Situated on the Chanonry Peninsula – a narrow protrusion off the Scottish coast – Fortrose enjoys an enviable position to the north-east of Inverness. Although short, it is packed with hazards and small greens that putt beautifully albeit with some subtle borrows. The lack of length may look inviting to some, but the wayward ‘bomber’ will rapidly come to grief here. It is conclusive proof that courses do not have to be 7,000 yards long to test you to the limit of your abilities.
With plenty of gorse and some unpleasantly deep bunkers, you will be more delighted than usual to find yourself on the excellent greens. At first glance it seems impossible that 18 holes have been squeezed into this piece of land without cost of the layout but they have and it is a genuine treat.
It is fun but only in a sense of more cracking scenery – there is even a dolphin sanctuary in the adjacent firth – gorgeous short par 4s and, as in the previous three rounds, a piece of land that was made to play golf on.
Gorse lines the first three holes and then on to the stroke-one, 455-yard par-five 4th. The piece of advice the secretary passed on before NCG took to the links was to hit a 4-iron here from the tee and, after reaching the 200-yard mark, unseen from the tee, the ground falls away sharply into gorse and rough.
This hole is all about the 3rd, which is fired towards the lighthouse and an undulating green. The next, only a flick downwind, is one of the best short holes and proof that length is not a staple requirement for a testing par three.
You can open your shoulders from here on in and small, subtle and superb greens are the real defence. Off the regular tees there are seven par fours around the 300 yards so there is scope for the odd eagle putt if you are a long hitter. And subsequent three putt.
Fun, when describing a golf course, is often another way of saying gimmicky or quirky which this certainly isn’t. It is fun but only in a sense of more cracking scenery – there is even a dolphin sanctuary in the adjacent firth – gorgeous short par 4s and a piece of land that was made to play golf on.
Aside from the odd steam train or waves breaking on the shore the only sound often to be heard is a faraway fourball and, even then, you have to listen very carefully.