A Day at Castle Stuart
(To read my overall thoughts, check out the first entry to this series, Scotland in Summer.)
Once our Itinerary was set, I was able to plan my golf days. With our first major stop in Inverness, my Scottish golf adventure soon began. Located on the Moray Firth, a little north of Inverness, Castle Stuart was the newest of the Courses I would play.
Opened in 2009, this Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse designed gem has become the regular host of the The Aberedeen Scottish Open. Overall I would say this was the best experience I had on my trip. It was evident from the minute I exited my rental that the staff at Castle Stuart was ready to make my day a memorable one.
I arrived about an hour and a half before my 9:30 tee time not knowing what to expect. I was quickly greeted by a club house attendant who gave me a brief layout of the grounds. David and I usually talk about everything a facility has to offer and it is with that aim that I will break up this review.
One of the first things you will see when googling Castle Stuart, besides the Famed Castle itself, is the building housing the Pro shop and Restaurant. The pro shop was small for such a big building with not much apparel to speak of. The restaurant; however, was top notch with large windows overlooking the Moray Firth and an expansive putting green. Many a picture was taken from my seat both at breakfast and lunch. The atmosphere was great, and I am sure that had I been with friends, we could have spent all afternoon enjoying a pint and a laughing with the staff.
I am a big stickler for practice facilities, and it almost always factors in to our ratings. The practice facilities at Castle Stuart were pretty good. Although I’m typically not a fan of turf mats, a ton of rain made it necessary for my warm up. The range allowed expansive space to hit towards multiple targets.
Next up was the chipping green. It was here that I got my first notice of a true links build. The greens had a noticeable thump and hollow sound as my chip shots hit and skidded. Though small, it still gave me a number of options to get a feel for turf conditions and how my ball would react
The practice green was the star of the facility. Lots of space and multiple mounds made it fun to roam around and hit putts. After about 15 minutes my caddie, young Andrew, collected me and showed me to the starter’s hut.
There I was given my instructions for play, a gift bag, yardage book, and scorecard. Because a tournament had gone off 2 hours prior, I had the entire front 9 to myself. The course itself was in wonderful condition from tee to green. Being the most expensive of my rounds, I expected nothing less. Each tee box allowed for various options with which to play the hole. It didn’t take Andrew long to start suggesting lines off the tee, which I attempted to follow. Being a links style course, the greens were large and quick. Hitting to the wrong portion was a guaranteed 3 putt for this horrific putter.
The opening stretch was magnificent. A par 5 sandwiched between 2 par fours all along the Firth. The 4th hole, the first par 3, and brought with it the view of Castle Stuart itself. The rest of the Front 9 was fairly straight forward links golf with various hills and bunkers, highlighted by the Par 3 8th and a really fun 9th which ran back up to the club house.
After a quick stop at the starters shack, where I was offered a complimentary shot of Ballantine’s whiskey, I proceeded to what I feel was the better of the 2 nines. A par 3,4 and 5, also bordered the waterway start the back 9, and the imagery was again spectacular. The 12th was a personal highlight as it was my first birdie in Scotland. After the 12th, was a long walk up to 13 and lots of great elevation change. The finishing stretch back along the water way but up along the cliffs was a great end to my round. The 18th was a fantastic finishing hole, which put a great end to my day.
With great bunkers, smooth, well maintained greens, and A fun layout, Castle Stuart was a great start to my Scottish golfing adventure. The staff was friendly and my caddy was excellent. It definitely set the tone for a memorable trip across the Island.