The Carnegie Club Golf Club

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My journey here has been fraught with peril. Snow has fallen so heavily over the Highland roads it's a wonder a 4x4 can make it through, let alone my tiny hatchback.

As the minutes turn into hours it feels like I may never arrive at my hidden destination and even if I do, the Arctic conditions will deny me many of the pleasures I know should be lying in wait.

So how can it be that barely an hour after my arrival at Skibo Castle, while the rest of the country shivers in Long Johns, I'm playing golf on the historic Carnegie Club links in just my shirt sleeves? The answer wasn't apparent immediately, while the best conclusion initially sounds too far-fetched. Nevertheless, I must consider it: Magic is the explanation. For there is an aura that surrounds Skibo; the unique 'feel' that is unmistakable to all that have paid a visit.

Possibly the most exclusive and beautiful members' club in the British Isles, the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle appears almost untouched, both by the passage of time and the maelstrom that had most of Scotland in its icy grip. It's Latin name of 'Scythebolle' roughly translates to 'land of fairies' and Skibo Castle itself immediately enchants as it looms large through the tree-lined driveway.

It's grand, even imposing from the outside but once you pass through the doors for the first time you are, at once, at home. There's no reception desk. Instead you are warmly greeted by a cordial host who seems genuinelly delighted to meet you. It is precisely as if you are an old friend returning to a favourite haunt.

For the first-time visitor to the former home of Andrew Carnegie, every corner is packed with curiosity. An ornate central staircase winds up to the first floor, while as many of the original furnishings and great paintings as possible were repurchased when the castle was awkened from decades of slumber by Peter de Savary in the 1990s.

Jacuzzis, a steam room and sauna are always popular, but the piece de resistance, for me, is the wonderful 20m indoor pool. Very much a sun-trap, the air of relaxation is indicated nowhere better than under the water, where soothing, oriental music is piped beneath the surface to give a most exhilarating experience.

Also visible from the rear is the Creek Golf and Yacht Club - one of Dubai's most majestic courses and the host of the Dubai Desert Classic in 1999 and 2000. The iconic clubhouse stands out as a uniquely traditional piece of architecture in such space-age surroundings.

The course itself is suitably mesmerising, impeccably presented and, at times, monstrously challenging. Fairways are narrow and even slightly askew shots inevitably end up half-buried in the wonderfully springy, but infuriatingly thick, Bermuda grass. It is possible to strike the ball crisply all day and still come away with a score over a hundred due to the truly tough hazards which dominate the course, particularly on the back nine.

The greens, of course, are very much in the world-class bracket. So fast, so true, it can be like putting on the green baize of a snooker table at the Crucible, or even over a sheet of glass. End up on the wrong side of the hole and four putts can blight the card and darken the soul. Given it's a desert course, it is perhaps surprising that the bunkers are the weak link.

The shallow covering of course, gritty substance does not make up-and-downs an easy task. The two closing holes are undoubtedly the highlight of an already celestial outing. Lying tight against the creek, with the clubhouse looming large in the vista, any lapse can result in a catastrophic finish.

The wind inevitably whips in off the water, putting extra pressure on each shot and the clubhouse can come as a welcome safehouse - from the heat and the battle to keep a decent score going.


Golf Course Details:

Yardage: 6671
Number Of Holes: 18
Par: 71
Club Pro: D Thomson
Green Fees: £120.00 per round
Club Shop: Yes
Tee off times: Find available tee times
View more golf courses in Caithness & Sutherland

Address & Contact Details:

Main Contact:
Address: Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Caithness & Sutherland, IV25 3RQ
Map: View directions for The Carnegie Club Golf Club
Telephone: 01862 894600

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