Dornoch Newsletter 21 LR

The annual winter newsletter of Royal Dornoch Golf Club

The annual winter newsletter of Royal Dornoch Golf Club


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Immediate Past Captain’s Report

The final year of my Captaincy has been very strange and no one

could ever have imagined how 2020 would evolve. I send my

sincere sympathies to any of you who have been badly affected

by Covid 19. The pandemic has hit our lives worldwide.

As I intimated in my members email in August 2020 I passed

the day to day Captain’s duties to Captain Elect Willie MacKay

at the time our AGM was scheduled but couldn’t take place.

Our official titles cannot change until we are able to hold an

AGM which is in the hands of our Governments in the UK as

to when we will be able to have a public gathering.

Rob Murray

Willie has been very energetic and has been doing a sterling job

in the role and I thank him for all he has done and for his patience as he awaits the members official


I have pledged my commitment to the Capital Projects Team and look forward to continuing to work

towards our goal of a new clubhouse. As you are aware the new Clubhouse design is on the shelf ready

for tenders when finances permit us to move forward. The other requirement is the Common Good

Land lease which requires a Public Consultation by the Highland Council and was withdrawn in

February 2020 due to a technicality. Covid 19 hit us all and the discussions with Highland Council were

delayed. I am pleased to advise however that in autumn 2020 we successfully revisited the Public

Consultation process and gained the full support of the Dornoch Area Community Council, and as I

write the Public Consultation recommenced in late December 2020. Assuming the process gains the

support of the public, The Highland Council and then final approval of the Sheriff Court we will be in

a position to build our new clubhouse when there is more certainty regarding our finances.

We are also working on our medium and longer term Vision which involves the clubhouse and other

capital projects which is for the benefit of future Councils of Management so they guide our club in the

required direction.

We are in uncertain times, however I hope 2021 sees us return to better days again and I look forward

to a time when we can hold an AGM and look to a brighter future.

Rob Murray

Immediate Past Captain


Captain Elect Report

As members we are proud of our club, of its

traditions and the esteem it is held globally. Council

of Management decided to support our staff

throughout this pandemic and in turn they have

worked tirelessly and coped with different work

patterns and lifestyles. Together we work to protect

Royal Dornoch and support our community.

The family bond within our club was most apparent

when staff and members had to cope with the death

of Stuart Campbell in a hillwalking tragedy on Ben

Loyal. It still hurts and as many have commented,

Stuart would have been very embarrassed by the

show of affection with streets lined throughout

Dornoch and spread along the golf course road and

car park.

My first Winter Newsletter report has to begin with

a sincere thank you to all members for supporting

our club throughout these last ten months. As well

as thanking those of you that have been members

for many years I also thank those new members that

upgraded to the Championship Course and the

many new Struie members that joined.

This is my first proper opportunity to thank Rob

Murray for nominating me as his Vice Captain. The

learning opportunity Rob allowed me in the build

up to being Captain Elect has seen a smooth

transition. I am enjoying the involvement in the day

to day issues working with our Convenors, subcommittees,

Neil and our staff.

The team is working well, and as in sport, when

each person knows their role and supports one

another results happen. We had no practice game

for COVID and it has tested our strengths and in

fact has been a different game most weeks having to

adapt to changing guidelines across the country.

With over £12,000 crowd funding raised for Assynt

Mountain Rescue it shows how much our members

and the community thought of Stuart. Our

appreciation also goes to the hundreds of volunteers

that travelled and walked the area day after day.

Whether working in the office, or coaching at Embo

junior football, the Durness Charity Cycle, playing

golf or trips to his beloved Pittodrie, Stuart’s unique

way with words will keep his memory fresh in our


On 1st September, this year we celebrated 10 years

with Neil as our General Manager. Neil has led

Royal Dornoch with boundless energy and shares

our vision to grow the golf club and serve the

members while also promoting our wonderful links

course across the World.

His knowledge of our 2,000 plus members is

outstanding and he has worked tirelessly to establish

good relationships throughout the golf industry.

Neil gained his love of golf from his late father

George who was a professional and greenkeeper.


Neil lives the same ideals he learned from his late

father who was the professional at Fortrose, in that

everyone is equal on the golf course, and still playing

to a 1 handicap he is as content playing with our

Sunday golfers as he is with visiting tour players.

VisitScotland tweeted, “No finer advocate than Neil

for golf in Scotland, particularly our wonderful

courses and hotels in the North.” Neil, on behalf of

all members, thank you.

While we maintained a positive attitude, it was

disappointing to not play many competitions this

year and also not to host the Mens Home

Internationals. We had to use Plan B for the

Carnegie Shield, but feedback from those that came

was very positive.

However, we can look forward to hosting the Mens

Home Internationals from 13th to 16th April 2021.

This is the final qualifying event before the Walker

Cup played at Seminole, Florida, in early May.

You cannot have missed that we are Scotland’s Best

Golf Course for 2020. This was announced at The

World Golf Awards. With Carnoustie 2019

Winners and The Old Course, St Andrews 2018

Winners we are proud of this recognition.

I shall leave the new 7th hole for others to expand

on but our thanks as members go to our Greens

Staff for the quality of their work and the leadership

of Eoin and Scott, plus the guidance of Tom

Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert. When a project

costs less and is delivered with quality and on time

it is a Win Win for us all.

I was pleased that we could hold the Captain’s

Weekend in October. Those that did manage to play

had tremendous weather and a fun three days. The

new format was well received and many asked for

the changes to remain. Claire did a wonderful job

composing the draws and I was pleased to play with

so many and manage to meet everyone at some

stage. To raise nearly £1,000 without our dinner and

auction is tremendous for the charities of Macular,

Sight Action and Cerebral Palsy, that Alison and I

have chosen for 2020.

The engine room that allows Council to make

decisions are our sub-committees that meet

monthly. They provide evidence from their

discussions with reports prepared for Council of

Management meetings. This allows us to continue

to deliver quality across the many different aspects

of our club, to balance the interests of members and

visitors and continue to make an important

contribution to the Dornoch community.

I am pleased to have my long-time friend David Bell

join me as Vice-Captain Elect. It was David’s skillset,

personality and passion for Royal Dornoch as well

as many other qualities which saw my nomination

unanimously approved by our Past Captains.

