The design philosophy when planning Castle Stuart is very thorough and is best fully explained as on their website. It is linked to the ‘transitional period’ 1890 to 1935. This is the period when Harry Colt transformed the design of inland courses, admired links course, designed Royal Portrush and improved Royal Lytham and more. There is some similarity between his specific design philosophy and that of Gil Hanse at Castle Stuart despite the time difference.
Castle Stuart Golf Course (6653 yards, par 72)
Castle Stuart is a great addition to Highland Golf, providing a challenge for talented golfers while being playable for high handicappers. The most you can say about this modern links is that it has added something new and interesting to an area already blessed with golfing virtuosity. It is not too tough
for high handicap amateurs, as some new championship links are. The brainchild of Mark Parsinen, the man behind Kingsbarns, it was designed by American Gil Hanse. His philosophy was to get everyone in play off the tee. The fairways are astonishingly wide and even the most uneasy driver will find some confidence on the tee. But, finding the fairway you will not necessarily have an attractive approach, because Castle Stuart is all about angles. Try to find greens from the wrong side of the fairway and you will be in some trouble. The skilled and clever player will work back from the green to decide where to hit their drive. Others can enjoy the short game challenges our failed approaches will lead to. There are domed greens, bunkers and evil little ‘eyebrow’ tufts around the putting surfaces to confound you. However, Castle Stuart gives you every chance to score well.
The course enjoys a setting and landscape that combine to make the golf experience visually memorable.
The appearance of its playing surface with its rugged natural beauty takes you back to a simpler era of golf, the ‘transitional period’ 1890 to 1935. Some bunkering is changed to more open sandy areas with pockets of light vegetation rather than by formally revetted manicured bunkers. The design encourages an open attitude during play. To cut time spent looking for lost balls. To envisage greens that allow for forceful and assertive putting.
Castle Stuart appreciates that golf is more about error and recovery than it is about perfection. Its attitude is more about restoration than punishment. Seeking that something good can yet happen despite the compromised situation. The best courses in the world keep each golfer in a competitive hunt throughout their round of golf. Edge contours are used at times around greens instead of bunkers. This makes greens recovery easier for those of lesser skills, but retains a test for the accomplished player. The course is more about interesting and controllable issues than difficulty for the sake of it. It is about hope and redemption.
Notes and Suggestions Hole by Hole
Hole 1 - 434 yards, par 4, index 9 - The tee shot on the first has penalties both left and right in the form of a solid bank of gorse and the full expanse of the Moray Firth to the left and lateral water hazard to the right.
The play area is wide and forgiving with supporting upslopes on either side. A modest drive in play leaves a straightforward approach to a green that is more forgiving to recoveries from the left than right.
Hole 2 - 550 yards, par 5, index 5 - Playing three shots to the green, the lower right fairway hollow leaves the easiest second shot lay-up down the left. The green is quite irregular and in shape and contours. A putt, a chip, or short wedge are the choices. Short and right can leave an awkward bunker recovery.
Hole 3 - 305 yards, par 4, index 13 - Long hitters may go for the green. Long or conservative play needs to take the bunkers out of play and avoid the testing left side. The green is long and narrow, some 14 paces wide and slightly sloping right toward the sea.
Hole 4 - 191 yards, par 3, index17 - There are various ways to get your ball onto this mid-length green. Let the wind conditions, pin placement, and preferred shape of shot govern your thought process. Having decided make a confident shot. There is more room around the green than meets the eye at first glance.
Hole 5 - 447 yards, par 4, index 7 - A good drive down the middle fading to the right would be the best choice. A tee shot to the right is preferable but the fairway is hidden behind the large hillock of gorse located forward and right of the tee. The approach is best from the right as the front left is well guarded.
Hole 6 - 560 yards, par 5, index 3 - This long par five is most sensibly played with three shots to the green. For most the approach would consider safety and position with respect to the play onto the green. It is long and narrow just 16 paces wide with bunkers both left and right and one about 80 yards in front. The approach could be laid up short of this 80 yard bunker. Then followed by a controlled shot to the green.
Hole 7 - 461 yards, par 4, index 1 - There is ample room to play your drive, the problem is the angle and length of approach you’re left with. Playing into the green from a left side angle makes the approach far more practicable.
Hole 8 - 218 yards, par 3, index 15 - Finding your way to the correct half of the punchbowl green is the first challenge. Getting the ball on the ground well before the green is a good choice. Note the central mound fronting the green, landing on the wrong side of it can deflect your ball undesirably.
Hole 9 - 364 yards, par 4, index 11 - Tee balls struck solidly directly at the green should play short of the hidden finger of sand and find the fairway landing area that is very wide. Playing even shorter to the high left side plateau leaves a visible putting surface with its contours receptive. That correct angle plus a short iron in your hands can spell birdie territory.
Hole 10 - 405 yards, par 4, index 14 - The best play off the tee is to the left side of the fairway; but for safety, playing toward the fairway bunker slightly right of middle is a reasonable target line. The bunker can come into play for long hitters or when downwind. It needs to be avoided. The green runs front to back.
