouse road which bisects the property. While this removes 2nd shots off the beach from the equation, the relief is offset by the appearance of thick islands of gorse.
Although the wind is a fixture of links golf, the exposed nature of the Chanonry Peninsula makes it an even more grueling factor at Fortrose & Rosemarkie. It is a steadfast line of defense for this short course, along with the small greens and devilish bunkers, and will put even the most skilled of players to the test when blowing from the east. There are few things more humbling in the game than pulling a 3-iron from 130 yards, as is often required on the par-3 5th hole.
The word “fun” is not one that would apply to many golf courses, yet here it seems entirely appropriate. For many, Fortrose & Rosemarkie is a course that’s played while on the way to somewhere else, however those that discover it have caught one of the most memorable lucky breaks in the game.
No, in a fortuitous stroke of luck for many of us, they don’t put pictures on the scorecard. But at Fortrose & Rosemarkie, they really should.