Forgotten Golfing Greens Of Scotland
 Forgotten Golfing Greens Of Scotland

Sutherland's Private Courses.

The following Private courses have been identified in Sutherland:


Balnacoil Lodge


Dunrobin Castle


Gualin Lodge


Skibo Castle


Tressady Lodge

Balnacoil Lodge

The lodge with the former course in the foreground

Balnacoil Lodge, Nr Brora. A nine-hole course in the grounds in front of the lodge

Dunrobin Castle Golf Course

Rosshire Journal October 14th, 1904


The Duke Of Sutherland has decided to lay out a private golf course at Dunrobin. Mr J. Sutherland, secretary of Dornoch golf club has been entrusted with the work of laying out the new course. The Duke, the Duchess, and Mrs Chaplin, his grace’s niece, are ardent votaries of the Royal and Ancient game.


John Sutherland


John Sutherland – John Sutherland was born in 1864 the son of a Dornoch shoemaker. He began playing golf at 14 and was admitted to the club three years later, making scratch at once. Sutherland was appointed secretary in 1883 – a position he held for an amazing 58 years. Sutherland first competed in the Amateur Championship in 1891 at St. Andrews, and was a consistent attendant for the next 20 years. If there had been a prize for distance travelled most years he would have won it.

John Sutherland

No one knows precisely when golf began at Dornoch, records indicate the game had been played there as far back as 1630. We do know the ‘modern’ game came to Dornoch in the 1870s with a nine-hole golf course. The Dornoch Golf Club was officially founded in 1877. In 1886 Old Tom Morris was engaged to layout a proper golf course, staking out a new nine thus extending the course to 18 holes. Sutherland carried out this work over the next few years. Old Tom deserves credit for getting things started but without question Dornoch was Sutherland’s long term project. Throughout his tenure he continually improved the courses including a major redesign in 1904, which included extending the ladies course to 18 holes.

In 1902 Golf Illustrated wrote of Sutherland: “He has given great service in laying out and altering, not only his own green but many of those in the neighbourhood.” Sutherland was invited in 1891 by the newly formed Brora Golf Club to layout a nine-hole golf course. He returned to Brora in 1902 and extended the links to 18 holes. That same year he laid out Skibo a private course for none other than Andrew Carnegie. In addition to Carnegie’s private course Sutherland designed and built private golf courses for the Duke of Portland at Langwell, the Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin and Mr. Eric Chaplin at Stoer.

Sutherland taught the game to future professionals Donald Ross, Alec Morrison and Tom Grant, and this quote from The Scotsman may indicate which pupil he favoured, “John Sutherland I know was proud of the Dornoch boys who carried the fame of his native town across the Atlantic.” One wonders what impact he may have had upon Ross the golf architect. As a young man Ross was both an apprentice to a building contractor and one of the best amateur golfers in the region. Members of the club urged him to go to St.Andrews to learn club-making, however his family wanted him to continue in the trade of carpentry. When the club promised to make him their professional, his parents consented and he was off to St. Andrews and Forgan’s golf shop for a brief apprenticeship. From 1893 to 1899 Ross was Dornoch’s first professional and presumably worked closely with Sutherland, who acted as the club’s secretary and greenkeeper (Sutherland was a self-taught expert in agronomy whose advice was sought throughout the UK). It is difficult to say to what extent Sutherland influenced Ross but it appears at the very least he laid his foundation.

In addition to his club responsibilities, John Sutherland was the Town Clerk, and beyond his public duties he advised Lord Rothermore and WT Tyser of Gordonbush on financial matters. He was also a successful Estate Agent. Sutherland even found time to write the golf notes for The Daily News, and contributed several articles to Golf Illustrated. Through his writing Sutherland was largely responsible for publicizing this islolated gem, and as a result the course attracted an impressive list of pilgrims including the Newton, Joyce and Roger Wethered, John Low, JH Taylor, Ernest Holderness and others. John Sutherland died suddenly at his home Golf View in 1941.

Gualin Lodge

Gualin Lodge, between Rhiconich and Durness. A 9-hole course on the estate, once owned by the Duke of Sutherland.   (AB) 

Skibo Castle Old Course

Skibo Castle, Sutherland.  A 9-hole course, on the Cuthill Links, laid out in 1898 by John Sutherland, Secretary of Dornoch GC, in the grounds, belonging to Andrew Carnegie

Scotsman September 26th 1898


Opening of a new Golf Course At Skibo.   .