Hole 11 - 144 yards, par 3, index 16 - Being long on this hole is not clever. Good players going for mid or back positions need to be careful. To play short and right is a very useful recovery area. A putt up through the greenside contours can secure a par.
Hole 12 - 528 yards, par 5, index 2 - The safe way to play this hole is with 3 shots to the green. Playing an approach with your second is risky. Laying up your second a distance short of the intruding landform on the right is very sensible.
Hole 13 - 441 yards, par 4, index 4 - The hole is a dogleg right. From the tee aim to leave your drive on the left of the fairway. Almost any ball from the left can make its way through the fronting contours to the right half of the green.
Hole 14 - 386 yards, par 4, index 10 - Drive down the left side of the fairway. This should find a flattish area and may move inwards towards the green. You should then have a short shot to the green.
Hole 15 - 421 yards, par 4, index 8 - From the tee the left half of the fairway leaves an unobstructed view of the green for the approach shot with just a left side bunker to avoid. The green and its front contours are receptive, but take care in severe downwind conditions.
Hole 16 - 335 yards, par 4, index 18 - Long hitters may go for the green risking a certain amount of danger. Playing something less than a driver down the right side is the conservative play. This should leave various options for a second shot to the green.
Hole 17 - 224 yards, par 3, index 6 - There is clearly danger down the right side on this long par three. A low running shot out to the left with a little left-to-right fade is the best play. The contours left and short of the green turn a releasing shot down and onto the putting surface. Take care not to be long needing a good recovery.
Hole 18 - 515 yards, par 5, index 12 - The line for this partially blind tee shot is the blue Scottish saltire left of the clubhouse. The safe play with your second shot is to find the fairway left of the bunker on the right side leaving a 100 yard shot to a receptive large green. There is an apron plateau fronting the green above the bunkers that allows a forward release onto the green.
The Scottish Open at Castle Stuart
The Scottish Open Golf Championship has been held at Castle Stuart four times.
The Scottish Open 2011 - Play was reduced to 54 holes in the tournament due to heavy rain, which caused flooding and landslides. Mike Stewart the tournament director said he was optimistic the event could be concluded on Sunday. If not, rounds would have to finish on Monday; an annoyance to those players who were planning an early arrival at Royal St George's. When spectators were eventually allowed back in for the planned completion of the second round, they were prohibited from viewing five holes, on safety grounds. A day earlier, two members of the watching gallery had suffered broken legs. Another point relates to the Open the following week at Sandwich. A host of high-profile players returned to the Scottish Open at this course because it had reverted from Loch Lomond to a links venue. Given the weather inflicted shortened format and such lengthy stoppages in play, this tournament was hardly perfect preparation for a major. It did not seem to concern Luke Donald who won comfortably by four shots.
The Scottish Open 2012 - India’s Jeev Milkha Singh claimed the 2012 Scottish Open and a British Open start after birdying the first playoff hole to defeat Italy’s Francesco Molinari. The 40-year-old was five shots behind overnight leader Molinari going into the final round and finished even with him on 17 under after shooting a 5 under 67. Singh said after his fourth European Tour title. “I have always loved links golf. You need to use imagination and intelligence.” “Coming from India I didn’t know a lot about it but I just love it.”
Scotland’s Marc Warren, hoping to become only the second home-grown champion, was leading by two strokes with three holes to play but three-putted the 16th hole for a double bogey and then had to take a penalty drop on his way to a bogey at 17.
The Scottish Open 2013 - Phil Mickelson survived a challenge from Henrik Stenson before a playoff with Branden Grace to win the 2013 Scottish Open, his first European victory after 20 years. Mickelson almost let the tournament slip with a bogey on the 72nd hole, but recovered to win on the first playoff hole. He started with an interesting front nine of his own, first with a double bogey and then birdied the hole where Hansen had carded a nine. He gave the shot right back with a bogey on three before knocking in three straight birdies and finding some consistency. The story was much of the same for Stenson, who entered the round with a two-stroke lead at 16-under par. He had two bogeys and two birdies on the front nine, which would normally be an acceptable start, but the scoring conditions allowed the field to catch up.
The Scottish Open 2016 - Alex Noren held off his pursuers in the final round on Sunday to win the Scottish Open by one shot for his fifth victory on the European Tour. The Swede shot a 2 under 70 to finish on 14 under, total 274, with playing partner Tyrrell Hatton (69) the runner up at Castle Stuart. Nicolas Colsaerts (66), Danny Lee (69) and Matteo Manassero (70) were two shots back. Hatton, Colsaerts, Manassero and Richie Ramsay took the final four qualification places for next week's British Open at Royal Troon. Noren began the day with a two-shot lead, which disappeared after a bogey at No. 8 that left him tied with Lee. The 33-year-old Noren birdied Nos. 12 and 15 to go two shots in front again, and a par at the par-5 last was enough to win.