Former Open champion Paul Lawrie has officially opened the new 7th hole on the Championship Course at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Scotland.
Ahead of his Tartan Pro Tour event over the famed Highland links this week, Lawrie took time out to play the revised hole and meet local members.
While the par-4 hole, known as ‘Pier’, has been in play since the end of last year, the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to Royal Dornoch officially unveiling the hole until now. The changes were proposed by Tom Mackenzie of course designers Mackenzie and Ebert.
In further enhancing the championship test over the links, the new hole – which measures 485 yards from the blue tees – has been pivoted to the right so the sea is in view for the entire length of the hole. It also features a green with only the sea and sky beyond it, a replica of the previous one. The work was first proposed after a course review in 2013 and approved by the club in 2015.
Lawrie, who made birdie on his first playing of the hole, said: “It’s a really, really nice golf hole and they have done a great job with it. The old hole was further left, so it’s gone further right with better views of the sea, which is beautiful. It is similar kind of length, there are two nice bunkers down the left-hand side which are in play and there is a nice little false front at the start of the green. It’s brilliant.”
He added: “Royal Dornoch is one of the best courses in the country – it always has been and always will be. I always love playing golf here right back to playing assistants’ golf.”
Mackenzie said: “The view from the 7th tee is one of the most famous in the world of golf. Is there a first-time visitor to Dornoch who has not taken that photo down over the course? It seemed frustrating that once down off the tee, the sea disappeared until the green on the highest part of the course. There was plenty of room to the right so, logically, it made sense to rotate the hole that way, so the entire hole enjoyed the same glorious view with a new sea vista behind the green. It adds wonderfully to the Dornoch experience.”
The former 7th green was added to the course after World War II in 1946 when the course was extended by George Duncan, another ex-Open champion. Local legend has it that the club is simply returning the hole to the style that Duncan first envisaged
General Manager Neil Hampton, who is celebrating 10 years of service at a club, tells the tale of Dornoch folklore: “The local stories are such that George Duncan actually pegged out the 7th hole right along the top of the hill, but during the night some unscrupulous local moved the pegs inland. The hole was then built along the peg line. We think we are really putting it back to where George originally designed the hole, namely offering a classic links hole across the top of the hill and offering stunning views that we previously only enjoyed from the 7th tee. You now get those panoramas from every single pace that you walk along the 7th fairway.”
Mackenzie describes the green and its approach as “rich in options for playing running shots” and while the hole looks intimidating, “the playing corridor is the same width as the original one.” He added: “Bizarrely, the project has benefited from the COVID-19 situation because the seeded grass has had a period of lockdown rest and, although back in play now, levels of play have been reduced, allowing the turf to establish fully.”
Future work planned for the course will see new raised tees built at the 8th hole on the location of the previous 7th green – again bringing more sea views into play and enhancing the original strategy of the hole.