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.
Date: September 29, 2019