   "Skibo golf course was opened last week by the little daughter of the proprietor. The course is situated four miles south west from the famous Dornoch Links : in fact, these links are a continuation of the same belt of sandy bent land on the Skibo estates. They are separated from woodlands by the river Evolex, a burn of no mean size, not unknown to heavy spates in the winter. Over this water Mr Andrew Carnegie has caused to be constructed a stout footbridge, 40 yards long, made of pine beams, and capable of resisting the pressure of a moderately heavy volume of water.

   The ceremony of opening this bridge and the adjoining golf course last Thursday afternoon was probably unique. Mr Carnegie and party arrived at the waters edge, preceded by the castle piper, who, playing his pipes, led the way across the bridge : the baby’s coach followed, the castle party, workmen, and castle estate servants bringing up the rear, arrived at the first teeing ground the millionaires child was lifted from her coach, and Mrs Thomson, one of the castle visitors, guided her chubby hands to the handle of the club.

Margaret Carnegie, as a baby, opening Skibo golf course by playing the 1st hole, helped by Betty Thompson and Nana.


Little wonder a hearty round of applause greeted her first shot

   “ The iron King” thereafter made an interesting speech, referring to the bridge as being the first work done by him on his Sutherland property, and to the agreeable relations which he hoped to see in the future established between laird, tenants, and all others connected in any way with Skibo.

   A picnic feast terminated the proceedings. Mr Carnegie has already set about preparing a library for his village of Clashmere, and extensive improvements are about to begin at the castle."                        (S 26.9.1898). 

 Scotsman April 7th 1904 


 "No visitor to Dornoch leaves the district without making an effort to see the stately castle where Mr Andrew Carnegie has made his Scottish home, and the golfer, naturally turns his steps in the direction of the Skibo Private Links. A few minutes drive from the castle, past the gorgeous swimming baths, with their interior of solid marble, brings one to the little club – house by the links, neatly constructed in rustic fashion. Mr Carnegie’s recreations out of doors consist chiefly in fishing and golfing. He is indeed a keen golfer. His club – house and links bear all the appearance of it. The walls of the club room are hung with golfing pictures, including Lee’s well known “ A grand match at golf” in which Sir David Baird, Bart, and Sir Ralph Anstruther, Bart, are engaged in a foursome with Major Playfair and Mr John Campbell of Saddell, and in which also figures a former proprietor of Skibo.

   The Skibo lairds sense of the humorous and his appreciation of a good joke are reflected in the fact that a prominent position has been given to a framed page of “ Golf Illustrated” with the cartoon by “ E.M.,” which appeared immediately after the Hoylake Open Championship of 1902. Some time prior to the championship, it may be recalled, Mr Hilton had written something to the effect that Herd was off his game. Herd, as it turned out, won the championship with a score of 307. Mr Hilton took 314. The clever cartoon shows herd ( No 307 ) Ringing up No 314.“You there, Mr Hilton ?

Aweel, wha said decadence ? A’m Sandy Herd ye ken” The picture, with due appropriateness, has been hung over the telephone instrument communicating with Skibo Castle.

   On the links are again seen traces of the handiwork of Mr John Sutherland, who has done so much for golf, and golfers in the north. Mr Sutherland, indeed, laid out the private green of nine holes,which affords Mr Carnegie and his friends, and those about the estate, to whom he is kindly granted the privilege of playing, many pleasant hours at the Royal and Ancient Game. Needless to say, the nicely situated course by the side of the Dornoch firth is kept in tip top order."  

Carnegie and friends at Skibo Links
Carnegie at At Andrews Golf Club, Yonkers, New York

Following Andrew Carnegie’s death in 1919, the links became fallow.


In 1992 a new 18-hole course was laid out for the Carnegie Club on the Cuthill Links, but little of the original layout was used.

Wait a minute, that's my missus, how the hell did she get inside Skibo ?. Obviously got friends in high places !!

Tressady Lodge Golf Course


Coming Soon being prepared at present

This course was visited by the rich and famous and the naughty too !!!

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