There are few courses even in Scotland, the Home of Golf that are as memorable or as striking on the eye as Cruden Bay. Perched close to the country’s north-east corner, this remarkable layout of bucking, billowing links lies between the delightful little fishing village bearing the same name to the wild rocks and skerries at its furthest point.
When you arrive, its wild duneland that immediately catches your attention. High sand hills stand like protective barricades between the course and North Sea with deep, velvet valleys, sometimes protected, oft not from the tussles of wind & weather.
Playing it you rapidly discover one of Scotland’s most enigmatic, idiosyncratic, utterly enchanting golf courses. For the links aficionado a round here is on par with a bottle of rare single malt whisky. It’s interesting to note Cruden Bay Golf Club has an inordinate number of international members most of whom probably became smitten on their first encounters.
The course does not come without quirks and foibles however; hidden greens, blind drives, mammoth drops and serpentine burns. It’s a roller coaster of a golf course offering some hugely entertaining holes, each as different and as cunning as the next. If you’re lucky enough to really get to know Cruden Bay, you begin to unravel it secrets so make sure you allow for more than one round.
Cruden Bay’s history is as appealing as its charm. Evidence suggests golf may have been played here in 1791. The land surrounding the Bay of Cruden would have been ideal, close cropped turf and fast draining soil easily accommodating early golf outings. But Cruden Bay’s chronicles go back much further – a 1000 years no less when, in 1012 Scotland’s Pictish King Malcolm saw off the Danish ruler, Canute and his Viking Longships in an almighty battle that effectively ended Viking rule in Scotland’s northlands and islands. Artefacts from the battle are still unearthed on the golf course today. There’s rumour of re-enacting the Battle of Cruden Bay next year, only this time with golf clubs and balls instead of swords and battle-axes, the score being tallied in mere Stableford points.
During a more genteel era Old Tom Morris of St Andrews was commissioned by the Great North of Scotland Railway to unveil a full 18-hole course on this magnificent swathe of linksland – and Old Tom must have been delighted! By the 1920’s the course and its luxurious hotel, standing to the rear of where today’s modern clubhouse stands, had become a resounding success. A small railway line brought guests from the main Cruden Bay railway station directly to the hotel’s front door. Following the Great War and Depression of the 1930’s, its appeal waned however and the once-stylish Aberdeenshire escape was closed. Fortunately for us, the golf course lived on and flourished.
From the height of the clubhouse you can see the distant outline of Slains Castle, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ novel. New players might find the opening three holes a bit draining first-time out but keep in mind this is what nature intended and to score here needs patience and precision.
Turning seaward at the 4th you discover a delightful Par 3, short but demanding especially into the wind. The Water of Cruden runs along its left side with the charming old fishing village of Cruden Bay on the opposite bank. Don’t worry about pictures now! You can drive along to the bridge after your round and capture this great photo-op at leisure.
Over the rise, the 5th is a demanding Par 4’s of 450 yards teeing blind over camelback dunes to a rippling fairway that angles to the left. You drive this once and immediately once you see the landing area, want to do it again – this time to make sure you find the fairway.
And so it goes along one of the finest stretches of duneland in the world. The 7th is memorable with its two sandy pillars guarding the entrance to the green. The 9th towers over the entire course and offers the best views you will find on any golf course certainly in Scotland. From the tee you look across the course with the 16th directly below you and the magnificent sweep of Cruden Bay as its backdrop. At the other end of this plateau the view is south across the 11th to 14th. There are few finer prospects!
Playing Cruden Bay with its standard scratch at only 70 might in theory seem a couple of shots on the low side, certainly for championship tournaments. But the course more than makes up for those two shots by being tricky especially when there is wind. And when isn't there! Back at the clubhouse you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere with a good menu and selection of beers. But it’s the vista and the fact that you’re welcome to play two rounds in a day - for the same fee - that’ll encourage you to sit and plan your next round.FURTHER INFORMATION Cruden Bay Golf Club Aulton Road Cruden Bay Aberdeenshire Scotland AB42 0NN Tel: 01779 812285 Pro Shop: 01779 812414 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk Location: From Aberdeen, take the A90 towards Peterhead. Turn right on the A975 through Newburgh and a further 10 Miles to Cruden Bay. Golf Club is first on the right Statistics: 18 holes, 6287 yards, Par 70, SSS 72 Designer: Old Tom Morris Type: Links Green Fees: Weekdays: £70 per day/round Weekends: £75 per round (2011) Visitors: Visitors welcome Monday to Friday and weekends although some restrictions apply and pre-booking is advised. Where to Stay: Kilmarnock Arms is the best option in Cruden Bay. Something classier a few miles away would be Castle Hotel in Huntly or Meldrum House Hotel which has its own golf course. What to See: Slains Castle is out of bounds these days for walkers. Walk across the bridge at the 4th and along the beach - very refreshing.