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Golf Highland

Golf Highland Q&A with Gus Gurney, Captain at Tain GC

The Alps at Tain GC
The Alps at Tain GC

Thanks to Gus Gurney, Captain at Tain GC, for providing the answers to our latest Golf Highland Q&A.

How long a member of Tain GC?
I joined Tain GC in 2013 when my wife and I moved in to the area. I had not been a member at a Golf Club since 1995, but played Tain once and knew I wanted to join.

What attracted you to become involved in the management of the Club?
I wouldn’t call it an attraction! Golf Clubs need active Committee members and like most golfers I have an opinion. I had time on my hands and felt that I had something to offer.

How long have you been on the committee?
I joined the Committee in 2015.

How long as Captain? 
I am 4 months away from completing my 2nd and final year in the role, and I wish I could have picked an easier year than this one has been.

What are the main challenges you face as Captain? 
Last year would have been similar to the challenges met by every other Captain at Tain GC. Try and balance the books at year end, keep and maintain a healthy membership, continue improving the Golf Course and increase visitor numbers. This year has been like no other. Surviving this year is the Club’s ultimate challenge. Visitor income at Tain GC is vital to the Club’s ability to survive and although we are starting to see some visitors, the loss of the American market is a real blow. The management of the Club’s finances is pivotal to that survival.

Where do you come from, what is your handicap?
Originally I come from a small town called Newent, on the Gloucestershire / Herefordshire border. My handicap is holding steady at 7. I have achieved Cat 1 status once and still hope to get back there one day.

What is your favourite hole on the course?
It’s hard to pick a favourite! Tain is blessed with many great holes and all so different. The 11th (Alps) is the signature hole and one everyone remembers but I think the view from the 12th tee (Glenmorangie) is one of the finest in golf – if I’ve not got a card in my hand, the sun is shining, the wind is not blowing and the tide is in!

Do you have any tips for playing the course?
You don’t have to be long but you have to keep it straight, the rough can be brutal. Have the confidence to use every club in the bag and play with imagination.

Are there any unusual facts or features?
The Course is an Old Tom Morris design and dates back to 1890 when the original course was laid out over 15 holes. The site of the original Clubhouse can still be seen at the rear of the 17th green. As mentioned before, the ‘Alps’ live long in the memory of many visitors.

Does the course have any deals for visitors?
We have always had a reduced rate on a Tues/Thurs afternoon. This has now been extended to include a Sunday. £30 per golfer or £100 for a 4ball teeing off between 2pm and 4pm on these days. Our normal Green fee has also been reduced to £50 for the month of August and September (normally £70).

What are the course records for men and ladies?
Men’s Course Record is 64 and is held by Munro Ferries and the Ladies is 69 and held by Roseanne Niven.

Has there been a lot of enthusiasm for playing now that lockdown has eased?
We have had a small increase in membership but we have seen a large jump in the number of people playing in competitions at the weekends. It’s great to see the course busy with golfers once again.

Do you have any upcoming events?
Our 4 Day Open at the start of August has been cancelled in line with current Scottish Golf guidelines, but we are holding a few fun members competitions that week instead. However, we are still scheduled to hold the North Of Scotland Open for the David Blair Trophy at the end of August and the Northern Counties Cup at the end of September.


Discover the High9s hidden gems of the Highlands – Q&A with High 9s founder June Sanderson

2020 High 9s

We learn a bit more about the High 9s – Golf Highland members who offer great 9-hole courses. With High 9s founder June Sanderson.

Who came up with the idea of High 9s?
I wanted to find a way to attract and encourage visitors to play 9-hole courses in the Highlands.

There are some beautiful places to play golf here, and some of them get overlooked, especially if they’re quite remote.

High 9s became a joint initiative between 3 member clubs of Golf Highland: the Isle of Skye, Portmahomack and Bonar Bridge &  Ardgay, with a little help from Willie Mackay at Scottish Golf! We all recognised the need for collaboration amongst some of the most scenic  9 hole courses of the Scottish Highlands – mainly to encourage more visitors to have a  ‘few holes’’ while passing through at places they’d otherwise have missed.

How long has it been running?
We’ve been running since 2018.

What has the response been like?
The word has got around and it’s been fantastic to see more people playing some of Scotland’s hidden gems. Last year nine-hole visitor numbers were up on the year before. For football fans out there, Gairloch (part of the High9s) recently played host to Ryan Giggs who popped in for 9 holes.

And that’s what it’s all about. We know that if you’re on a golfing holiday, tourists in the Highlands are likely to be attracted to the big courses, but we want to reach those people who just want to have a quick 9 holes. Families; those travelling for hill climbing or the North Coast 500. All of these people have other reasons to be in Scotland, but would love the chance to play as well. Most clubs supply club & trolley hire (in non-covid times) so your boot doesn’t have to be stacked with clubs.

How does it work?
There are nine fantastic 9-hole golf courses in the Golf Highland region. That’s 81 holes of golf in beautiful highland scenery. We’ve roughly grouped them into 3 sections: West Coast, East and Central and would encourage touring golfers out there to play as many as they can on their trip.

The West Coast group ranges from the dramatic Northern coastline of Durness down through Ullapool and Gairloch to the scenic Isle of Skye. The Eastern group includes  Bonar Bridge & Ardgay and the links of Portmahomack. And finally, the Central group includes some hidden gems of Inverness and the Speyside, Cairngorm area: Aigas, Carrbridge and Abernethy.

Are there any offers?
All of these courses are fantastic value for money – ranging from £14-20 for 9 holes, with day rates available. All courses also offer club & trolley hire at superb rates (pre Covid).