David has made an immediate start leading a small

working group reviewing our website & IT and also

planning on how we can contribute to the Golf &

Health initiative the R&A have recently launched.

I cannot predict when our AGM will be held but

my current position as Captain Elect and David’s

will be offered to members for your approval as soon

as we can.

My recent e-letter informed of the changes to our

Council of Management. I greatly appreciate that

when asked to temporarily extend their three year

term on Council when our August AGM was

postponed that Adrian Bagott, Tony Bartlett and

Mike Ross immediately agreed to continue in office.


The Council appointed the four nominees to the

four vacancies and these are temporary until we have

our AGM when members are asked to support and

confirm these places on Council. We welcome Gary

Bethune back onto Council. Gary is well known to

members and with his previous time, business

experience and golf experience he knows Royal

Dornoch well.

John Gow was serving on our Finance subcommittee

and has all the skills, experience and

qualities to lead as Finance Convenor and continue

the work that Tony delivered along with his subcommittee.

Daniel Holden joins and I have asked

Daniel to take on the role of Junior Organiser

working with our Professionals, parents and

volunteers to deliver our junior programme.

When Adrian Bagott told us that he was keen to

continue for a further three years on Council and

we had the received the World Golf Award it was

easy to ask Adrian to remain as our Greens


I also wish to thank our other Convenors for leading

their team. Cara Thompson has led the upgrade of

our social media strategy and many other marketing

initiatives. Cara’s determination to grow our reach

and see that different platforms are performing as

planned with staff working together with Ed Hodge,

our PR & Media consultant, has had very

impressive increases which Cara will elaborate on in

her report.

John McMurray as House Convenor is a role that

most might wish to avoid. John has a good team and

members can be assured that every agenda item is

fully explored. It has been a difficult time with fewer

visitors. We had plans in place to have more social

events as enjoyed in 2019. We have tried new ideas

and the special evening menus saw fully booked

tables and the afternoon teas have been popular.

Thanks are also due to the members who supported

these functions.

Taking Retail under the Finance remit is working

well. We have had a much better sales turnover than

forecast. Praise is due to Brad and his staff who have

completed phase one of our “online shop” upgrade

and with social media activity and Neil’s regular,

“Latest News from Royal Dornoch” e-letters we have

increased that sector of Pro Shop income and

significantly exceeded targets set.

We must be grateful for how fortunate we are when

so many clubs have not coped as well as we have

during the pandemic. Leadership and motivation

come from the top and Neil has led Royal Dornoch

through this difficult period and we are indeed

fortunate. The hours that he and Claire have given

are well beyond their working week. Thank you for

being such good role models.

For most of us Christmas and New Year celebrations

were very different this year. Family time is precious

and friendships equally important. I hope that we

can all enjoy a much safer 2021.

Willie MacKay

Captain Elect


From The General Manager’s Office

As with all that you will read in this year’s newsletter

the coronavirus pandemic has changed the

landscape in 2020, will affect 2021 and may well

have a much longer hangover for us all.

However, one thing that I do know is that whenever

you are able to visit the club, whether from near or

far, we are all looking forward to seeing you and

ensuring that you have as full a Royal Dornoch

experience as possible.

In these difficult times we must look for something

positive to take out of it all and one of the major

things that we will all appreciate next season is the

reduced amount of play on our courses this year.

There are many downsides of this which will be

touched on by others in their various roles but the

upside is that the condition of the courses is just

about the best they have ever been resulting from

less wear and tear, divots and all the other things

that come with thousands of golfers.

Our local members and the few UK visitors that

managed to make the journey when restrictions

allowed were treated to a magnificent effort by our

greens staff who did a tremendous job in

maintaining the courses when golf had stopped and

then bringing it back to life when golf was back on

the agenda. Special mention for this to Eoin

Riddell, Scott Aitchison and Jamie Shepherd who

were never on furlough at any time and between

them worked 7 days a week to keep on top of all

that was required to have the courses ticking over

so that when a restart date was confirmed for play

we could bring back more of the team in a staggered

way to help return everything to what we all

recognised as our courses. Thanks to all the team

for their professionalism and hard work this year.

we still didn’t have use of the clubhouse, which

didn’t come until the middle of July. During those

early months of the season many of the staff were

on furlough and my thanks to all our managers who

kept in regular contact with them to ensure that in

addition to my weekly email to them, they were kept

up to date and any who had questions or worries

were reassured.

In all the Winter Newsletters that I have written for

since 2010, my reports have been filled with what

we have enjoyed through the season – the

competitions, events, social nights, fun days, fun

nights, fundraising and laughs. Unfortunately, there

has been very little of that to report this year, but we

did try to make the best of what crumbs we were

given when restrictions started to be lifted in July.

However, we did mange one of the planned events

which was our now annual match against Nairn

GC in London. It was scheduled to be played at

Swinley Forest in early March but their course

suffered from the flooding that hit the South of

England and we were grateful to The Berkshire who

were able to accommodate us at short notice for 18

holes and a wonderful lunch. I couldn’t possibly

comment on the result of this friendly match but

needless to say our friends in Nairn are eager for

the return at Swinley Forest in May next year.

Even with the courses open again at the end of May


Little did the Captain and I know what was to about

to happen as we travelled back from London on

Friday 13th March.

When we did get back to golf, competitions were

still not to be played and it wasn’t until July that we

could get back into competitive action.

With a packed fixture list it wasn’t going to be easy

to reschedule events that had not been played earlier

in the year and we tried our best to accommodate

what was ahead of us. Saying that, the ladies got

inventive and managed to squeeze in their Club

Championships and my congratulations to Caitlin

Boa and Zara MacDonald (Handicap).

On the mens side the President’s Cup was also

found a slot and Adam Mackay took the trophy

beating Bryan Urquhart in the final with Neil

Munro succeeding over Ian MacDonald in the

handicap section.

Andrew Skinner has reported all the results in the

Match and Handicap Report.

We couldn’t leave talk of competitions without

mention of the World Handicap System. By the

time you read this we are all hopeful that the system

will be in better shape than it is as I write. And if it

is, then it will be thanks to efforts of Claire and

Andrew in ensuring all our handicaps are as

accurate as they can be with the information that

the WHS has taken across from the previous

system. We are also grateful to have Alison Bartlett,

our Lady Captain, as the North Area WHS rep who

keeps us informed as well as pushing Scottish Golf.

