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23 miles N of Aberdeen
Welcome weekdays – advisable to contact in advance
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.”
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!
I like Cruden Bay but I do not feel it is a golf course one needs to play more than twice. It has perhaps the best views in Scotland of the golf courses and the sea beyond as well as the castle ruins. The clubhouse sits level with the town but the golf course is well below you for most of the holes. On a clear day the views are spectacular.
The putting green is enormous. It is simply one of the finest putting greens I have ever seen. Contrast that with a driving range that can only be described as horrific with very old golf balls. You should spend as much time as possible on the putting green and have a competition either before or after the round.
I do not mind the blind shots that much and I think the routing is good. The golf course has a whole bunch of quirkiness in a similar vein to North Berwick West, although the quirkiness is very different.
My issue with the golf course is that it has 5-6 holes that I think are either bad or below average, those being 1-3 and 14, 16-18. I am very much aware that others might have a very different assessment of these holes. Perhaps my opinion is influenced by the rest of the holes being so good.
I like a gentle staring hole but I found one to be too easy all the way through. And even though two requires a somewhat deft touch to this somewhat narrow, uphill green with out of bounds lurking behind and a steep hill in front, I have never found it to be a difficult second shot.
The third hole is much too easy. Does anyone not ever have a birdie chance here?
Then you arrive at the fourth, one of the best par 3's one will ever play over a chasm of sorts and playing about 190 yards but either much longer or shorter depending on the wind. It is really good.
This is followed by one of the best golf holes I have ever played. Hitting from an elevated tee, as a par five it is very good as you wind your way through the dunes. As a par four, it is one of the best in the world.
This is followed by the superb sixth hole, another par five with a fish hook green to the left that can result in a blind second for a long hitter or a blind third for the shorter hitter. It is an excellent green as well.
The seventh hole, with the narrow opening to the green is equally superb and has adequate length as well. It is another strong hole and one that is a joy to play.
I like the eighth hole but I can see where others would critique it for being so short at 250 yards for a par four. Yet the setting from the tee to the green is so unique that it results in a lot of strategy....go for the pin with the tee shot, or lay up. If you hit it right into the grass you will likely struggle to make bogey.
I first played nine before the renovation. It was dismal and felt like you were playing in a cow pasture. Now it is sublime and the views are spectacular. This has improved Cruden Bay tremendously as it is now one of the better holes on the golf course instead of the worst.
The tenth hole perhaps has a little too much room on the left for a tee shot from the elevated tee, but if you go right you are looking at double bogey; saving bogey would be a good score. It is another interesting golf hole.
I love the par 3 11th, short and well defended and a bit of a breather after going up and down 9-10.
The 12th hole brings gorse into play, and if the wind is against you, the 310 yards will feel like 440. It is a nice hole with a decent green.
The 13th hole is really special after they moved the tee to its present location bringing the burn back into play. The raised green makes it a challenge the length of the hole. You play by the sea here and it is a joy despite the flatness of the golf hole until the green. It is a lovely slight dogleg with good length.
Then one arrives at the 14th with the hidden, narrow green and out of bounds on either side. Quite frankly, I find the hole to be too short whether there is some wind or not.
This is followed by two par 3's of which I really like 15 with the tee next to the sea and the green partially hidden. 16 has a slightly better green complex due to the run-offs but I did not find it to be visually inspiring.
17 has some interesting and unique humps and mounds but again I did not find the hole to be very interesting.
18 is an average finishing hole. Unfortunately it runs next to the fence to the practice range so whenever I play it I am reminded of how poor the practice range facilities are. The green is okay.
I know my review might be somewhat controversial. I certainly understand why others would rave about Cruden Bay and even put it in their top ten. I find the course to be too uneven. It is either spectacular or not and the lack of consistency makes me judge it differently.
Is it a must play? Absolutely. It one thinks differently about it then I do, that is quite understandable because it is unique and quirky just as North Berwick West is. The green complexes are either very good or just average. And for me, the fact that it has too many weak holes makes me feel it is not warranted in the great courses of Scotland. Unless one judges based on experience - it is a top ten for sure.
btw the food and service in the clubhouse is first rate. As are the views.
Cruden Bay is an interesting course with an interesting history. The name itself is an amalgamation of Croju Dane or Crudane, which means the death of the Danes. This battle occurred in 1012 and supposedly 1000 or so Danes are buried in the moguls of the 17th hole. From many points on the course one can also see the ruins of Slains Castle. Allegedly, this influenced Bram Stoker who vacationed in Cruden Bay when he was writing Dracula. The course opened in 1899 and is an Old Tom design.
In our quest for three courses we arrived at 10:28. Upon checking in we were given a complimentary nip of Scotch. Vince was the only Scotch drinker, so he was very happy. The starter introduced our caddy and said he was one of the best and he was also his brother-in-law. Turns out only one of those statements was true. We told the caddy that we needed to boot scoot around the course as we had a 2:30 at Royal Aberdeen. He told us that wouldn’t happen. I encouraged him to do his best. The first hole is welcoming and the second is short birdeable par 4. The third is another short par 3 with an aiming post. It is very driveable. The 4th hole is a par 3 and is supposedly the toughest par 3 in Scotland. At 196 yards, slightly uphill and into the wind I had no problem reaching it with my driver. The 6th is the first par five. While it is a dogleg left most of the bend is less than 150 yards out and there is a hidden burn just in front of the green and if that doesn’t get you the bunker may. The 7th is a blind tee shot so aim at the post. It is a dogleg left to a long elevated green with dunes on each side. The 8th is a fun driveable uphill risk reward par 4. Take your time hiking up the hill to the 9th tee box. Great photo opps. The 10th is a downhill par 4, caution for you big hitters. There is a burn about 290 yards out. You will either love or hate the 390 yard par 4 14th. Your approach will be blind aim at the post. The green is a bowl well below the fairway. I was told that the green has been extended and the severity of the front slope reduced. The 15th is another blind tee shot only this time it is to a 180 yard par 3. Don’t forget to ring the bell so that the group behind you knows the green is clear. The 422 par 4 17th would be tough by itself, but you also have to contend with moguls on the right side. Allegedly these moguls are the final resting places for 1000 Danes from the 1012 Battle of Cruden
Cruden Bay is a fun fasten your seatbelt crazy uncle kind of course. I would also describe it as eye candy for golfers. I would play it again but I am not rushing back
Fantastic course, a great mix of holes, fantastic views. From Murray in the proshop to Ros on the bag, its a must play. The best north of St Andrews. Stay with Ian at the Cruden Bay Bed and Breakfast. The members of Cruden Bay are fantastic like Lisa !!