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 buckled, billowing linksland lies between the delightful little fishing village of Cruden Bay and the wild rocks and skerries at its furthest point with the scimitar sands of Cruden Bay at its flank.
When you arrive in the car park, the wild duneland 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. 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.
THE VIEW FROM THE 9TH TEE
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, the main battle site today.
During a more genteel era Old Tom Morris of St Andrews was commissioned by the Great North of Scotland Railway to unearth a full 18-hole course from this magnificent swathe of linksland – and Old Tom must have been delighted with his work! By the 1920’s the course and a luxurious hotel, standing to the rear of where today’s modern clubhouse stands, were already 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 the golf course lived on and flourished.
MANY FAIL TO CLEAR THE 'WEE BURN' AHEAD OF THE 6TH GREEN OR INDEED ROLL BACK IF NOT LONG ENOUGH. © DAVID J WHYTE
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 puzzling 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 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 Scotland. 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. From the tee you look across the course with the 16th directly below you and the magnificent sweep of Cruden Bay as a backdrop.
THE PAR 3, 4TH IS A CHALLENGING KNOCK ACROSS THE GULLY TO A RIPPLING GREEN - A REAL LINKS TEST ESPECIALLY IN THE WIND
Playing Cruden Bay with its standard scratch at 71 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, for the same fee, you are welcome to play an additional 9 holes on the St Olaf course, that will encourage you to sit and plan your next round.
Cruden Bay Golf Club
Scotland, AB42 0NN
Tel: 01779 812285
Pro Shop: 01779 812414
From Aberdeen, take the A90 towards Peterhead. Turn right on the A975 through Newburgh then 10 Miles to Cruden Bay. The golf club is first on the right.
18 holes, 6287 yards, Par 70, SSS 71
Designer: Old Tom Morris
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.