One of the biggest and most frequent questions of

the first half of the year was whether the Carnegie

Shield would go ahead. We were all trying to make

it happen but when it became apparent that the

Shield in its usual form could not take place we did

offer all the competitors who could still travel as

much golf as we could on both our courses and

around the area. So, my thanks to our friends at

Brora, Golspie and Tain for being so

accommodating at such short notice.

Traditionally the week of the Carnegie Shield is also

the time for the Annual General Meeting, and this

year we were due to say thank you to Rob Murray for

his two years of Captaincy and welcome Willie

Mackay into the role. Our current Rules don’t allow

for anything but a physical meeting and so by

November we realised that this would not be possible

for many months and Rob stood back and Willie

became Captain Elect. This also made room for

David Bell to step into the role of Vice Captain Elect.

We all look forward to holding the AGM so these

positions can be ratified by the membership. One

final change that deserves a special mention is our

first lady Vice President, Christine Murray, stood

down after her 3 years and Alan Ramsey, the first

person to Captain the club twice, took over the role.

To finish off the piece on events I am delighted that

we are able to host the Mens Home Internationals

in April 2021. It was a great disappointment that

the September 2020 edition was cancelled but at

that time we were comforted by having the Senior

Mens Amateur to look forward to in late July 2021.

At the start of November the R&A got in touch

regarding both events as they were looking at ways

of rationalising how all their events could be run

going forward to save on staffing and resources.

There followed a number of phone calls and emails

over a period of 3 weeks as they looked at several

different options at the many venues they were

working with. The outcome was announced just

before Christmas and for us it means the “Homes”


next Spring. The final change to the future events

calendar is the Scottish Amateur Championship

that was initially going to be held in 2022 will now

be in 2023.

One of the biggest disappointments of this year has

been the new Clubhouse having to be postponed

for several years. Many people put a lot of time and

effort into delivering the building and my thanks

to the club’s project team, who are all volunteers,

for their dedication to the task during the

pandemic. It is probably a blessing that we were not

underway as the pressure on the club’s finances

would have been very intense. The other silver

lining is that we had more time to ensure that the

negotiations on the new lease for the Common

Good Land were not rushed and we had time to

reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the

Dornoch Area Community Council. As you read

this the Public Consultation will still be in progress

but we are confident that with both parties happy

with the deal, the people of Dornoch will support

the changes and approve the consultation. As part

of the project we will be widening the access road

to the car park which means moving the bowling

green by 4 metres so they will benefit from a new

green, complete with irrigation, and a new storage

shed. The tennis court in the car park is also

affected by this and so we will be building a new

multi use games area at Dornoch Academy to

replace it. While the clubhouse may not start for

several years we aim to do the access road and

associated projects in late 2021.

shape for you all in 2021 and beyond. We have

decided not to construct the proposed tees of the

8th hole this year due to the temporary change in

our financial position.

While the income of the club has been so much

lower than normal in each area one that we can

look on as a success, relatively, is the pro shop and

the level of sales that Brad and his team managed

to reach despite low footfall to the shop itself. This

is expanded further in the Retail report.

Another high point at the end of the year was the

surprise of winning the Best Course in Scotland at

the World Golf Awards. It came out of the blue as

the organisers had a defunct email address for us so

the communications they were sending to us never

arrived. However it was a great feeling once the news

did reach us and something we can all be proud of.

Each year it is very sad to report the members who

have passed away, as each are special to us for the

individuals they were. There have, so far, only been

seven honorary members of the club and so when

one does leave us it is fitting to mention them and

why they were special to us. Peter Alliss, the voice of

One very pleasing aspect to this year has been the

7th hole having more time to settle in before we

go back to the higher volume of play. As you will

see from the Green Convenors report we are

resting the green this winter but this is just a

precautionary measure to ensure that it is in great



golf, died at the start of December and the whole of

the golfing world mourned his passing, reflecting on

how he had brought the game to life through his

commentaries, writing and course design. He was

made an honorary member in 2010 and never failed

to contact the club when we wrote ro him with his

annual membership, or failed to send us a Christmas

card. It was always fun to watch him on TV, trying to

see if he was wearing our club tie (he frequently did),

or listening to his commentary for the inevitable

mention of Royal Dornoch (along with many other

clubs in the British Isles). He will be missed by many,

as will the other members who have left, and our

thoughts go to all of their family and friends.

In conclusion, I would like to thank 3 groups of

people. Firstly, the Council of Management and

their sub committees for helping guide us through

these extraordinary times in a way, that on

reflection, seems to have been the right decisions

at the right time. Secondly, our great team of staff

at the club. These were very difficult times, with

many unknowns but they have kept a positive

outlook and responded when the call came.

Finally, to you, our members, for sticking with the

club when it may have been easier to walk away

and batten down the hatches at home. Many of

you have kept in touch regularly throughout the

piece and I can wholeheartedly say that I have

personally been buoyed by all these positive

messages and shared them with our staff. We all

look forward to seeing you in 2021 and getting

back to doing what we do best - golfing on the

greatest golf course in the world.

Stay safe until then.

Neil Hampton

General Manager


Finance Convenor’s Report

My last report dated June 2020 produced in the

Annual Report & Accounts presented a very

gloomy outlook for the remainder of the year. We

had taken a very prudent view of the likely

financial effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on

the Club, and significant savings were identified

and implemented.

I am pleased to say that the financial outcome for

the 6 months to 30 September 2020 has been

rather better than we budgeted and now, while we

still expect a significant loss for the year, it is much

reduced from that previously forecast. There are

several reasons for this:

• Visitor green fees are more than £100,000

higher than we expected. This results from a

higher number of British visitors, some taking

advantage of our green fee packages.

• Furlough receipts are higher as a result of

various schemes being changed or extended.

• Significant additional staff cost savings have

been made in Bar & Catering.

• Pro shop sales are well above what we feared.

The sales increase results from a mixture of

enhanced online marketing and the active

management of our high levels of retail stocks.

• Higher than expected savings have been made

in clubhouse, administration and overhead


I hope you will agree that our management team,

including heads of departments and their staff

have made a very special effort during these

difficult times.

