Tarbat is a course I have long wanted to play but previous visits to Dornoch and travels through Inverness have not quite worked out in my favour to squeeze a quick loop at this nine-hole* links course which dates back to 1909.
I was therefore thrilled to finally play it this October and what a little charmer it is.
The reason for the asterisk next to ‘nine-hole’ is that this is not entirely true because there are in fact 10 holes at this rustic and rugged links. The 7th and 16th are two separate short holes which are only played once as opposed to the other eight holes which are played twice. It all adds up to 5,188 yards and a par of 68.
The best of the golf at Portmahomack comes in the final five holes with some terrific undulating terrain. The eighth is an outstanding golf hole with a brilliant rumpled fairway before you play to a raised green with lots of movement and fits its surrounds perfectly.
However, there is much to enjoy before we get to this point and the short holes, of which there are three all told, are worthy of special mention. Both the one-shotters I mentioned earlier are very good (and different) whilst the other short hole (the 5th/14th) is also a treat with a cunning little green.
Holes two, three and four don’t enjoy the best of the linksland but they are still decent holes and the putting surfaces add much interest, as they do throughout the round. The sixth is a fine hole along the edge of the course although the first time round you may not quite know where you are going!
Portmahomack is a lovely, homely seaside village track and so long as you accept courses like Tarbat for what they are you will never fail to be impressed.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.