Neil Hampton, General Manager of Royal Dornoch Golf Club, who plays golf off one, is the subject for our latest Q&A.
Where do you come from, how long have you been General Manager, what handicap do you play off?
I was born in Fife but moved to the Highlands when I was just one and spent time in Stornoway, Fortrose (where I learned to play), Inverness and now Dornoch. I will be celebrating (if that is the right term in this business!) 10 years at Royal Dornoch on 1st September this year. Golf has always been in my family via parents, grandparents and uncles, with my father being the pro and greenkeeper at Burntisland, Stornoway, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, finishing his career as the pro at Pitlochry. Because of that my two brothers and I were always going to play the game and I am the one who ended up working in it. My best handicap was plus two and currently now playing off one.
Are both the Championship and Struie courses open to visitors – have they been busy since lockdown?
We welcome golfers 7 days a week and 52 weeks of the year at Royal Dornoch. The club has always known that the town, due to its rural location and small population, could not support a golf club with the extra income that visitors bring and we see ourselves as following the Scottish mantra that golf is a game for, and accessible by, everyone.
Do you have any tips for playing each course?
There are many things you could say to help people play each course. Two to begin with that are key would be a very good imagination and excellent short game. It always helps to have an attitude that the bounce of the ball is outwith your control so don’t let the bad ones, or the good, affect your psyche.
Many celebrities have played at Royal Dornoch, but do you have any personal favourites?
Very much enjoyed meeting Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Both great gentlemen, and I would like to say that I am friends with Craig Stadler – who is now a member of the club. Hugh Grant also visited and was a very easy man to get on with and had time for everyone who wanted a photo.
Do you have a favourite hole and your reason for picking it?
I don’t have a favourite hole but the one that grads your attention is the par 3 6th on the Championship Course as it appears in view from the moment you get to the 3rd tee and you see it every step of the way until you get to the tee and are faced with one of the hardest tee shots on the course. With just one swing you can make a hole in one, a tap in birdie or struggle to find a way to make a double bogey (or much worse).
What are the men and women course records?
Gents pro record is 62 and amateur is 64, women’s pro is 66 and amateur is 69.
Do you have any update on the clubhouse plans you are happy to share?
We were hoping to start construction in October of this year but with COVID-19 putting a serious dent in finances we have pushed that back to October 2022 at the earliest. There is great momentum amongst everyone at the club so we do want this to happen sooner rather than later.
What is the most common thing you hear from visitors about Royal Dornoch?
What a great course it is with such stunning views (and how surprisingly good the Struie is) and how friendly and at home they were made to feel.