Whilst major capital projects have been deferred,

time has been spent by the greens and finance

teams considering the replacement of much of our

Toro greens equipment which is nearly 5 years old.

Having done the appropriate level of review of the

various options, the decision was taken to renew

the Toro partnership agreement, although the

delivery of the machinery will be phased. Whilst

good leasing options were offered, with cash in the

bank it was agreed that we would finance the

purchases using our own funding.


The expenditure this financial year is likely to be

around £500,000 and a further £200,000 later

next year.

Council of Management has approved an

inflationary increase to membership subscriptions

for 2021/2022. The increase in the full

subscription will be £15 with other categories

increasing by the same percentage. For those

members who paid for locker rentals, including

trolley storage and battery charging fees this year,

next year’s fees are being waived.

Our cash balances currently stand at

approximately £5.0m which is well above what we

budgeted earlier in the year. This results from

improved financial performance during the period

and a better level of advance booking than we

were expecting for next year. It is difficult to

predict the likely level of cash balances at the end

of the financial year as it will be highly dependent

on the level of visitor bookings for 2021/22.

However based on our current estimates we

believe it will be in excess of £4.5m.

Whilst we believe and hope that there is a light at

the end of the COVID tunnel, we remain very

cautious about the likely financial performance of

the Club next year. Some difficult decisions will

need to be taken regarding the running of the

Club to ensure that costs are appropriate for the

level of income we expect to receive. Given the

longer term capital projects that the Club would

like to progress, significant cash surpluses will be

required. On the basis of our current financial

model this can only be achieved by having large

numbers of visitors.

John Gow has taken over from me as Finance

Convener and I have every confidence that he and

the finance committee will continue to oversee the

Club’s finances with a high level of diligence

combined with commercial experience. Again

many thanks to Martin Lynch and Matt McBride

as well as Neil and Claire for their help over the

past 3 years.

Tony Bartlett

Finance Convenor


Match & Handicap Report

What a year it has been with unfortunately Covid-

19 being the biggest winner this year wiping out a

large chunk of the golfing season. We did however

get one medal in before total lockdown with Struan

Robertson winning the March Bogey Medal.

With no golf at all for several weeks after that it

wasn’t until July when we returned to club

competitive golf with few smaller events. We were

also able to reschedule the Presidents Cup, a 2

round qualifier followed by matchplay, with Adam

Mackay winning the scratch and Neil Munro the

handicap. Unfortunately the big casualty was the

Club Championship, the 4 round medal format

was too difficult to reschedule.

Our season long club matchplay events were also

all cancelled which was a shame as they prove to be

very popular. All our matches against other clubs

also had to be cancelled most notably our match

with Nairn in April, and with the Country Club of

North Carolina which was supposed to be here in


On a more positive note our medals and

competitions towards the back end of the season

proved to be very popular attracting larger entries

than normal which could be put down to the stay

at home mentality during the pandemic. The

Donald Grant Cup which is our medal winners

competition was played out in October with Gareth

Hall lifting the trophy. Heading into the winter

period, and with the courses still in excellent

condition, it’s great to see very large entries for our

winter long stableford events.



Champ, Winter Stableford Eclectic Winner COLIN MACKAY


Champ, Winner of the Medal winners Winner GARETH HALL


Champ, Seniors Scr Champion Winner PETER EAST


Champ, Seniors H’Cap Champion Winner ERNIE MILLARD


Champ, Singles, StrokePlay,2Rds, Matchplay

Handicap Section (Bethune Cup) Winner NEIL MUNRO

Runner Up


Losing Semi-Finalists CONNOR PRESTON,


Scratch Section Winner ADAM MACKAY

Runners Up


Losing Semi-Finalists DAVID PEARSON,



Our Open competitions also took a hit most

notably the Sinclair Cup in July and the Carnegie

Shield in August. Scottish Golf lifted restriction a

few days too late for us to save the Shield however

many competitors did come up and play in a fun

non competitive format and it was great to see

some of the Shield regulars at that time.

We did however play the Glenmorangie Open

towards the end of August with member Campbell

Thompson winning with a net 67. The

Gardner/Fraser which is our 36 hole, one round

on each course event, went ahead with Andrew

Paterson (Dundas Parks) lifting the scratch prize

and Neil Munro won the Fraser Shield which is

confined to Royal Dornoch members.



FRASER GARDNER Gardner Trophy Winner ANDREW PATERSON (Dundas Parks)

Fraser Shield Winner NEIL MUNRO

Handicap Winner NEIL MUNRO


& ROBERT WYLES (Canmore)


PAUL GOODEVE (Duxbury Park)


DONALD ROSS JUNIOR OPEN Peter De Savary Trophy CAMERON ADAM (Royal Burgess)

Royal Dornoch Trophy OLIVER MUKHERJEE (Gullane)

Duncan Allan Trophy RHIANNA MACKAY

We also had the launch of the new World Handicap

System in November which is hoped to unify and

make handicaps fairer across the globe. The launch

didn’t go without some teething problems with

many members records being incorrect. We are

currently working alongside Scottish golf to go

through our 400 plus members who have handicaps

held here and iron out any issues before the start of

the new 2021 season in March

Finally, can I thank you all for your support during

a very difficult 2020 season and lets all look forward

to more positive 2021.

Andrew Skinner

Head PGA Professional


Greens Convenor’s Report

Since my last report at the end of June, the remedial

work entailed by the burning of the whin bushes

has started. The main area of damage on the right

of the 17th is nearly done, left of the 3rd still has to

be done as has top left of the 17th next to the

bunkers – these areas will be left to regenerate. On

the 17th hole, down on the left-hand side of the

fairway, we have removed all the burnt bushes and

grubbed out the roots. The area was then turfed and

is already looking a lot better.

Although more golf has been played during the last

few months the course has benefitted from the

relative lack of play with the greens in particular

being very good. We have experienced a lot more

rain than normal during the last 2 months, so there

has not been much run on the fairways, but playing

off winter tees is a great compensation!

