WINTER NEWSLETTER 2021
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.
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Land lease which requires a Public Consultation by the Highland Council and was withdrawn in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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
COMPETITION CATEGORY PRIZEWINNERS
Champ, Winter Stableford Eclectic Winner COLIN MACKAY
DONALD GRANT CUP
Champ, Winner of the Medal winners Winner GARETH HALL
W.E. SKINNER SENIORS CUP
Champ, Seniors Scr Champion Winner PETER EAST
WILLIE MACDONALD QUAICH
Champ, Seniors H’Cap Champion Winner ERNIE MILLARD
Champ, Singles, StrokePlay,2Rds, Matchplay
Handicap Section (Bethune Cup) Winner NEIL MUNRO
Losing Semi-Finalists CONNOR PRESTON,
Scratch Section Winner ADAM MACKAY
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.
COMPETITION CATEGORY PRIZEWINNERS
GLENMORANGIE OPEN Winner CAMPBELL THOMPSON
FRASER GARDNER Gardner Trophy Winner ANDREW PATERSON (Dundas Parks)
Fraser Shield Winner NEIL MUNRO
Handicap Winner NEIL MUNRO
SENIOR 4 BALL BETTER BALL Winners THOMAS HARRISON (Dunfermline)
& ROBERT WYLES (Canmore)
DAVID URQUHART MEMORIAL Winner
PAUL GOODEVE (Duxbury Park)
SENIOR LADIES OPEN Winner ALISON BARTLETT
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.
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
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.
Finally PITCH MARKS and DIVOTS!!
Best wishes to you all for a much better 2021.
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
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
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;
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.
Junior Trophy Winners 2020
Summer Knockout A
Summer Knockout B
Caddies Cup Day Winners
Ken Natsusaka Cup
A Reeves Memorial
R Mcculloch Shield
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
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.
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.
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.
COMPETITION CATEGORY PRIZEWINNERS
CONSTANCE YOUNG SENIORS
Champ, Seniors Medal Winner ALISON BARTLETT
JOCK MACLEOD TROPHY
Champ Summer Eclectic Winner VICKY SUTHERLAND
PAM LOVELL ECLECTIC
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
INA DICK SALVER
Champ, Best Scr Agg in Qual Rds Club Champ Winner CAITLIN BOA
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Handicap
Champ, 2 Qual Rds, 3 Rds Matchplay Winner ZARA MACDONALD
Runner-up NORMA FLEMING
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Scratch
Champ, 2 Qual Rds, 2 Rds Matchplay Winner CAITLIN BOA
Runner-up ALISON BARTLETT
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
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.
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