Carnegie Links - Skibo Castle
Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle is the residence of the former tycoon, Andrew Carnegie.
The Carnegie Club is a private members club that resides at the Estate. The Carnegie Links is the private golf course of the members.
There are no tee times at Carnegie Links. Members and guests are able to play when and as often as they like!
It's not a private golf club but rather a private club with a golf course accessible to the public. The public is offered a single four-ball during the summer months. Included in the green fee is a three-course lunch in the stunning clubhouse.
To clear up any confusion, Carnegie Club is a prestigious private members club. Skibo Castle is where the club is located. Carnegie Links is the club's golf course.
Golf Course Review
Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle is the accessible golf course at a prestigious private members club known as the Carnegie Club. The golf is pure and in keeping with the quality and stature of its neighbours which includes Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart. This is a highly exclusive club in a secluded corner of the northern Highlands of Scotland.
Andrew Carnegie's Private Golf Course
Golf was seen on the estate around the turn of the 20th century. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie commissioned John Sutherland to create a nine-hole course that we know little about. Tatler reported in 1905 the course had been completed and Mr. Carnegie was making good use of his new layout. What is known, however, is the course disappeared during the Second World War and the original clubhouse, which burnt down, stood where the 13th green does now.
Carnegie Links & Donald Steel
Fast forward to 1990 and Peter de Savary acquired the estate and turned to Donald Steel for help to transform the estate and restore golf to its rightful place at Skibo Castle. The course was situated on the peninsula surrounded on three sides by Loch Evelix and the Dornoch Firth. Opened in 1994 by none other than Greg Norman and Fred Couples on Shell's Wonderful World of Golf.
Carnegie Links & Tom MacKenzie
In 2003, the estate changed hands and Tom MacKenzie of MacKenzie & Ebert was able to introduce remarkable changes which included the concept of 'relative solitude'. Significant changes to eight holes on the course as well as the routing and presentation. Gorse was removed and reverted bunkers were introduced.
The changes have been very well received with Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle now considered not only exclusive but also amongst one of the finest links in the UK & Ireland. It has been called heaven on earth.
(Information for this section was found in Jeremy Ellwood's article entitled Eye For Design in Edition 7 2020 of Skibo Magazine.)
Carnegie Links Review
As you arrive, the driving range and the closing stretch of three holes is to one side of the clubhouse. The three-hole loop could be played time and again without tire. This provides a quick members loop where many play with two or three clubs before retiring for a tipple.
The 16th is a solid two-shot hole that rewards approach from the right angle. The OOB on the left makes use of a dry stone wall that offers strategic charm.
The 17th, a driveable par 4, is flanked by loch's on three sides which don't come into play but provide a magnificent backdrop that is simply stunning. If Pebble Beach's 7th was a two-shot hole, this would be it.
The 18th is strategically brilliant although not as 'linksy' as the remainder of the course. The fairway banks from right to left and the tee shot must be played over a tidal cape. To reach the green in two you must tempt fate and bite off as much as you can chew and repeat the feat to reach the green for an eagle opportunity. The added element is the camber of the fairway. Play away from the water and you will find yourself on a hanging lie with the ball above your feet. From this position, you will be required to play a draw from a hook stance to a green flanked by water left. Place the ball from the tee and you are rewarded with a flat lie from which to attack the pin. It can also be played simply risk-free as a three-shot hole. (Thanks to Mr. Cooper for setting me straight on 18...)
The remainder of the course is just as good. The architectural tool of compression and release is used to good effect on holes 1-3. I feel the course really picks it up on the stretch of holes from 6 through 9. The four-hole stretch is bookended by a short par 3 and a long par 3. The two holes in between are simply stunning half par holes that present a conundrum and require thought. Cerebral golf is lacking on most courses but is found in spades during this stretch of holes in the rare lichen heath. The 7th is a dual fairway puzzle that plays differently from every tee. It is the possible lovechild of St Andrews Eden and Brancaster's 8th. Do yourself a favor and walk down to the lower tee on 8 and you'll be rewarded with a reverse Cape worth the short trek.
It would also be prudent to highlight the work done in the presentation of the course and getting the little things right. Course furniture and the bunker rakes are the details that set off a course at this level. The greenkeeping team has struck the perfect balance of conditioning whilst not losing the feeling of proper links. Credit must also be given to the Director of Golf and the Course Manager for their respective input regarding the changes to the course.
Give me the three-hole loop from 16-18 and I'd be a happy golfer for days. Add the four holes from 6-9 and I'd see no need to play 9 holes, let alone 18, again. If you add in the opening 3 dunes holes and lochside golf from 12 to 15 you have yourself a compelling golf course that you could play endlessly.
Is it heaven on earth? Absolutely. Have you heard of millionaires golf? You can play it here. Is it the 13th best golf course in the UK & Ireland? That is still a bold take as it would put Skibo Castle & Carnegie Links ahead of 16 other courses in the Golf.com Top 100 in the World List. Perhaps at the very pinnacle of world golf, personal preference and taste count as much as anything else...
One thing is for certain... the members here play are treated to world-class golf and the good news is you can be too...
The Carnegie Links Experience
The package will set you back £350 and includes the following:
- 18 Holes of Golf
- Driving Range & Short Game Facility Access
- On Course Refreshments
- Halfway House Access x 2 (Accessible on holes 5 & 12)
- Three-Course Lunch
- Skibo's own Whiskey on the 18th
The question will always be: Is it worth it? It is difficult to compare apples to apples here as the three facilities (Brora and Dornoch) differ so much. In a nutshell, it depends on how much you value overall experience rather than simply the golf. Simply weighed on the merit of the golf on offer, Carnegie Links can hold its own against its neighbors.
It is a fact that compared with Brora and Dornoch, you're paying a sizeable premium for lunch, refreshments, and a shot of whisky. It is also true you could enjoy a plowman's at the local with a pint for much less but we're also factoring in the intangibles... 'the experience.'
Even if you factor in the all-inclusive element, the round still ends up being north of £250. In America, I've paid more for much less. In the UK, I've paid much less but not necessarily for more.
The last word? Skibo stands as the best overall golf club experience I've had in the UK so far. Much is made about some 'Member For a Day' experiences but Skibo sets the bar high, lives up to the hype, and exceeds expectations.
Carnegie Links - Skibo Castle - Videos
Greg Norman & Fred Couples at Skibo
Featured Architect: Alister MacKenzie
As taken from his book, Golf Architecture, Alister MacKenzie felt the following were essential: The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes. There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes and at least four one-shot holes. There should be little walking between...