The 6th green is being rested for the winter as it is

the narrowest green on the course and so has

relatively more wear than the others but I am glad

to say that it is looking healthy going into the winter

period mainly due to the extra seeding and seaweed

applications during the season. The new 7th green

is also being rested for the winter due to its lack of

maturity. The putting surface is already running very

true considering. The fairway has improved quickly

over the summer months and is now looking good

and playing well. We intend to narrow the last 150

yards of fairway leading up to the green which

means more rough on the right. We also want to

allow the whins on the right of the fairway to grow

a little to form more definition, but not so as to spoil

the view.

We also have been working on the 10th tee,

removing the step that reduces the amount of teeing

ground available. From this work we have gained

approximately 100m2 of extra teeing ground. This

was a big task requiring a lot of labour and material

with some heavy earth moving machinery. With


some help from the weather gods the new tee

should be open for play in the Spring.

Work to reduce the depth of the bunker lips is ongoing

as the rubber matting is being gradually

installed as the relevant bunkers are being reshaped,

thereby improving the drainage and firming up the

base. We have recently been voted Scotland’s

number one Golf Course in 2020 at the World Golf

Awards, so we must be doing something right!

The Struie Course has played well all through the

summer with the greens being particularly good. A

lot of work has been done to improve the quality of

the fairways from the 9th to the 13th holes and

while this is on-going there has certainly been a

marked and visible difference.

During the last two years we have been

experimenting with different methods to try and

protect the 10th hole from coastal erosion. The salt

marsh defences have had mixed results and need to

be made more robust. Although the chestnut

fencing is not particularly attractive it does seem to

work, allowing the sand to build up which is

necessary to prevent more erosion.

Although we are blessed with well-designed golf

courses in a beautiful location, our success and

popularity reflects the expertise and hard work of

the Green’s Staff under the experienced hand of

Eoin Riddell and his Deputy, Scott Aitchison.


Best wishes to you all for a much better 2021.

Adrian Bagott

Green Convenor


House Convenor’s Report

My third year in the role of House Convenor has

had its ups and downs. The team in the kitchen

and front of house, like most people had times on

furlough, but when they returned to work did a

great job responding to the continued restrictions

imposed on our service due to Covid. At the outset

I wish to say a big thank you to them all in the way

in which they coped.

We completed our members survey on F&B in

March, and this provided a sound base on which

to move forward. However Covid then took our

attention. Responding to this we went back to

basics providing a simple menu with regular

specials, and this was welcomed by the vast

majority of our members and visitors. We also

learnt that table service, rather than patrons

queuing at the bar, was more preferable, something

that we may well keep once Covid restrictions have


Our winter programme of events was cut short and

the present winter will host no live events. Those

that took place in early 2020 were well attended

and I still have members stopping me in the street,

recounting on some of the many acts we had on a

Saturday night at the club.

Sadly we had to limit the celebrations at the

Captain’s weekend, which I personally thought

was a shame for “Captain Hook!” Hopefully next

year will bring a brighter future.


The club’s commitment to the Food & Beverage

staff by retaining them on permanent contracts

will result in the Half Way House (HWH) opening

for periods during the winter when the tee sheet is

busy. I am delighted to report that we are at the

point of introducing hot soup at the HWH. This

may in the future be expanded to include other hot

food but this will involve costs in alterations to the

HWH and purchasing additional equipment. Due

to the restrictions on our finances because of

Covid, further consideration is required before

taking this step.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those

members that took the time to complete the survey

on F&B. Also thanks to Ian Madeley for the work

and professional insight he provided in this task.

Although we have been overtaken by events, the

data provided will be of help when we get back to

more normal times.

Once again I thank Sue Robb (Food & Beverage

Manager), Brian Sangster (Head Chef) and their

willing team of workers for all their work

throughout the year. Both Sue’s and Brian’s

professionalism, skills and enthusiasm have made

a very positive impact on the experience in the


John McMurray

House Convenor


Junior Organiser’s Report

Our older juniors eagerly awaited the start of the

2020 season after having a productive winter

coaching programme with Gary and access to our

new TrackMan equipment with indoor coaching

adding to the normal Saturday winter competitions.

Jorden ran a Burns Day Family Fun events to retain

the younger children’s interest. Our A Section were

excited about hosting their Morcott Challenge

guests at the start of August with fixtures agreed and

fund raising plans in place.

school we felt it safer to start our regular junior

sessions and to get some of the annual competitions


With our Professional staff on furlough volunteer

co-ordinators, Mark McFall and Rebecca Riddell,

were recruited to assist with organising the Thursday

and Friday playing times. What a great job they did.

Thank you both. We gave Rebecca our best wishes

in December as she moved to start her career as a

Sports Organiser for St Andrews University. Mark

is still thoroughly enjoying his role.

Then lockdown on 21st March saw all golfing

activities stop. Golf courses and practice facilities

closed and staff had their first taste of furlough. To

keep the juniors interested Gary produced a series

of skill challenges that A and B+ Sections could

download from WhatsApp.

This year we decided that all children attending our

Junior Section should become Royal Dornoch

Junior members. The younger children join the

Minis and Advanced Minis and progress to

Wildcats with Jorden coaching and also organising

Family Fun Days. This is the learning ground for

beginners and we have kept our annual subscription

low with a small payment for coaching sessions.

The younger juniors had a variety of different activities

such as snooker putting to practice at home and

provide a change from their on-line home schooling.

Layla Baillie was judged the winner of the stone art


It wasn’t until June that the juniors could begin to

play golf again with us strictly following Scottish

Golf guidelines for family groupings and social

distancing, rules.

Once the school summer holidays started and there

was less contact between children when they attend

Harry Fleming in one of our Family Fun Events

They play on the Academy holes and once Wildcat

juniors reach a suitable level of play they are

considered for progressing to become Struie Junior

members as a B Section junior. Juniors can progress

from B Section to B+ and then with further

improvements be considered for A Section.


Our junior programme now runs all year round

with our junior winter coaching starting in

November and continuing through March when

we start our B Section and A Section competitions

which run until the end of October.

Children can join our Junior Section from a young

age with many joining the Minis when they are

four years old. In previous years our PGA

Professional, Jorden Ferrie, delivered indoor

coaching at Dornoch Primary School but COVID

prevented this introductory golf programme.

