Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Ken Cotton
Championship links course on level ground along the Moray Firth; heather and gorse with Bent/Poa annua greens.
West side of Nairn, 10 miles east of Inverness. IV12 4HB
Fraser Cromarty
01667 453208
Robin Fyfe
Green Keeper
Iain Carson
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
King Trophy- July, 4 day Open- August
Fees in 1960s
Fees today
£85 weekday round


The arrival of the railway to Nairn in the 1850s helped the town become known as ‘The Brighton of the North’ and to this day, with its low rainfall microclimate, it remains a popular summer holiday resort, perhaps now more attractive to golfers than bathers with two very fine courses in Nairn and Nairn Dunbar.

The Club has a rich history in British amateur golf and was founded in 1887 by Robert Finlay, the local MP who was to become Lord Chancellor.

Nairn golf club, finest courses

View of Nairn

The Club quickly became fashionable. First Old Tom Morris and then James Braid were the main architects invited to develop the design, though Ken Cotton, Frank Pennink’s partner, also had a hand in it.

This is a classic Scottish out-and-back course laid upon flat  land on a raised shingle beach covered with blown sand, with abundant heather and gorse, beside the Moray Firth and granting views of the sea and the haunting  Black Isle from almost every hole.

Braid was quoted in the 1920s as saying of Nairn that “The texture of the turf and character of the greens is unrivalled”. There have been periods in the 1960s and 1970s, perhaps following advice from Bobby Locke (a great supporter of overwatering) when he was welcomed to Nairn, during which the course lost its predominance of fine grasses and went into decline.

Advice from the STRI at Bingley to pursue wholesale aeration retrieved the condition. The greens I am advised are now some 65%  bent grasses, 35% poa annua (meadow grass), while there is a policy of fertilising with a small amount of potash and even a little phosphate to encourage a “balanced/consistent growth” and there is regular overseeding with mainly bent grasses. The greens are cut low, for fine grasses, at normally 2.5mm giving a stimp speed of about 10. The policy pursued here is for firm, fast greens and their methods of achieving this are an interesting addition to the sustainable debate.

The Club has once more re-emerged at the top table of fine courses with the R&A awarding the hosting of the British Amateur in 1994, the Walker Cup in 1999 and the Curtis Cup is due in 2012.

Nairn golf club, finest courses, nairn 18th green, nairn clubhouse

18th green and clubhouse

The distinguished Parliamentarian, “Willie” Whitelaw, learnt his golf here, subsequently becoming Captain and President and was influential in the Club making friends including many Americans.

The Club flies the Union Jack, the Saltire and the Stars and Stripes alongside the Club’s own flag outside the modern Clubhouse with its panoramic view overlooking the 18th, an excellent practice putting area and the beach.

The flag-hoisting ceremony at the Walker Cup was distinctly more  prestigious but I was posed a tricky question when recently captaining an MCC Highlands golf tour in our match at hospitable Nairn, when the Secretary left it to me to decide which of the three flagpoles our egg-and-bacon flag should be hoisted upon, in the presence of six Americans practising their putting!

Chris and Richard on the 1st nairn ,Nairn golf club, finest courses

Chris and Richard on the 1st

The first seven holes are along the shore and into the prevailing wind and, though one does not have to drive over the sea (as at North Berwick’s 2nd or Machranish’s 1st), it is nevertheless a distinct threat at times.

The 3rd, 8th and 12th holes have raised greens but Nairn is more remembered for greens that are flush with the surrounding ground.

There are no large sandhills but plenty of gorse and heather on this essentially level, sand-based land, with the only height coming where the 13th turns inland and there is a very fine short 14th from a high tee to a deeply undulating green.

The short 14th nairn, Nairn golf club, finest courses

The short 14th

The early and late holes have flat fairways and interest is created by burns and bunkering. The quirkiness of fairway bumps and hollows so loved by traditionalists is found between the 5th and 12th.

Nairn has won through to be a testing ground for national champions and with a lack of blind shots is a links course that the professionals will describe as being of the fairer kind.

It may not quite have the character of some of the other very finest courses but by golly it gives your bump and run every chance across its immaculate aprons.

Surprisingly for such a fine membership, dogs are banned.  A notice once went up with the excuse suggesting that the weedkiller used was not good for dogs! Nevertheless they were allowed once upon a time as one famous Nairn dog is remembered by a seniors’ trophy called the Shamus Shield.

Martin Hawtree who with clear communication helped convince the traditional membership at Lahinch to make some significant changes to their historic course ten years ago, has been invited to suggest improvements to Nairn.

I understand they will encompass predominantly a lenghening with new back tees and a tightening up of the landing areas for the young tigers at 280/290 yards which should not affect the club golfer too much but help keep Nairn up there as a venue for major Amateur championships.

I can confirm, as it says in the Club’s marketing that ‘visitors can be assured of a homely welcome and friendly conversation with members is positively encouraged’!  In particular Nairn Golf Week in August has held great popular appeal with visitors down the years.

See ‘Pride in the Pedigree‘ the story of Nairn Golf Club and tales of the famous who came to play, by Ian Nalder (2001). This is a minutely accurate catalogue of Nairn’s members and guests, pro and amateur, and a useful chronicle of the famous golf matches and players across the last century and a quarter.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith, 2009.             Leave us a comment below.

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