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23 miles N of Aberdeen
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Some say golf was played at Cruden Bay way back in the 18th century. An authenticated ballot box with the inscription "Cruden Golf Club 1791" exists, but Cruden Bay Golf Club wasn’t formed until more than 100 years later. Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson laid out the course for the Great North of Scotland Railway Company (GNSR) and it opened for play in 1899. In 1926, Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler redeveloped the layout leaving many of the original greensites and routing intact. Little has since changed.
The railway company used pink granite to build a luxurious hotel at Cruden Bay, which was nicknamed “the Palace in the Sandhills”. They hoped for the same success as at Gleneagles, but sadly, in 1952, the hotel was demolished. Money was tight in the 1950s and the club and course almost fell by the wayside until three local businessmen stepped in to save Cruden Bay from extinction. A new clubhouse was built in 1961 on the same spot as the hotel but that, too, has disappeared, making way for the present 1998 clubhouse.
Cruden Bay is an inspirational golf course, regarded by some as quirky and considered by others as a masterpiece. Either way, this is a thrilling place to play golf because the designers used the original lie of the land to fantastic effect. Rugged linksland, pebble-dashed with sand dunes as high as three-storey buildings. Elevated tees cut high into the dunes, humped and hollowed fairways bumping their way along to punchbowl greens, nestling in attractive dells. And all set against the backdrop of the steely North Sea.
The 193-yard par three 4th hole is called Port Erroll and is described in A Century of Golf at Cruden Bay as follows: “Thus named because the Water of Cruden runs along the left side of the fairway, with the old fishing village of Port Erroll on the opposite bank. The harbour is itself visible in the near distance. This is one of Simpson’s best par threes and one of Cruden Bay’s best holes. Playing straight towards the sea (and often into the wind) from an elevated tee carved out of one imposing sandhill across a deep grassy hollow to an elevated green carved out of the facing sandhill. The tee shot must carry straight and all the way to the green – it is serious business, indeed.”
I played this course as well as an additional 17 top courses in Scotland and I would put Cruden Bay in my top five. The only courses I thought were more fun or interesting than Cruden Bay were perhaps Turnberry, North Berrick, Royal Dornoch and Royal Aberdeen. I feel the raking of Cruden Bay is truly justified and I do not understand how one could feel this course does not deserve its ranking. If you like elevation change, beautiful views and truly unique golf holes that you will see no where else in the world, this is the place to play. I thought the back-9 holes along the beach, especially #14, #15 & #16 were some of the most interesting and unique holes of golf I have ever played. I will never forget them.
Cruden Bay the course was laid out by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson and opened in 1899, on behalf of the Great North of Scotland railway company. After a quarter of century play Tom Simpson and the great Herbert Fowler undertook some redevelopment design and changes. The welcome received was a friendly one, and pace of play good, loved the real constant smell of the sea a reminder how close you are to it.
A gentle start to the course with a quirky hole at the 3rd, before the first wow hole, a 200 yard par 3 over the wee bay to an elevated green into a 3 club wind. A handful of good holes with outstanding views of the golden sands over the next stretch, with a few more quirky holes thrown in. The weather was again glorious with a 25 mph breeze making it a thoroughly enjoyable day. The course I would describe as rugged although the green approaches and surrounds were very well presented, but unfortunately i found the greens fairly slow (understand that they can't be super quick, but would have expected quicker) and very bobbly, not true at all which did spoil the experience somewhat not a reflection of the green fee.
What a great golf course. 3-7 is one of the best stretch of holes in the country and the 5th is one of my favourite par 4s anywhere with the elevated tee and the two tiered green. Not a massive fan of 9 and 10, but 11-14 are again another great stretch.
15 is a funny little hole but you know what, it is what it is and I quite like it for that. Where else do you play a blind 200 yard par 3!?
The finish isn’t quite as strong as the rest of the course but is ok. The views from the clubhouse are some of the best you’ll find anywhere. Cant wait to go back
One of my favorite courses in Scotland. Blind shots, amazing dunes, sloping greens, great variety and fun. Views are wonderful throughout. The club itself is friendly and welcoming. Just a wonderful place to play.
Good course and great experience. We arrived at Cruden Bay and as we checked in to pay our greens fees, the guy behind the cash register said 'Great - Ill be one of your caddies today so lets get out there!'. Friendly people all around and lovely golf course with unique routing. Not as many memorable holes as other courses in the Top 100 but a unique and fun place to play. Exactly the kind of course that belongs on any golf trip itinerary as a change of pace from some of the harder giants or those courses that can be a bit stuffy.
An absolute cult classic links course, full of quirk, charm, but above all else fun. Most holes have something unique about them, starting with the 2nd with its mega false front, that can see a shot just short of the green roll back 30-40 yards. The next is a blind, short par 4, that has traffic lights on the tee so you can know when to hit, something not often seen! The 4th is a one shotter along Cruden Water, normally played into prevailing wind. This only plays at 140 yards, but on one of my rounds there, there was extreme winds. They were averaging at 30mph with 50mph gusts, which meant that the only logical choice was to hit driver! 5-7 are the first holes played in the dunes, with the dogleg par 5 6th played over a burn followed by the epic 7th which green is entranced between two massive dunes. The view on the 9th tee is one of the best I’ve seen, leading to the exciting back 9. The real signature holes are 14 and 15, one a par 4 and one a par 3. Both of the greens are hidden on the approach, with the bathtub, punchbowl style green of the 14 something not really seen anywhere else (as with many other aspects of Cruden Bay). 17 has a viking burial ground in the middle of the fairway (as you do), something which I think Coore/Crenshaw tried to recreate on the 7th at Barnbougle Lost Farm. All in all, an extremely fun and special place to play golf, which leaves the player desperate to come back and have another crack.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to play Cruden Bay if you are in the area. It is about as fun as golf gets. The huge dunes make you feel as though you are playing in Ireland, not Scotland.