Such is the popularity of the Minis that we still

had ten new children join Jorden’s coaching

bringing the numbers up to twenty eight, with

more joining after New Year. The Wildcat Section

which is mainly eight to eleven year olds have ten

juniors at present. The number of younger juniors

has grown and several moved up to B Section as

the season progressed.

Jorden runs the winter programme for B Section

and we are grateful for the support UHI Golf

Lecturer Sean Fay has given and also to the UHI

golf students that have regularly come along to play

with the younger juniors and be role models and

also get involved in fun competitions.

With secondary age pupils finishing school at

lunchtime on a Friday we changed A Section’s start

time to 2:00pm which allowed their weekly

sessions to continue until the clocks changed at the

end of October. We held several of our junior

silverware competitions at weekends (see the

results table). B Section had their group

competitions after school on Thursdays.

After the clocks changed the winter coaching

programme for B+ and A Section used the new

swing studio which has allowed the juniors to

continue golfing during the short days and long

nights. Head Teaching Professional, Gary

Dingwall, delivers individual tailored sessions

allowing each junior to advance at their own pace

and use TrackMan technology.

As well as after school sessions juniors had regular

Saturday on-course competitions. These have been

played using a range of formats – Individual

Strokeplay, Team Ryder Cup and Team Texas

Scramble to mention a few. The variety in play has

allowed the players to explore any swing changes

whilst enjoying friendly competition.

L to R: Fearne Mackay & Morven Cameron

Our A Section had a new competition to compete

for this year with Rob and Wilma Murray gifting

the Murray Quaich. The juniors played in a league

format from early September until winter coaching

started in November. Rhianna Mackay won from

Angus McFall with Calum Morrison in third place.


L to R: Rob Murray; Rhianna Mackay;

Wilma Murray

As well as marking Rob’s term as Captain of Royal

Dornoch the quaich has a wider connection with

Royal Dornoch as Rob’s father, Ken, was our

secretary for seventeen years and, Rob’s

grandfather, Alex, was club professional before

moving to Canada.

From the New Year the coaching focus shifts

towards the scoring aspects of golf: chipping,

putting, course management and psychology.

The most recent junior development has been the

production of a Junior Handbook. This includes

all the information that parents require to

understand the full junior programme with a

coaching and competition fixture list for the year


Although we have a fifty two week programme in

place, plus fifteen silverware competitions and

eleven Family Fun Days with adults and juniors

playing in pairs, the most important day in the

junior calendar is the Caddies Cup Day and that

will always be the case at Royal Dornoch.

L to R: Trophy winners: Rhianna Mackay; Mikayla

Mackay: Max Hampton with Caddies Cup; Erin

Holden; John Michael Diracles

I am pleased to join the Council of Management

and accept the role of Junior Organiser. I was a

Royal Dornoch junior and look forward to

working with the Junior Team. Enjoying golf for

life is our aim for every junior.

Daniel Holden

(Junior Organiser)

Junior Trophy Winners 2020


Hans Burkhard




A/B Skinner

Rob Murray

Rob Murray

Summer Knockout A

Summer Knockout B

Caddies Cup Day Winners

Caddies Cup

Girls Champion

Ken Natsusaka Cup

A Reeves Memorial

R Mcculloch Shield



Hannah Riddell

Finn Hallam

Scarlett Levens

Jessie Lewis

Scarlett Levens

Not Played

Rhianna Mackay

Mikayla Mackay

Erin Holden

Max Hampton

Rhianna Mackay

Mikayla Mackay

Erin Holden

John Michael Diracles

Marketing Convenor’s Report

Well, what to say about 2020?! Our Marketing

objectives in previous years have been focused on

brand awareness, this year we had to take a slightly

different approach with a new target market. In the

brief window that travelling was allowed to the

club to play we promoted various added value

offers for playing and making use of the facilities,

as well as offers for members & locals.

In March, we adopted a new strategy for Marketing

and predominately our Social Media focus by

moving away from our previous PR company and

acquired the services of Ed Hodge, whose expertise

is in Sport & Golf PR.

Thanks to this we now have a more efficient and

effective approach to our marketing. We now have

over 33,000 followers across all platforms. The

Professional Shop also now has its own pages with

varied content and offers to be found.

opportunity to interact with each other. If you are

not already a member of this group be sure to

submit a join request and don’t forget to answer

the 3 admission questions.

We also continue to maintain several local

partnerships with Highland Golf Links, Golf

Highland, DADCA and DACIC. The majority of

the main golf tourism events that we attended in

previous years were either cancelled or held

virtually, Neil has maintained contact with tour

operators and service providers despite this.

The highlight of the year was being crowned

Scotland’s Best Golf Course 2020 at the World

Golf Awards. Beating off very stiff competition

from Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, The Old Course

and Royal Troon. Well done to all involved at the

Club. Let’s hope we retain the title in 2021 and

also return to some form of normality!

This year we also launched our Members Only

Facebook, where you can find member specific

content and offers, as well as allowing members the

Cara Thompson

Marketing Convenor


Retail Report

Our team in the Pro Shop were looking forward

to a bumper season and welcoming many

customers, old and new, to the shop. Plans were in

place and new stock ordered to cater for the

different tastes that we believed our worldwide

clientele would be looking for.

This was the second full year for Brad as Retail

Manager, and having had time to settle into the

role felt he had a much better knowledge of what

golfers coming to Royal Dornoch were looking for.

He had rationalised the stock lines, reviewed the

pricing structures and set out the shop in an

attractive and appealing way, He didn't do this

alone and was helped along by Calum, Andrew,

Gary and Jorden.

As we now know, those well laid plans had to be

put on the shelf (we know that we will need them

again) and a complete rethink of what we could do

to make sales when we didn't have any customers

coming to the golf club.

When budgets were being put together this time

last year optimism was high given the positive

results in 2019 and the forward bookings for 2020,

so we gave the team a high sales target of £950,000.

When the lockdown came in late March the

budgets for all areas of the club were revised and

with the prospect of very little visitor traffic, and

probably none from overseas, the target was

reduced to £100,000 barely 1/10 of the original.

The team had to get creative about how they could

encourage sales and the focus was put on the

online shop. As you will have seen through the

remainder of the season they worked hard on

offers enticing you to buy. The results of these

efforts made impressive reading and with UK

based visiting golfers coming to play in August,


September and October we saw turnover in the

shop passing the initial target and subsequent

targets with further initiatives like brand specific

promotions and Black Friday really catching

people's imagination and their wallets.

