I was looking for silver linings when I failed to qualify for match play at the Carnegie Shield tournament at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Scotland. And I found a very enjoyable one when I filled a suddenly empty playing schedule with a game at the ultra-private Carnegie Club at nearby Skibo Castle.
It not only gave me a chance to redeem myself on the golf course but also to check out its recently refurbished links-style track, laid out on a portion of the 7,500-acre estate once owned by American industrialist Andrew Carnegie and routed in the shadow of the massive castle he built there.
I also thought it was a good way to pay homage to the mogul who in 1901 donated the manhole cover-sized silver shield to Royal Dornoch to be given to the winner of an annual golf tournament that was being contested this past week for the 100th time.
Originally designed by Donald Steel, the Carnegie Club layout has been deftly revamped by Steel’s associate Tom Mackenzie, the club’s director of golf David Thomson and its course superintendent Gary Gruber. Each teeing area offers interesting angles and clear senses of where to hit one’s drives, and the fairways run firm and fast. The riveted pot bunkers are strategic and testing, but not overdone, and the green complexes present just the right amount of challenge and variety on approaches.
The greens, some small and others quite expansive, roll true, and the ground possesses great character, falling gently into tidy hollows on occasion and other times rising to scenic promontories overlooking the Dornoch Firth and the Eastern Highlands, their hills slightly purple from the swathes of heather in midsummer bloom. The wispy, wheat-colored fescue rough adds a pleasing pastoral tone to the setting as it also produces a reasonable stroke penalty to anyone who dumps his golf ball into it.
Though the Carnegie Club is a very exclusive retreat, it does offer two tee times daily to visitors, Monday through Friday. The chance to play such a high-quality course, where it is entirely possible to be the only foursome on the property, is well worth the trip.
Even if it means you have played your way out of a golf tournament.