You arrive to a very warm welcome from the staff, who are (rightly so) proud of their course. The stand out holes are:
3 - Drivable blind par 4 to a punchbowl green
4 - Gorgeous par 3 by the water with a fishing village to the left
6 - very famous blind par 5
8 - 250 yard par 4 to a green set in the biggest dunes you'll ever see on a golf course
14 - one of the best par 4s in the world with a bathtub green
15 - blind par 3 over a huge dune
Other great holes are 2 5 7 9 13 17.
Incase you haven't caught wind yet, there are so many good holes at Cruden Bay. The view from the 9th tee box is arguably the best in Scottish golf.
If you don't like blind shots, then come to Cruden with an open mind, enjoy the thrill of finding out where your ball has ended up, and just soak in what is one of the best golf courses in the world!
Quirky & Fun! The course winds it's way through towering dunes for the majority of the front nine, before heading up on top of the headland and down again returning to authentic links terrain for the back nine.
Cruden Bay is an old fashioned quirky, anything goes links course- you just never know what is around the next corner...
It is definitely a course that you will enjoy playing multiple times, just so you know where you are headed, how far to hit, and where the trouble is.
First time players can study the course guide all they like, but I defy them the pick the right lines and lengths consistently. Some greens play very firm and fast and you need to play well short to avoid running through. Others just don't! It is a course with real personality.
Whether you are sitting in the clubhouse enjoying the panoramic views, or out on the course with sea views at very turn, or discovering genuine links holes that surprise you- Cruden Bay will capture your imagination. The course is not without its faults however, and I regard the long par 4 ninth hole on top of the headland as a hole that just connects holes, and is out of context with the rest of the course.
However Cruden Bay has many positives to outweigh those imperfections- wonderful links turf, sea views, and a clutch of unique links golf holes. Even the clubhouse has personality with magnificent vistas over the course and coast, and a welcoming atmosphere inside. But back to those remarkable golf holes...
- The driveable par 4 third hole with its roller coaster fairway
- the long all world par 3 fourth with gorgeous views across the stream to the village
- the extremely tight par 5 sixth hole with burn, and twist in the tail
- the tight uphill par 4 seventh with its claustrophobic approach shot
- and the short par 4 fourteenth hole with its bathtub green are all absolute standouts.
I come away from Cruden Bay for the second time in seventeen years wanting to return to play those holes. Our group of 12 played on a cold windy day in July, and the front nine was brutal with a 3 club wind making life difficult. Yet all players voted Cruden Bay one of the better golfing experiences in Scotland
First time players looking to post a score may be frustrated playing Cruden Bay, as it is a course that does not reveal all of it's secrets at first sight. But those wanting a real links golf experience will be thrilled to have made the effort and long to return, whatever the scorecard says.... Cruden Bay is a must play!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
We played this as part of a triple swing in August 2019 where we played Royal Dornoch, Trump International & Cruden Bay. Cruden Bay certainly wasn’t in the shadow of either of the other courses and outshone it in many other areas. It doesn’t quite match up to the sheer quality of condition of Trump or the superb layout of Dornoch but really is a special place in its own regard. The views you get while playing this course are second to none in the UK. Some of the early holes including the short 2nd with the elevated green, Par3 4th with the ravine and bridge to left, the long 4th with elevated tee really gets you off to a flying start and gives you a real understanding for what a treat you are in for. I couldn’t recommend this place enough and will be returning in the near future myself.
This was another one pending and it demanded a huge effort but it was well worth it! After the morning round at Jubilee I jumped in the car and drove for 2hs to arrive to Cruden Bay and have one of the most memorable walks of golf in my life. I can’t say a golf round properly as it was the 9th round in 4.5 days and my body was starting to show fatigue but what I saw is one of the nicest, a great challenge and an absolute must play.
I was welcomed by lovely Elaine, whose husband used to be the Greenkeeper and has a very nice bridge on Hole 6th in his name ashe passed some years ago. After the Club House Tour and a much needed coffee directly off to the course where the Club Secretary walked and caddied for me the first 9 holes and shared little details and stories on the course.
It has some of the best and trickiest holes I have played in Scotland:
- 2nd with volcano green where anything short can come 50yds back.
- Very short 3rd where if you get the line you can drive it, but very tough green to hold the ball.
- 4th what a great par 3 over a small creek.
- 5th Monster par 4, over 500yds from the back tees.
- 8th reachable 4 sorrounded by dunes.
- Tee 9th offers a total view of the course, the ocean, a castle, Oil Towers on the sea, it is just stunning.
- Like Cypress Point, par 3s 15-16 are 2 great holes, the first one a blind one where you need to land it short and let her roll.
It has even 2 different settings, among the dunes for the first 8 holes, then close to the ocean for 6 and again back in the dunes getting to the Club House.
It still has the Old Club House and it is another of the nice features of the day. The Course might be one that people travelling from far away like Argentina and wanting to play the famous ones might skip and this would be a mistake … this course has to be in your first selection!