Polly and I played the 18 hole Struie Course at Royal Dornoch GC after I'd played the nearby Bonar Bridge Ardgay course on 22 August 2012. I've played the Championship Course at Royal Dornoch a few times and in my view it fully deserves its reputation as amongst the very best of courses. The Royal Dornoch Championship course has been rated the best links course in the UK, the Number 1 Course in the Scottish Highlands, Number 3 in Scotland, Number 4 in the UK and 13th best in the World. The Struie is a decent enough links course with some really good holes, but I doubt whether it fully merits its listing as Number 18 in the Scottish Highlands, according to www.top100golfcourses.co.uk above courses such as Hopeman, Wick and Durness. Such ranking lists are of course highly subjective and in my view are only a general guide to the quality of any particular course, best not to be taken too seriously.
The Struie was remodelled around 2000/2001 using parts of the former Ladies Course at Royal Dornoch to provide a second 18 hole links course more suitable to higher handicappers young and old, and members wishing an alternative to the demands of the Championship Course. Struie is thus a more manageable 5727 Yards, Par 71 off the Yellow Tees. The course starts brightly with a really good opening 318 Yard Par 4 with an awkward shelf of a green tucked below the 18th green (best to wait until that clears unless you're really accurate!) and a tricky 111 Yard Par 3, as shown here. This hole is called "Caddies Well" after unsurprisingly, the drinking well formerly used by caddies to the front left of the 2nd Tee. Note the rain in the distance. The forecast was for occasional heavy showers which, as we would discover, was deadly accurate.
Holes 3-7 and 12-17 are pretty flat and unspectacular and in my view the holes nearer the Dornoch Firth from 8-11 is probably the most interesting and exposed section of the course. We'd been tracking some threatening rain clouds to the West of the course and with a strengthening wind from that direction it looked as though we would be very lucky to avoid a good soaking, so we were pleased to see a shelter in the far distance somewhere beyond the 9th green (and beside the 12th tee as we would later discover). The 9th is a 469 Yard Par 5 played directly into the prevailing West wind. We decided to try to make it to the shelter before the storm did and I was really pleased to make par in a little over 3 minutes!
The shelter had been kindly donated as a memorial to a former member and was a very welcome relief. Polly commented that it looked as though the storm would pass us by, so we risked playing Holes 10 and 11. This is a view of the approaching storm from the 10th Tee. By then the wind was really whipping around us and although the 10th is a flat 374 Yards, I was still just short of the green after 2 solid strikes with the Driver. The 11th by contrast is 286 Yards downwind and almost drivable. I guess the real rain started as we left the 11th green, so we made it back to the shelter just in time to avoid a hosing for the next 20 minutes. Standing water everywhere as we squelched our way back to the clubhouse on the homeward stretch of holes. This being Scotland, the Sun was beating down from a clear blue sky by the time we finished our round.
The 18th at Struie is a really difficult 118 Yard Par 3, played slightly uphill to a plateau green that slopes wickedly from back to front and is by far the most difficult putting surface to read on the whole course. For Polly, the Ladies Tee brought a pond and a deep bunker to the right of the green more into play. I'll not quote her views in their entirety, but she felt that the Ladies Tee was "ridiculously more difficult" and that the tees should be switched to give the ladies a better chance. She'd already beaten me in our annual Summer Trophy competition, taking the score to 6.5 to 6 in her favour (and some time later after a refreshment in the 19th she was still berating the 18th layout!)
The Struie is as I've said a decent enough course in its own right but for me, it's somewhat over-shadowed by the magnificence of the Championship course. I'd love to play the Championship Course again sometime, but as and when I do, I doubt I'd give Struie another try. I've played it and scored a poor and tired 90 gross, net 79 with 33 putts and I'm content to leave it at that.