Golf: Home in the Highlands

  • The eight-room Links House sits adjacent to the first tee at Royal Dornoch in Scotland’s remote Sutherland county.
  • The first tee at Royal Dornoch
<< Back to Robb Report, July 2013
  • Scott Armstrong

Scotland’s Royal Dornoch Golf Club has long been considered one of the world’s great courses. But the location of the Old Tom Morris design—in the remote Highlands county of Sutherland—has kept the club off the itineraries of most golf pilgrimages to the British Isles. That could change with the opening of Links House at Royal Dornoch, an exclusive boutique hotel so close to the course that you can toss a ball from the inn’s putting green onto the first tee—underhanded.

A longtime dream of the American investor and Royal Dornoch member Todd Warnock, Links House opened in June as the first luxury accommodation in this isolated stretch along the North Sea. Warnock designed the eight-room property as a Highlands home away from home, an intimate retreat that opens up visitors not just to Royal Dornoch but to the many other classic courses and outdoor pursuits of northern Scotland.

Formerly a manse for the local Free Church, the 170-year-old property was overgrown and decaying when Warnock discovered it nearly a decade ago. His transformation of the 1.5-acre estate included restoring the original home and adding a new structure called the Mews. Five bedrooms in the main home and three in the Mews all feature walk-in showers, handmade Hypnos mattresses, and other first-rate amenities. The main home also includes a dining room, a library with a fireplace, a formal sitting room, a 2,000-bottle wine cellar, and an honor bar stocked with single malts and cigars.

For Links House’s putting green, Warnock enlisted the greenskeeper from Royal Dornoch, who built the facility with sod from the course and maintains it to the same championship standards. In addition to Royal Dornoch, guests enjoy the rare opportunity to play the nearby Skibo Castle, a private club that is arguably Scotland’s most exclusive round of golf. Classics such as Nairn, Brora, and Castle Stuart—perhaps the best modern course in Scotland—are also within an easy drive of Links House.

But Warnock, who enjoys country pursuits such as fishing and hunting, hopes his guests will look beyond golf during their visits to the Highlands. He deemphasized the golf theme within Links House, where bedrooms are named for salmon rivers, door handles resemble fly-fishing reels, books skew toward local history and nature, and the art collection has more deer stalks than fairways. Still, at Links House, golf will always be top of mind—and close at hand. 

Links House at Royal Dornoch, +44.1862.810279, www.linkshousedornoch.com

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