Unrivalled demand for tee times has forced Royal Dornoch Golf Club to close the book for the 2022 season. General manager Neil Hampton has revealed more than 13,000 reservations have been accepted by the links course in the Scottish Highlands which regularly features among the world’s Top Ten.
But pent-up demand from a 2,000-plus international membership – many of them keen to visit Scotland with travel restrictions being eased – has piled pressure on the administrative team at Royal Dornoch.
“We have reached capacity very quickly. This is unprecedented,” explained Neil. “But I can’t say I’m surprised. Past experience tells us that whatever world event we endure, such as a banking crisis, an ash cloud or the tragedy of 9/11, we bounce back very quickly.
“You hear talk of tourism taking three or four years to recover. But here at Royal Dornoch we are very fortunate. We have a prestigious links where golf has been played for more than 400 years and golfers from near and far are eager to experience it.
“Normally we look forward to welcoming 12-14,000 visitors a year to Royal Dornoch. “We are always a busy course and tee-times are always in demand. We were already up to over 13,000 visitor bookings so we had to grasp the nettle.
“We have tried to be fair to everyone. Because of the pandemic, lockdowns and the inability of our many members from abroad being unable to travel there has been pent-up demand.
“We have a huge out-of-town membership wanting to come back this year. They have been starved of the Championship course in particular for the past two years. It was a difficult decision but we felt obliged to give as many of our members as possible the opportunity to play.”
Neil stressed that visitors can still enjoy access to the Struie sister course if they are planning a pilgrimage to the Highlands.
“The Struie is a memorable challenge in its own right. We are forever being told that if it was located in Scotland’s Central Belt it would be packed to the gunnels.
“It has tended to live in the shadow of the Championship course. Many people come here without even realising we have another course. It is a fast-running links in the summertime and perfect for playing as part of a break which might include the likes of Fortrose, Golspie, Tain and Brora. Given the quality of these courses you’d be very well satisfied with your links golf experience.
“While the Championship course has undulations, huge raised greens with challenging borrows and deep bunkers, the Struie is flatter and a bit tighter, with smaller greens. It tests different aspects of your game and we find many of our low handicappers struggle to score low on it. Your short game has to be equally tidy.
“We are delighted that The R&A has selected Royal Dornoch to host both the 72-hole Men’s and the Women’s Senior Amateur Championships this year.
“The first two rounds in each event will be played over the Championship and the Struie, which tells you all you need to know about the quality of the Struie golf course.”