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Robert Ratcliffe, Director & General Manager, Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch

This week Dornoch is buzzing with golfing visitors as the town celebrates in right Royal fashion.

As part of the celebrations to mark 400 years of the game being played on the famous links, the Royal Dornoch Golf Club is hosting an event to share with their royal namesakes around the world.


It is the biggest gathering of ‘royal’ clubs ever organised. Of the 66 clubs around the world with the royal title, 57 have accepted invitations to visit the Highlands and join the celebrations, with around 300 people arriving here in the next few days from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.

It is adding to the vibrancy and cosmopolitan feel to the town during the tourist season. And, with visitors travelling, and playing, in other parts of the Highlands during their stay, it’s a fantastic boost to the economy of the area and a great way of showcasing the golfing riches we have in the north of Scotland.

Hopefully it will lead to further increases in playing visitors. The club has already experienced a five per cent rise in visitor numbers this year and this benefits a number of local businesses in and around the town.

On the back of other events like the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and the Home Internationals at Nairn, the Highlands is enjoying a period of extensive worldwide exposure which can only benefit the area in the longer term.

This week the focus will be on Dornoch which takes great pride in its history and heritage, being one of the oldest locations where golf has been played in Scotland.

The first known reference of golf being played in Dornoch is in 1616 when John, the 13th Earl of Sutherland, was sent to school in the town and his expenses showed that ten pounds annually was provided for “bowes, arroes, golff clubbes, and balls, with other necessars for his [Lordship’s] exercise”.

The golf club was formed in 1877 and was granted a Royal charter in 1906 by King Edward VII, a close friend of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland and a frequent visitor to the area.

The royal connection has helped enhance the club’s reputation worldwide. The events this week and through the year of celebrations are commemorating this historic honour and recognising how golf has helped shape the town over 400 years, while also demonstrating that it is still a huge economic driver.