Mark Parsinen.jpeg


by Mark Parsinen

Errors & Recovery, Choice & Nuance, Visual Experience – and our Course Guide 

Scotland, the home of golf. History and diversity make Scottish golf courses famous throughout the world. As Turnberry is to Ayrshire and Gleneagles is to Perthshire, Castle Stuart has been conceived to be for the Highlands – a beacon reaching out to golfers throughout the world.

The centrepiece for this Scottish destination golf resort is Castle Stuart Golf Links, a championship links course overlooking the Moray Firth and well-known landmarks that are synonymous with Inverness and the Black Isle – Kessock Bridge and Chanonry Lighthouse perhaps the most notable. The resort will include a bespoke Golf Hotel, a small luxury Hotel & Spa, ‘resort-ownership’ Lodges & Apartments, plus a second Seaside Course.

Castle Stuart’s goal is to add to the rich fabric of golf in the Scottish Highlands – a fabric made rich by Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Brora, and many other fine Scottish golf clubs.

Welcome to Castle Stuart Golf Links, the ‘beginning and cornerstone’ for more to come in the way of our destination golf resort. The cornerstone links course enjoys a setting and topography that combine to make the golf experience visually memorable. The golf holes are 18 compositions that place the notable landmarks of the Moray Firth directly into the player’s perspective.

For the holes immediately abutting the sea, the Kessock Bridge, Chanonry Lighthouse, Fort George (home of the Black Watch) and Castle Stuart itself are often seen directly through the shotmaking frame. Atop the ‘old sea cliff’ these same Black Isle landmarks are often presented from towering heights that offer palpably different and perhaps even more spectacular visual aspects. It would be impossible not to enjoy these Highland landmarks when seen through greens with seemingly nothing beyond but a shimmering firth and the landmark itself.

Surrounding the golfer is a rugged and natural landscape comprised of vast expanses of gorse, broom, heather, and sea marram. This mosaic often tightly frames the vistas beyond and combines an immediacy of natural surrounds with a grand sense of distant vistas. Enjoying the visual experience on any given hole is a private pleasure as other holes and conflicting inland views are out of sight. Castle Stuart’s presentation of its manicured playing surface within its rugged natural beauty harkens back to a simpler era of golf, the ‘transitional period’ 1890 to 1935. Wayward shots and thin wispy fescue and pockets of bare sand where balls are easily found and recoveries manageable.

The bunkering is characterised more by open sandy areas with pockets of light vegetation than by formally revetted (stacked sod or turf) manicured bunkers. And from some tees and greens, the 1930s style white ‘Art Deco’ clubhouse can be seen sitting prominently atop its
viewing perch.

All in all Castle Stuart can be described as a throwback to golf as it once was – a simple walk through pleasing natural surrounds with some companionable and competitive rules attached to it.

Errors & Recovery
We have sought to promote an expansive mindset during play, to minimise time spent looking for lost golf balls, to create greens that allow for aggressive and confident putting, and to present a pleasurable setting for all to enjoy during their round of golf. Castle Stuart itself reflects an appreciation that the game of golf is more about error and recovery than it is about perfection. Its ethos is more about redemption than punishment. It reflects a perspective derived from the play of the 190 top professionals for whom statistics are readily available.

Consider their facts per round, on average, out on tour. ‘Fairways hit’ … only 9 of 14. ‘Greens hit in regulation’ … only 12 of 18. ‘Up and down’ success rate … only 3 of 6. ‘Final result’ … 3 birdies, 12 pars, 3 bogies, even par score. The facts reveal a game of error and recovery, perhaps the most underrated and yet interesting part of the game. The texture of recovery issues after the inevitable error is an important characteristic that often defines the personality of a golf course. How engaging are the recovery circumstances? Is there variety to the type of issues encountered? Are there interesting options available? Can a player demonstrate skill with his recoveries? Do the issues favour one class of player more than another? Does judgment in light of personal tendencies matter with regard to decisions taken? And perhaps most importantly, do the circumstances elicit hope that something good can yet happen despite the compromised situation? And as a result, is each and every golfer as pleasurably absorbed as possible, errors or not?

‘Ball-in-pocket and disengaged’, often the result of unrelenting difficulty, is a reality and state of mind that we think should be kept to a minimum. We believe the most cherished courses in the world keep each golfer in his or her competitive ‘hunt’ throughout the entirety of their round of golf, while also providing a pleasurable forum for friendly and companionable banter – one unmatched by any other sporting activity. We have taken our lead from great courses of this nature and the robust playing experience they elicit.

Castle Stuart embraces wide latitude of play off tees. The question is often not about getting the ball in play but rather about finding where advantages can be had. Further, Castle Stuart does not confine seeking advantage solely to the long hitting player. Favourable approach angles into greens can often be found with driving lines and distances that are not likely to appeal to long hitting players.

The use of edge contours (versus bunkers) to defend greens at Castle Stuart makes recovery issues manageable for those of lesser skills while often retaining a testy quality for the accomplished player. The course is more about interesting and manageable issues than difficulty for the sake of being difficult. It is about hope and redemption.

Choice & Nuance
At Castle Stuart Golf Links, an individual’s play can be approached in many ways. A few overall approaches are to be considered. A golfer can decide to go for the ‘fat part’ of generous fairways, let his tee shot go, and then take on whatever issue he’s left with. Or he can use his eye to read the course to whatever depth his mind and skill set will allow. Meaningful nuances and choices are there to be discovered. The greens, their surrounds, and pin locations at Castle Stuart spawn issues and challenges worthy of tactical consideration on the tee.

Castle Stuart is not a ‘kick it through the uprights’ type of golf course. Its holes can be evaluated tactically from the tee in consideration of the ‘whole’ and approached with that entirety in mind. Greens, surrounds, and pin locations can be seen and evaluated from most tees at Castle Stuart. And when the most salient issues are there to be read as quickly and easily as the simplest of billboards, then this course can ‘talk’ to the golfer – and with further looks, it can even ‘whisper’ intimate details. No map is necessary – just a good eye and an ability to ‘look’, ‘listen’, and to ‘choose’. With whatever approach selected and whatever skill level brought bear, it is best to remember the absorbing fun that is there to be found.

We also realise how important pre-and-post golf activities are to an overall ‘golf experience’. We have embraced a total experience that starts with your arrival, a question-quieting approach to the clubhouse and what lies beyond. The proximity of the practice range to the golf shop, restaurant, locker rooms, and golf course is readily apparent. A warm welcome invites use of our full range of clubhouse amenities, a wee warm up on the practice range, the holing of a few putts before play, and the enjoyment of a complete meal or drink in the comfortable and friendly atmosphere of the clubhouse.  

And we haven’t forgotten how important panoramic clubhouse vistas of both the course and the landmarks of the Moray Firth are to the full pre-and-post programme – a total experience that should lead to enduring memories. On a golf odyssey, what can be more important than fond memories savoured for a lifetime?

Thank you to all of our visitors at Castle Stuart Golf Links.

We’ll see you in the bar.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 23.47.20.png