Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cruden Bay

            Our trip up to Aberdeen began late Monday afternoon after an enjoyable round on the St. Andrews Jubilee Course. We hopped on the train and met our friend Charlie in the Aberdeen train station. We were able to spend the night with some of Matt’s distant family, and after a few pints of excellent homebrew and a night of sleep, we were ready to play some golf.
            We arrived at Cruden Bay bright and early eager to play another course ranked in the top 100 in the world. The elevated clubhouse overlooks the course and ocean in the background. A raised clubhouse overlooking the golf course is rare in links golf and can only be found a number of other places such as Castle Stuart and Kingsbarns (to a degree). We paid the 30 quid winter rate, changed shoes in the spacious locker room, and headed to the first tee. The first hole sets the tone with a demanding tee shot having gorse on the right and bunkers on the left. The 4th hole is a beautiful and difficult par 3 that requires a roughly 210 yard shot to a bunkered green with a large false front.

            All three golfers in our group struggled with Cruden Bay’s quirky and creative layout because we had never seen the course before. Even with the stroke saver, playing the course blind was incredibly difficult. Blind tee shots and large grassy dunes lining many of the fairways led to unnecessary bogies and doubles. A second visit to Cruden Bay will happen soon and the slight local knowledge gained will shave off at least 5 or 6 strokes. The design is extremely fun and quite a few drive-able holes can lead to plenty of birdies. Experience on the course would pay great dividends.
            The 8th hole is a short par 4 of about 285 yards that has its elevated green nestled into a hill surrounded on all sides by steep hills covered in gorse. Even being a long hitting group, we only had one birdie and Charlie managed to get it halfway up a hillside and then hit it back down onto the green. His climbing expedition up the hillside added some comic relief to the already enjoyable round. The view looking back down the hole from the green is of the ocean and Slains Castle which can be seen in the distance.
            Incredible sea views are presented on the tenth tee. Raised high above much of the back nine, the tee is the peak (literally) of the entire course. The beach and bay that can be seen on much of the back nine are visually impressive and for some reason it personally reminded of Kingsbarns Bay. A small burn snakes its way through the beginning holes of the back 9 and depending on the wind it can come into play quite often.
            On a negative note, many of the greens had been affected with snow mould over the harsh and snowy winter. This left nearly all the greens slow and bumpy. It also meant that the 2nd green and the famous 15th green were closed. The blind 16th par 3 was completely closed as well. Fortunately the 16th was replaced on the card with an absolutely stunning downhill par 3 with a backdrop of ocean and beach. We quickly realized that we would just have to suffer through to poor putting surfaces and enjoy the overall course experience.

            The design is so interesting and fun that you can almost picture Old Tom Morris sitting back and chuckling when he set out the original design for the course. The same can be said for Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler who redesigned the course in 1926 to its current layout. We will be looking for any possible opportunity to play Cruden Bay again. The showers were a very respectable PowerShower rating of 6 and the towels were excellent. Playing it again with greens that are running better and a little local knowledge of where the holes go will make an even more enjoyable time. It would be very hard to find a more fun layout anywhere else in the world let alone the UK.  


  1. Just found your blog. Not bad. When did you play Cruden Bay? I've played there end of June and the Greens were ok. And overall I agree. Great fun to play the course.
    Andreas from Germany

  2. Andreas, thank you for your message. I played Cruden Bay a little too early in the season. It was the last week of March. I'm definitely going to go in the summer and play again when it is in better shape. Looking forward to it!