The results are such that we have now passed

£300,000 worth of sales in the shop with nearly

£100,000 of that online. Despite the heavy

promotional activity, we are still hopeful that we

will achieve a gross margin close to 40% for the full

year which is a fantastic outcome.

It is not all a rosy picture as, despite the success of

the promotional activity, we are still carrying a large

amount of stock, far more than the level we would

like to have at this time of year. Although much

lower than we anticipated back in April it does

mean that we will have to work through this stock

next year. Feedback from suppliers suggests that

they are not intending to bring out new styles in

2021, given the low volume of sales they have

experienced this year, but we are wary of this and

will continue to ask the team to work hard on

selling what we have.

The latest project is to get our ebay shop up and

running which will be used for stock that is more

than a season old and will provide an avenue for

releasing cash from items that are out of style or

written down in the accounts.

All in all Brad and his team have done a very good

job in difficult retail conditions and their inventive

ideas for sales and use of social media have not

only increased sales but the profile of the club

around the world.

Neil Hampton

General Manager


President’s Report

I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that

2020 has been a strange year. It had started

promisingly with a diary even fuller than usual…

holidays, a wedding, a golden wedding celebration

(not mine, that’s not till 2021!) and numerous

golfing events and refereeing assignments. However

more or less all were cancelled or postponed because

of the Covid restrictions.

Although this has been very disappointing, we have

at least been fortunate here in the Highlands that

the restrictions imposed have not been as severe as

in other parts of Scotland and the UK. We are able

to play golf and both our courses are in splendid

condition having been maintained to a very high

standard by our green keeping staff. They are to be

congratulated on their efforts which have been

rewarded by the Championship Course having been

named as Scotland’s Best Golf Course 2020 by the

World Golf Awards.

In the early days of lockdown we had the rather

unusual experience of being able to walk round the

courses when they were closed and to enjoy the

peaceful atmosphere at that time. I am ever hopeful

that perhaps by the time you are reading this we will

be over the worst and heading towards something

resembling normality. However I suppose it’s better

to be an optimist who is sometimes wrong than a

pessimist who is always right.

Sadly we had to cancel quite a number of our events

including the Carnegie Shield and postpone our

AGM. Scottish Golf also cancelled the Men’s Home

Internationals which had been due to be held here

in Dornoch. This was particularly disappointing on


a personal level as I had been nominated as the

Scottish referee for the competition. The R & A

have now taken over the running of the event but

will be holding it here in April 2021. It is a great

honour for the Club to be chosen to host such

prestigious events which will further enhance our

high standing in the golfing world.

Without doubt these are difficult times, but

nevertheless all the Club’s employees have shown a

willingness to carry on regardless and to make sure

that Members and visitors alike have been able to

enjoy their time and experience here despite the

present circumstances. Their efforts should be very

much appreciated. As ever I am indebted to the Vice

Presidents Hamish Macrae, Jim Campbell and

Christine Murray in Dornoch and Woody Morcott

in America for their assistance and support.

Christine has decided to stand down and I thank

her for all she has done during her term of office.

The Council of Management has nominated Past

Captain Alan Ramsey to take her place as a Vice

President and I congratulate him on his new


I would like to share with you a thought, believed

to have been attributed to Harry Vardon, which you

will no doubt keep in mind…”Don’t play too much

golf, two rounds in the day is quite sufficient!“

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021 and I

hope to meet up with many of you during the year.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Gordon Lawson



Ladies Section

I would love to be writing this report telling you

about our full fixture list and the successes our

members have enjoyed in Open and regional

competitions. But this has been far from a normal

year, and no North District, inter club, Vets or

National competitions were played in 2020. Our

domestic fixtures started as usual in March, but

came to a halt soon thereafter as we went into

lockdown. Although social play was permitted

from the end of May, competition play was delayed

a further few weeks and we resumed our full fixture

list from mid July onwards.

Although we had missed the usual qualifying dates,

our Ladies Committee decided it was important to

play the Club Championships in 2020, to

continue a tradition going back to 1972, and so we

re-purposed two days of competition in August as

Championship qualifiers, and played the whole

competition in two weeks. Similarly, we

rescheduled the two rounds of the Strokeplay

Championship, and played that at the end of

September. Caitlin Boa emerged as our 2020

scratch Champion in both Championships, while

Zara MacDonald won the Handicap

Championship, and Vicky Sutherland won the

Nett Strokeplay Championship. It was wonderful

to see these ladies from among our younger

members coming to the fore, but I am pretty

confident that our more mature ladies will be back

fighting for the top honours next year!

Several of our trophies fell victim to the lockdown

and were not played (notably The Sykes,

Sutherland and Barrow Cups, The McQueen Cup,

The Struie Cup and the Daisy Simpson Bogey) but

those scheduled for later in the season were

completed. Those trophy winners this year were

Theresa Campbell – Grant Cup, Caitlin Boa –

Macleod Trophy, Alison Bartlett - Davidson

Trophy and the Constance Young Seniors, and

Sylvia Bremner was the winner of our newest

trophy, the Struie Jug. Well done all.



Champ, Seniors Medal Winner ALISON BARTLETT


Champ Summer Eclectic Winner VICKY SUTHERLAND


Champ, Winter Eclectic Winner FIONA MACDONALD


Champ, Winner of Medal Winners Winner ALISON BARTLETT


Champ, Medal Winner THERESA CAMPBELL


Champ, Singles, S’Ford Winner CAITLIN BOA


1 Rd Champ, 1 Rd Struie Handicap Winner VICKY SUTHERLAND

Scratch Winner CAITLIN BOA



Struie, 9 Hole, S’Ford, H’Caps > 36



Champ, 1st Qualifier in Qual Rds Club Champ Winner ZARA MACDONALD


Champ, Best Scr Agg in Qual Rds Club Champ Winner CAITLIN BOA


Champ, 2 Qual Rds, 3 Rds Matchplay Winner ZARA MACDONALD



Champ, 2 Qual Rds, 2 Rds Matchplay Winner CAITLIN BOA


Our Ladies Open competition was not played due

to travel restrictions but we did play the Senior

Ladies Open in September. Clearly the conditions

deteriorated during the day, as my modest score

from an early morning round was enough to win.

