Back-Roads Scotland: Gairloch

In 2007, a Scottish guy told me that I absolutely had to play Gairloch Golf Club, a nine-hole links course in an isolated village on the country’s west coast. Gairloch was a solid hour and a half out of my way, but he insisted. So I went.

I’m glad I did, in part because the drive—through the desolate mountains of Wester Ross and along the southwestern shore of Loch Maree, on a road that sometimes narrowed to a single lane—was beautiful:

I got a room at a small hotel on Gairloch’s harbor, and was awakened during the night by what sounded like a hundred-year typhoon lashing against my window. In the morning, the BBC said that the weather that day would be pretty good in all of Scotland except the part where I happened to be, for which the forecast was “heavy rain” and “gales.”

I drove through both on my way to the golf course, a short distance down the coast road, and found the parking lot empty and the clubhouse locked. So I zipped up my rain suit, let myself through the gate, and teed off alone.

Gairloch is just nine holes, and six of the nine are par-threes, and you have to go around three times to push your golfometer past six thousand yards, but it’s a wonderful course and I’m not a bit sorry I went to so much trouble to play it, even in driving rain. (How’s that for a recommendation?)

To get to the medal tee on the eighth/seventeenth, the course’s sole par-five, you climb a slippery path up the rocks to a spot from which you can see the course, the clubhouse, the town, the mountains, the harbor, and (I think) the isle of Skye, among other stirring sights.

And the hole’s a corker, too.

A club employee had arrived by the time I finished my first nine. I watched her raise the Gairloch flag in a wind that was almost strong enough to rip it from the pole, then made breakfast of a couple of candy bars from the golf shop. Then I played nine more holes, returned to my hotel, took a hot shower, and checked out.

And here’s a photo of Gairloch’s Honesty Box, which is mentioned in one of the comments below:

8 thoughts on “Back-Roads Scotland: Gairloch

  1. I played Gairloch about 10 years ago – wonderful course. There is a par 3 which measures about 90 yards but it is a blind tee shot over a huge rock to a green not much bigger than your dining table on the other side. They also have an Honesty Box there to pay your green fee if there is no-one around. Golf as it should be.

  2. Loved the article David. I will add Gairloch to my list of want & must play…..have played all the “name” courses and some like Gairloch, but not near enough to satisfy my love for Scottish links-style golf. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  3. David – thanks for posting the Honesty Box photo – good memories. Another thing that I recall from my visit there was that the course record for 18 holes was ‘level par’ – that says something about a course that is over 100 years old. How many others could make the claim that par had never been beaten?

  4. In 2011 I persuaded my regular golfing friends to travel from London to North West Scotland. We played at Ullapool, Gairloch and Lochcarron. All three courses can be combined with some excellent sight seeing. Local hotels/Inns are good value and food is excellent.

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