The tee shot on the 3rd
Nairn is a very traditional links beginning hard up against the ocean and playing straight out before turning to come back. The opening stretch is easily the most memorable because of the proximity of the beautiful wide beach and Moray Firth beyond. The openers were very nice but the course really is at it’s finest from the 3rd through to the awesome 5th.
The feature that is most unique to Nairn is the revetted faced bunkers where the revetting appears to be a perfect moon shape. There is very little bunker below grade, in most cases, but the backs are built well up to create depth. The mounds behind are almost perfectly symmetrical at the top which makes the revetted face just as symmetrical. While this sounds too uniform, the effect is far more pleasant than I would have expected since you have all these steep moon shaped shadows along the fairways.
The third hole uses the moon shaped riveted bunkers for maximum impact. The faces are much higher than the surrounding approach and are very prominent because they are unusually high. The three bunkers that frame the fairway end up creating the most wonderful undulating bowl of an approach. Each bunker adds a beautiful twist to the roll of the approach since each is about 3 feet above grade. The effect is one I can easily emulate with any natural plateau green site.
The 370 yard 5th
The 5th hole is the jewel of the club. A brilliant 370 yard par four where the ocean protects the aggressive line and James Braid has added a bunker that is situated exactly where you would want to lay up. The green is the best on the course since it is well elevated and framed in by deep visible bunkers on the right, a strong false front and a diabolical bunker hidden on the left (where it appears you can bail to).
The 6th and 7th seem plain despite their proximity to the ocean and I must admit I wasn’t expecting much coming in at that point. Where I got a great surprise was at the 10th. The 10th and 12th play slightly downhill all the way and look directly out and down the coastline. These were both excellent examples of framing a view using the gorse to point the eye at the ocean beyond. The gorse used this was felt very similar to tree lined Parkland holes other than the fact you could occasionally look over the top. The two holes were also another excellent example of how running holes on a 45 to the ocean provides the best panoramic view of a coastline. The fact that both holes had no backdrop just made the views even more spectacular.
There was still one great hole to come and the downhill 15th was perhaps the next finest after the 5th. The hole is a downhill par three of around 200 yards with the ocean clearly visible as a panorama from the high tee. The bunkers all appear to be directly in front of the green, yet the prominent front bunker turned out to be well short with a hidden sunken fairway in behind. This was just like the fairway at the 17th at Merion and it made me wonder if Hugh Wilson had seen this before building Merion. The fairway then rises up into a magnificent false front which leads into a very wild green. The bulk of the green is a high front and right plateau, but what makes this one very memorable is the wildest back swale and pin position I have seen in a while. This all adds up to one excellent golf hole. The only question I would have is could you bounce in your approach in
The incredible downhill 15th
I mentioned to Robert that if I had this property I would have routed it differently. I would begin away from the ocean and taken you to and from the ocean multiple times. I would have tried to have at least one or two holes playing directly out at the ocean. In particular, at the far end of the course I would have turned to play directly at the ocean. I feel at Nairn, like many traditional links, having all the ocean holes at the start made the course the returning holes almost guaranteed to be less than the holes going out.