In my opinion this is the best links course in North East Scotland, and my favorite course in the whole country! Cruden Bay regularly features in Top 100 lists and was rated number 77 in the world by Golf Magazine last year (www.golf.com/article-list/top-100-courses-in-the-world-2015/cruden-bay-cruden-bay-scotland-top-100-courses) so it’s a must play course when you visit Scotland.
Located 23 miles north of Aberdeen just off the A90, the course was designed by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson and opened in 1899 thanks to the Great North of Scotland Railway. The growth in the popularity of the game of golf in the 1890’s coincided with the growth of the rail network and courses like Cruden Bay were developed along with railway stations and hotels to attract tourists. The Cruden Bay railway station closed in 1932 and the hotel in 1939 when it became an army hospital for the Second World War.
The course is not super long. It plays only 6,599 yards from the tips, par 70. As with most links courses length is not the challenge – it’s the wind and rain; the bunkers, the rough and the humps and bumps on the fairway that can turn a great looking shot into an interesting next one! There are four other tee boxes – I played from yellow tees on my most recent visit which plays 5,862 yards, par 70. The rating and slope from yellow tees is set very low at 69.4 / 118. Although the course is fairly short from these tees it’s still difficult – even in good weather it’s easy to make a small mistake and be punished!
This is a traditional old fashioned links where you can see for miles in all directions. Every hole brings it’s challenges and gives you the opportunity to play many great shots. I also love the burns that wind there way through the course crossing many of the fairways.
The first three holes are all par 4’s heading east and allow a relatively gentle start to the round. The par 3 fourth turns back south towards the bay.
Things start to get interesting from here on! Some of my favorite holes… (All distances from yellow tees)
7th, 369 yard dogleg par 4 with an up hill approach shot into a very narrow green.
8th, is a short par 4. At only 220 yards it looks straightforward but so much can go wrong! Watch out for the steep hills on both sides which narrow the approach.
14th, 371 yard par 4 with the beach on the right. This is the number 2 handicap hole. The approach shot into this green is blind.
15th, is a 195 yard blind par 3. The tee box sits between the 14th green on the left and the beach to your right. Aim for the marker post and make sure to take enough club or you’ll get hung up on the hillside. It’s easier to play this hole second time around once you know what it looks like!
17th, 383 yard par 4 with a split fairway that gives you some choices from the tee.
This was the first time I had played Cruden Bay since the changes were made to the course over the winter of 2014/15 by architect Tom Mackenzie. The 9th tee box has been moved so the hole is now a dogleg and a lot more interesting than before. The 360 degree views from high up on the 9th tee are fantastic!
The 10th tee box moves to the right so the hole plays as a slight dogleg. I’ve always liked this hole. This is the transition from the high part of the course to the lower land by the sea and provides another great view from the elevated tee box. Aiming for the fairway bunkers is a good line but big hitters should be aware of the burn short of the green.
I believe changes were also made to the par 3 16th but they must have been minimal as it looks and plays like before – a semi blind par 3 with the green sitting in a bowl.
The clubhouse sits elevated above the course with a fantastic view over the links. The large lounge bar and dining room is a great place to relax before your round with a bacon roll or recover afterwards with soup and a sandwich. Below the lounge you will find the locker rooms and the pro shop.
I have played here several times over the years. My most recent visit was in June and I enjoyed perfect weather conditions – warm enough to wear a short sleeve shirt and little to no wind. The gorse bushes are also bright and colorful at this time of year. But always be prepared for bad weather. I remember playing here one sunny summer day many years ago when it came on hailstones on the 3rd green!
In peak season (mid-April to mid-October) the weekday visitor rate for a round is £105 (£140 day ticket) and a weekend round is £120. Shoulder season is £70 and rates are half over the winter when mats have to be used. For the best deal try to play with a member – the members guest rate is only £15! What a bargain for a top links course! Caddies are available if booked in advance. Clubs and trolleys can be rented for your round.
Visitors are welcome seven days a week. To book a tee time it is recommended that you contact the bookings secretary (contact details here www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk/pages.php/contact_us.html). The club website has information for visitors here www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk/pages.php/visitor_information.html
Back in Aberdeen, a great place to enjoy a dram on a summer evening is sitting outside the Ferryhill House Hotel on Bon Accord Street. They have a great selection of whisky’s here. I’m currently enjoying a 15 year old Dalwhinnie which I highly recommend. For location and more information check out ferryhillhousehotel.co.uk