Fortrose and Rosemarkie

James Braid
Scenic, windy, fast-running, traditional James Braid links course
12 miles north of Inverness on The Black Isle
Mike Macdonald
01381 620529
Rob Douglas
Green Keeper
George Paterson

Visit this heritage golf course, a true links, surrounded on three sides by the sea. A warm welcome awaits you.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Dogs welcome on a lead
Open Meetings:
Black Isle Open - July
Fees in 1960s
Fees today



The Black Isle, north of Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands is known for its fertile soils and seed potatoes but on its southern shores is a narrow spit of links land jutting out into the Moray Firth where there is documentary evidence that golf has been played since 1702.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid, Newspaper evidence was discovered in 2015 that The Fortrose Golfing Society, was playing on the Chanonry peninsula in 1793 and so is the fifteenth oldest recorded golf Society in the world. The Society went into abeyance at the turn of the 18th/19th century as a consequence of European wars, economic turmoil and demographic change. There was then a gap before the present Fortrose and Rosemarkie golf club was founded in 1888.

There has always been a close association with Fort George, the home of Her Majesty’s Scottish Regiments, situated across the Firth.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

Click to enlarge

Before the First World War, bandmaster Ricketts of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders frequently accompanied his colonel from Fort George on the links at a time when ‘bogey’ was regarded as the par for each hole. On one occasion they were whistled to by another golfer and the two notes came to form the opening bar of the famous tune Colonel Bogey that Ricketts was inspired to write!

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

The second hole with the lighthouse behind the fourth hole.

Initially comprising just six holes, the course was extended to 18 in 1924 and redesigned by Scotland’s most prolific golf architect James Braid, in the mid 1930s.

This is proper ‘running Fine Golf’ under the attractive hills to the north and surrounded on three sides by the sea; the two adjectives that come to mind are picturesque and bracing.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

From 10,000 feet

The grass is dry and tight, the greens, high in fine grasses, are cut at 4mm and run between 8 and 10 on the Greenstester and to my knowledge in a dry spell sometimes considerably faster!  With a constant wind blowing across the fairways that run up and down the peninsula, the course of only 6085 yards requires crisp, running shots under the wind rather than high and sloggy ‘target’ golf’.

The first four holes skirt the eastern shoreline and are hemmed in by gorse and a bank to the west, so a low-struck iron is often a more rewarding club than a high driver. The greens are small and one is forewarned of the deceptively treacherous semi-plateau and hog-backed third green (The Cup) where one should not be surprised to putt off the green!

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

The fourth hole, with Fort George behind the flag.

The fourth (Lighthouse) is a great hole, a 470 yard par five and quite magnificent in the choices it offers. A full driver has the chance of clearing banks and gullies and missing the road running down the middle of the course to the white lighthouse behind the fourth green and, if successful, leaves a mid-iron across a ridge to a sloping green tucked up as a dogleg to the left. However, most will play short of the hollows and then try to reach the gully below the green hoping for their bump-and-run up-and-down birdie. What great fun!

The Chanonry peninsula is a haven for flora and fauna with breeding skylarks and the sea-sprayed turf includes scurvygrass, thrift kidney vetch and autumn gentian among the fine fescues. It also is home to a family of bottlenose dolphins that play just offshore. As with many beautiful spectacles, the crowds often turn up in the holiday months and can overflow the car park at the fifth hole.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

The short Fifth

The fifth hole (Ice House), named after the attractive ruin behind the green, is the shortest on the course (132 yards) and, played over the road, can be anything from a wedge to a driver, depending on the wind. When I last played this hole, the dolphins had just been featured on the TV programme Springwatch, and somebody had to go forward to stop the stream of non-golfing dolphin lovers along the road so we could play safely!

At this point, the course now turns north along the western coast with three fine testing doglegs before a full 205 yarder, (The Ness) played up a crest, with out of bounds on the left and back in among the gorse.

The second nine plays in two loops inside the first nine and alongside the road (which is in play) to the lighthouse. There are five par 4s of less than 355 yards on the shorter back nine but Braid’s strategically well-placed bunkering, the small, fast greens and above all, the gullies and banks create interest and defend the par.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

I am not sure why the twelfth, a 400 yarder along the road is called Culloden – perhaps because it gives a good view of the battleground across the Firth where the Duke of Cumberland’s forces put Bonny Prince Charlie’s Jacobites to flight in 1746 in the last battle to be fought on British soil.

The sixteenth,(Coignach Odheur) was named after the wit and diviner  Brahan Seer who was burned thereabouts because of the doom and despair he foretold about the local House of Seaforth. Disaster has also befallen many a golfer on this hole.

fortrose and rosemarkie golf club, james braid,

17th, clubhouse behind

The seventeenth (Clay Pots) has a challenging drive up an escarpment where you hope to land near the stone marking the spot where the last witch in Scotland is reputed to have been burned, before playing a mid-iron to a green in a dell between the threatening gorse.

The last (Ferry Hillock), a long par three to a green in front of the compact clubhouse with whin bushes lining either side of the fairway has destroyed many a fine round. The centre bunker short of the green was once a mound where fires were lit in the olden days to send news of a disaster along the Moray Coast.

To more happy tales(!),Captaining an MCC Highlands golf tour recently, my team and I were bowled over by the friendship of Fortrose & Rosemarkie and a secretary who plays off an imposing plus one, hosting a match for us southern cricketers. Lunch, speeches and many drinks later, the score had been forgotten, while the camaraderie had become incorporated into the Fine Golf we were seeking.

Now that the brand new, beautiful ‘modern’ links at Castle Stuart has opened directly across the firth from Fortrose & Rosemarkie, it would be nice to romantically think that the ferry might re-open, as both fine links would surely be enhanced by being more closely associated with each other. They are almost polar opposites in ownership, investment and design; Castle Stuart was created by the American Mark Parsinen, who was also behind Kingsbarns, in Fife, with all the latest construction and agronomic techniques and charges £200 per round.

Fortrose & Rosemarkie, with too many local dignitaries to mention having had a hand in evolving the course over 125 years and, thanks partly to low maintenance costs from its sustainable greenkeeping practises, has a green fee of just £50 and only £10 if introduced by a member!

Geographically, this course is only 12 miles from Inverness and is well worth the effort of a visit to taste the genuine welcome and that ‘joy to be alive’ feeling of playing fine running-golf on a windy fast running course with spectacular views.

Review by Lorne Smith 2009 and updated in 2016


Reader Comments

On July 1st, 2010 Robin Brown said:

Very enjoyable “sporting ” course.You need the bump and run game here!
4th hole particularly memorable and overrall good fun if really tough in a cross wind.Watching the dolphins is a bonus.

The return of the ferry to Castle Stuart is a great idea.

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