How would you suggest players go – 2 courses in a day for instance?
There certainly is the possibility of playing 2 courses in a day. Playing them all in one holiday period is an option too!

But we definitely don’t want to prescribe how people want to play the High9s. That’s the beauty of it – just pick your date, book online and turn up! It’s a good idea to call ahead to check there are no competitions going on, but otherwise, you’ll be very welcome. All the clubs have an online booking system in place during Covid.

What are your favourite stories from the High 9s?
I think that’s probably the story of the grandfather, grandson tour, who completed all the High9s while travelling last year. The grandson was only 11 I think and the grandfather in his 60s and they had a great time. That’s what the High9s is all about – open to everyone of all ages – to come and see parts of Scotland which they perhaps wouldn’t otherwise visit or to play golf in areas they wouldn’t quite expect!

Any interesting unknown facts about any of the courses?
Durness – is the country’s most northern golf course. Isle of Skye is the only course in Scotland with Gaelic names for each hole – we think!. Each course has a long interesting history – just ask the members when you’re playing there next! Keep an eye on our GH website too!


Q&A with Caroline Munro, Greenkeeper for Bonar Bridge GC

Bonar Bridge GC
Bonar Bridge GC

Where are you from Caroline?

I’m from Bonar Bridge in the Highlands.

How did you become the greenkeeper at Bonar Bridge?
Well I had to do a week’s work experience at Golspie High School and I had a huge list of things to choose from and at the bottom was Greenkeeping. I got a placement at Royal Dornoch, enjoyed it and asked for a summer job. At the end of the 6 weeks I was offered a full time position but was only 15, so my Mam said I had to finish school. I eventually left school on a Friday and started on the following Monday on my 16th birthday.

Mam drove me to work every morning (I had to be there for 6am in the summer!). I worked at RDGC for 10yrs as Greenkeeper and did a short stint in charge of the Struie course there, before going back up to the Championship course.

After that I took a career break while I raised my 2 girls and returned to greenkeeping 10yrs ago when the job at Bonar Bridge/Ardgay became available. I took on the role as lone Greenkeeper at the club as they previously had 1 full time and 1 part time it’s challenging doing it alone but I’m very lucky to have a great bunch of volunteers who come in and help.

What do you love about the job?
Certainly I love being outside in the fresh air and enjoy getting the course set up, although this year has been a real challenge as I was furloughed for 6 weeks.

What do you dislike about the job?
As a lone worker it does sometimes get lonely so I got myself a dog, called Boots, that now keeps me company.

How would you sum up the Bonar Bridge course for someone who hasn’t played there?
Bonar Bridge is a great wee 9 hole heathland course with superb views where a warm highland welcome awaits

Do you play golf as well? If so, what handicap?
Playing golf is something I try. I play off 19 but really don’t get out much. I’ve only managed to play 27 holes so far this season.

Any tips for how to play the course?
It’s tight so if you’re not accurate with the driver, leave it in the bag!

Any unusual facts or stories about the course?
The course was opened by Mrs Andrew Carnegie, wife of the famous industrialist, and she played the first ever tee shot. We also have the remnants of a broch on the 9th fairway…the stone circle is clearly outlined.

Q&A with John Forbes, Club Manager at Muir of Ord Golf Club

Q&A with John Forbes, Club Manager at Muir of Ord Golf Club

We asked John a few questions about the golf club and the interest in playing there as we ease out of lockdown restrictions. John is from Cabrich, near Kirkhill and has been club manager since 2014. He is a golfer himself and plays off +1.

13th hole at Muir of Ord
13th at Muir of Ord, is situated on an ancient Henge
  1. Have you seen an increase in memberships (can you put it in percentage terms)?
    Yes, we have seen an increase in membership since we returned at the end of May. We have had 60 new members join since then which is an increase of approximately 10%.
  2. Men, women, juniors – what is the members split like?
    There has been a mix of Gents, Juniors and Ladies although it is mainly gents and juniors who have joined us at the moment.
  3. Are the new members giving any feedback on why they’re joining?
    The majority of new members are joining mainly due to the fact that golf was one of the first sports allowed to restart. We have had quite a few new members who normally play sports such as football and shinty which for obvious reasons have not been allowed to restart yet.
  4. Does Muir of Ord have any joining deals?
    We do have some membership deals at the moment. As our membership year runs from 1st January – 31st December we pro-rata the membership fee for the remainder of the year. It works out at £230 for a full adult member for the remainder of the year. In September we will be advertising a 15 months membership for the price of 12 months as well.
  5. Do you have any tips for new members or visitors on how to play the course?
    The main tip I would have to play the course at present is that accuracy is more important than length of shots at the moment especially tee shots. Like most other courses with the type of weather we have had, this has resulted in our rough being slightly punishing in certain areas.
  6. Is there a fact about the golf course that not many people know about?
    Interesting fact about the course is probably that our 13th hole green is situated on an ancient Henge called ‘Castle Hill Henge’ which dates from 2500-2000 BC. (Neolithic/Bronze Age). More about this can be found on our website.
  7. What is the course record for men, ladies and juniors?
    We currently have a course record for Men and Ladies as per below. The Gents Par is 68 & Ladies is 70.
    Gents – Gross 62 shared by Graeme Mellis and Scott Dingwall
    Ladies – Gross 71 Anne Ryan & Kerry Harper
  8. Have any famous people played Muir of Ord?
    The only famous person that I am aware has visited Muir of Ord is the Golf Commentator Peter Allis. Renowned course architect and former Open Champion, James Braid visited the course in the 1920’s or 1930’s. He designed many of the holes that are in play at Muir of Ord today.

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Upcoming Events from Q&A with John Forbes, Club Manager at Muir of Ord Golf Club

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