To our surprise there were around a dozen Yanks milling around the clubhouse, some on the putting green, others just paying their green-fee. We were on a tight schedule and had been hoping for a quick 2-ball round of golf at a deserted links; a moments delay now could result in serious consequences.
We were pegging it up in The Club’s 125th Anniversary ’Walk On’ Open and after a double bogey start my playing partner was most likely cursing me for making us effectively jump the queue, push-in and sprint to the first tee.
Reay is a golf course that I had not been able to find much information out about so hopefully if you have stumbled across this review you are perhaps in the same boat as me and I can therefore shed some light on the course. If you are short on time right now the quick answer is simply ‘go there’ because it offers plenty of very good golf.
The longer answer will hopefully explain why it is worth making what is most likely a very long (and beautiful) journey to this authentic links course on the North Coast of Scotland around 15 miles west of Thurso.
Its location on the North Coast 500 route will hopefully result in more golfers visiting this community orientated club which was founded in 1893 but owes its present layout to James Braid who made modifications in 1933.
I maintain that all a ‘good’ links course requires is firm turf, natural undulations, a few changes in elevation and some decent green complexes. Reay has got the lot and if you factor in the glorious location, and the panoramic views, it offers more than many.
It is a genuine links which is subtle and simple at times (but all the better for that) whilst at other moments the land is more dramatic and the golf more fun and exciting. It all adds up to great variety and with the exception of the less-linksy second hole and a minor blip mid-way through the back-nine (approach shot to 14 and the short 15th) there is a tremendous amount of very good golf.
The front-nine is your ‘classic links’ whilst the back-nine is more undulating, unorthodox and at times quirky (reminiscent of Bude & North Cornwall in South-West England for those who are familiar). There are a few excellent short two-shotters on the homeward stretch which make superb use of the terrain; the 16th and 17th are superb risk reward holes. The green sites throughout are very good and at times exceptional.
With the exception of the non-descript 15th the short holes are wonderful. At 235-yards the 1st is a real toughie to start the day with (especially when you’re out of breath) and the eye-catching 7th with a diagonal, plateau green is no less demanding but this is then mixed with the pretty 5th - where you tee off from a picnic-spot location close to the beach on the edge of a dune-strip which runs the length of the course and offers tantalising glimpses of the sea - and also the fine 9th, again close to the coast. The last is also a one-shotter and boasts an excellent green complex with a couple of treacherous bunkers at the front.
The rough was a little penal in places but I assume there is not a large team of green staff and the greens didn’t run as quickly nor as truly as hoped for but this didn’t detract greatly from our visit. It would have been nice to put on better surfaces because the contouring of the greens is more than impressive.
The 18 holes play to a yardage of 5,854 and par is 69. It’s not a long course but it doesn’t need to be. Reay is far from the finished article but holds lots of promise and possible plays better than it looks.
As we left the carpark I noted the last group of Americans were just finishing the front-nine! We had made it just in time.
I paid a measly £12.50 to play the course and to say I got value-for-money is a massive understatement. The daily green-fee of £30 would have been more than palatable. For anyone considering taking the risk to visit unknown Reay then the answer is most definitely yes.
The second course at Trevose very rarely crops in conversation but during a family holiday to the Cornish Resort I made sure to play it.
The third course at Trevose, aptly named the "Short Course" is just 1,360 yards.