We'd been planning to play at nearby Invergordon GC after our round at Alness on 21 August 2012, but lightning and torrential rain as we approached Invergordon led to a change of plan. I'd been planning to play the 9 hole course at Tarbat GC and a couple of other courses the next day, so with the weather looking decidedly changeable, I thought that a quick round at Tarbat might be more advisable. I'll need to play Invergordon GC some other time. Tarbat GC is in the tiny fishing village of Portmahomack, a few miles East of Tain, where were based for a second night. I'd been expecting Tarbat to be quite an unpretentious 9 hole village course. OK, it's in a village and is certainly unpretentious, with a modest little clubhouse and honesty box system, but it's actually a 10 hole course and one of the best small courses I've played in ages. I'd also been expecting it to be a parkland course, but with fast running sand-based fairways and greens this was clearly a links layout. It was also in fantastic condition and an absolute joy to play.
The scorecard shows Holes 1-9 as 2313 Yards, Par 34, but when the course is played as 18 Holes, Holes 1-6 and 17 and 18 are played twice, with the 124 Yard Par 3 7th Hole being played only on the Front 9 and replaced on the Back 9 by a completely separate 155 Yard Par 3 16th Hole. I didn't have time to play 18 Holes, so I played Holes 1-9 and 16 once each. Accordingly, I played all 10 holes as a 2468 Yard course, Par 37. I played with Ray, a local member who had just started playing golf and who's very lucky to have such a great wee course to learn on.
Tarbat starts with a couple of modest Par 4s of under 300 yards made trickier by the small fast and sloping greens and really gets going on the 3rd, a testing 385 Yard Par 4. The best hole is probably the 8th, a slightly downhill 265 Yard Par 4 with a really awkward green that's hard to find and hold, as shown here. I bogeyed that hole, but played well overall to go round in 39, 2 strokes over the par of 37 for the 10 holes with 15 putts, or net 4 under par. Tarbat is a wee bit off the well beaten track to the world-famous links at Royal Dornoch GC, but is definitely worth the short detour.
I suppose what I liked most about Tarbat was the peace and tranquillity of the place on a perfect Summer's afternoon, with good golf and good company and only the odd skylark as a distraction. I don't really know why Tarbat has 10 holes and it somehow didn't seem relevant to ask Ray about that. I was just glad that it did. I strongly recommend that you make the effort to play here and enjoy the peace and quiet. This is the 5th, with a river and an old castle in the background. Again, I don't know their names, but they certainly fit the background to a lovely little course that I hope to play again sometime. Mind you, 2 over par would be a difficult score to beat!