Although we could not hold our AGM in October,

we have effected the transition to the new Captain

and ladies committee, and like the rest of the world

now hold our meetings on zoom. Wilma Murray

accepted the invitation to become my Vice Captain,

and Una Reid has joined our ladies committee to

replace Margaret Ross. My own status and these

committee appointments are on an interim basis,

until ratified by the ladies when we next meet in

AGM. Thank you Margaret for all your work on the

Committee, in particular, looking after the

finances, and welcome Una, we look forward to

your contribution to our deliberations!

on our behalf through this strangest of years – to

Neil, Claire, Alison, Donna and Elaine in the

office, Sue and Brian and all their team in the

clubhouse, Andrew, Brad, Gary, Jorden and Calum

in the pro shop and of course, Eoin and the team

for their fantastic preparation of our courses.

Thank you all for all your efforts.

My last word has to be to the retiring Lady Captain

Norma Fleming. Thank you Norma for all your

The Captains’ joint charity for Norma and Rob’s

two years as Captains was Chest, Heart and Stroke

Scotland. This year, despite so many fewer events,

we raised a brilliant £1,521 among the ladies, thank

you all for your contributions.

Once again on behalf of the ladies I would like to

thank all the Club staff who have worked so hard


work on behalf of the ladies. Although the first half

of this year was not what you would have wanted,

you have overseen a very happy and enjoyable two

years in the hot seat and we loved having you as our

Captain. Please enjoy your retirement!

Looking forward, hopefully we will enjoy a full

playing season in 2021 and can enjoy these

wonderful courses we play over and the friendship

that golf membership offers to us all. The Captain

and I hope to introduce a new element to the social

golfing life of the Club by way of a mixed

competition on summer evenings. Watch this space!

In conclusion, I can report that the Ladies Section

of Royal Dornoch is in a healthy position, with

several new ladies joining us as Struie members,

and several ladies gaining their Championship

Course membership. The numbers playing in our

winter roll ups and social events are at an all time

high, and I would encourage all lady members to

keep that going into the competitive season in

2021. To our visiting members, please be assured

that you would receive a very warm welcome if you

would like to take part in any of our competitions

during your stay, please get in touch with me or the

Pro Shop if you would like to enter.

I wish you all a very happy, and most importantly a

healthy 2021.

Alison Bartlett

Lady Captain


Senior Section

The Senior Section of Royal Dornoch, in common

with all others suffered from the Coronavirus

restrictions imposed through March, April and

May. Sadly, we eventually had to cancel all our

matches for 2020 (can we claim an unbeaten

season?) Once allowed to return to the golf course,

the seniors were ready for as much golf as possible.

This resulted in us having a very healthy total of

sixty-two members, including encouragingly a good

number of newcomers, all of whom are very


All our competitions attracted a high number of

entries, peaking with the September medal, for

which there were 44 entries contesting the W. E.

Skinner Cup (Scratch) and W. MacDonald Quaich

(Handicap) trophies. These were won by Peter East

and Ernie Millard respectively. We were fortunate

to be able to re-schedule some of our events. With

the co-operation of the Ladies Section we held our

most enjoyable, joint, three-person team

competition; this attracted a combined entry of

forty-eight golfers. In addition we managed a

number of stablefords, medals and team

competitions on both the Championship and

Struie courses. I would like to thank all the

members for supporting these events, some of

which were arranged at short notice.

In common with everyone else I hope we will be

able to return to our full fixture list next season.

We have one innovation, which is that our June

Stableford will be designated “The Senior

Captain’s Charity Event”, where we hope to raise

money for a local charity. The details have not yet

been decided, but will be circulated closer to the


I would like to express my thanks to the committee

members for their support. This year has meant

taking some difficult decisions and their advice has

been invaluable. I would also like to thank Andrew

Skinner for his co-operation organising the draws

for our competitions and the Pro Shop staff for

ensuring they ran smoothly.

Roger Boyce


Our final event of the year was our Christmas

Fourball Betterball Stableford. Unfortunately we

were unable to hold our Christmas lunch

afterwards, but to add a bit of festive cheer we held

two “fun” competitions. These were for: the best

“Festive” attire and the most “Festively” decorated

bag. Judged by the Pro Shop Staff they were won

by David Fleming and Andrew Skinner

respectively. They can be viewed here.



Wednesday Seniors (The Geriatrics)

No trophy competitions, no annual lunch, no

speeches (cheers all around) and no playing with

the ladies. Also, we lost Lindsay MacDonald who

was good company both on and off the course.

What a year.

On restart, to keep to the rules, registration took

place outside the pro shop and since we could not

hold our usual 'afters' and presentation to the

winners, golf balls were collected at the following

week's registration. Match fees are paid monthly

preferably by BACS.

Since restart the group has gone from strength to

strength with over 30 playing regularly and can

boast the Captain Elect and President amongst it's


Best of all members have kept their sense of

humour and I thank them for it.

John S Logan


Archives & Collections

Covid has not stopped the Archive and Collections

Team! Unable to work in the Archive Store from

mid March to the end of August, filing,

categorising and accessioning large amounts of

paperwork continued from home.

The highlight of 2020 was the opportunity to

purchase nine medals belonging to the family of

Alex Morrison whose many achievements included

winning the Silver Medal in 1898 and playing in

The Amateur Championship in 1909. Acquisitions

of this nature continue to develop and enrich our

understanding of the Club’s early history. When

the Clubhouse returns to normal functioning, it is

hoped the Morrison medals will be on display.

Royal Dornoch has amassed a rich book collection

which has been sorted. Older books and registers

dating from the Club’s very early days have been

assessed and where necessary, have been repaired.


In due course, the collection will form the library

of the new clubhouse.

Since August, work has focused on completing the

mammoth task of clearing and classifying the

remaining boxes from the Clubhouse attic. We are

very grateful for the diligence of Tom Tew and Dr

John Macleod who, over the years, amassed a

significant amount of important material for


‘Are you not finished yet?’ you may ask. Rest

assured we are getting there. Our grateful thanks

for the continued support of the Captain, Council

of Management, Neil, Claire and the office staff.

Eileen Macrae and

Christine Callingham


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