Inside The Dunvegan: Golf’s most famous pub

The Dunvegan

It’s just 12 yards from the edge of the Old Course to the Dunvegan Hotel. It’s a distance that every professional golfer you could care to mention has traversed, greeted at the end by a warm welcome from owners Jack and Sheena Willoughby. 

No one knows what colour the walls are in the Dunvegan Hotel bar, because every inch is covered by photographs of a smiling Sheena with a veritable who’s who of the world’s best golfers. “The first one we had was with Freddie Couples, Steve Elkington, Curtis Strange and Tom Kite,” says Sheena, taking a break from the bar. “When the golfers come in here and see all the photos we’ve got, they’re desperate to have their own photo up there and be a part of it.”

Since making the jump from the oil industry to hotel management in the early ’90s, Sheena and Jack have witnessed first-hand the change in culture among Tour pros. “We used to have some great nights with the players,” recalls Sheena. “The guys weren’t going to the gym in those days, and the culture was different. 

“We had Ernie Els in here late one night, before he was married with kids. He and Jack got into a debate about something and Ernie said, ‘Right, get your 6-iron and we’ll go out on the Old Course!’ So he and Jack got a club and went out in the pitch black. They got down the 1st hole and security were chasing after them, shouting and hollering. When they caught up with them and realised it was Ernie, they then shone their torches so he and Jack could see where they were going while they played a few holes.


“People would be absolutely plastered in here some nights, but it’s all changed now. There’s a lot more money involved in golf, so it’s all serious business.”

The bar may no longer see the drunken antics of yesteryear, but it’s still the go-to place if you want to swap yarns with amateurs, caddies and multiple Major winners alike. “Rory’s mum and dad are great customers,” says Sheena. “They’re in here every night during the Dunhill Cup and he’s always in with them. I’m hoping Rory wins the Open, because I think he’ll bring the Claret Jug in here if he does.

“We’ve had two British Ladies Opens here, which were probably the best two weeks of my life. When Lorena Ochoa won in 2007, she was staying with us, and Stacy Lewis stayed with us in 2013 when she won. She invited me onto the bridge with the trophy, which was really special; you would never get that with the guys.” 

You might think that being barely a chip from the course would give golf-mad Sheena and Jack the perfect base from which to see all the action. “We barely get to see any of it,” laughs Sheena. “I have to be here, looking after people. 

“I always remember when Costantino Rocca fluffed that chip on 18 in 1995. We were in here watching it on the TV, and when he was stood over the putt, we heard the roar before we saw him hit the shot on the television!”