- +44 (0) 1779 812285
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.”
Definitely in my top 10 golf experiences in terms of fun golf in a stunning setting. The beauty of the course starts at the par 3, 4th and stays the whole way round except hole 9 cannot be dressed up in any other way except to link the two nines. The back 9, edges the front in respect of wow holes (10 and 12 to 15). Just a brilliant golfing experience.
In my experience, it is the unexpected discoveries that end up making traveling for golf such an intriguing endeavor. Unexpected and unique, such as the sui generis Cruden Bay Golf Club, located along the Aberdeen coast in Scotland. When I first walked to the end of the parking lot and looked down on the course I was startled; it was unlike any golf course I had ever seen. The course defies being pigeonholed; it is one-of-a kind. Golf at its simplest is a game, and I think we sometimes lose sight of that fact.
The world of golf has much sterner tests than Cruden Bay, but for pure fun it cannot be beaten. The course would be ranked number one in the world if having fun was the only criterion utilized.
When I first played Cruden Bay early in my golf travels, I experienced what the French call coup de foudre, which translates into “a thunderbolt,” or more accurately, love at first sight. There is something about Cruden Bay that brightens your mood. It made me see golf through the eyes of a five-year-old—everything is exciting, there is a sense of discovery around every corner, life is good and full of promise, curiosity abounds.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Super friendly helpful GM, pro shop, marshalls, starter, bar and catering staff - thank you to all of you !
From the minute you arrive in the car park you can see what a cracker of a course it is - nestled in behind the dunes.......and the best bit is that that is NOT even the best bit - what you can see mainly is the nine hole course as much of the main course heads out through and over the dunes. (didnt play this but it looks a cut above the average nine hole second course)
The main course is a wonderful classic TRUE LINKS course with a stunning variety of holes and challenges and breathtaking views (and climbs) to get the heart racing.
WELL WORTH A VISIT
Amazingly it has hints of Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart, Kingsbarns, Trump International etc all rolled in to the 18 holes.
Fantastic Clubhouse views on a par with Crail or Royal Aberdeen.
WANT TO GO BACK AGAIN !!!
Oh yes, finally I did it again. After some years of absence I made the trip to Cruden Bay again. Seven years ago I played that enchanting course. I picked up the game of golf just one or two years before that trip and picked Cruden Bay by pure coincidence, the decision only influenced by a nice picture I saw. Ever since, I had this fantastic course on my mind. The great dunes which encapsulate most of the holes and separate them from each other, the perfect view over the far end of the course from the tee box of the 10th, the quirky doglegged Par3 15th: Everything has been written about that course. But you can't really describe it, you have to be there.
A word about the quality: A member I met on the course apologized for the wet condition of the course in April which made me smile, since that course was -despite two or three small puddles- in a wonderful condition.
This course is so special and I enjoyed a wonderful day of golf there, including long conversations with the staff and members. Especially, when strange new developments like the Trump thing are around the corner, everybody who loves golf should be a visitor here at least once! Royal Dornoch is my only six ball rating here, yet. But Cruden Bay deserves that, too - even when, due to the mediocre 1st, 17th and 18th hole, it may be only a 5.6, which rounds up to six.
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The par 3 fourth stars a series of standout holes that would befit any championship links course. Played today at 195yds into the prevailing southerly wind my par three was enough to take the skin. The 5th has a semi blind tee shot but there is more room to the right half of the fairway than seem from the raised tee. The approach is firm and narrow to a slanting green; I was quite pleased with my bogey here! Par 5 sixth hole asks for you to find the fairway to ensure a good lay up yardage short of the burn - not a brook in these parts! A tricky approach to raised green with run offs aplenty makes this a well designed par 5. Continuing this great stretch of holes is the par 4 seventh which although not really a driver it did take me to to the corner of the dog before a tight uphill approach to a long narrow green. Great hole! The short par four 8th can yield a birdie given it's only 260yards but it can also deal out plenty of three putt bogeys as our group found.
The 9th hole is widely regarded as the weakest link at Cruden Bay however although I didn't see it in its former guise I thought the new look layout was more than ample way to finish a great front nine. The new tee is perched as far as the land will take you overlooking Cruden Bay offering up a generous fairway that is still taking time to seed it. The 10th is an intimidating tee shot with OB right and once the new fairway bunkers are placed it will be an even stiffer test off the tee. I loved the new run off short right of the par 3 eleventh before twelve which took us to the far corner of the course before turning for home. The 13th although the longest of the two par 5s at 575yds can give up birdies with the wind at your tail and providing you avoid the burn - not brook, remember! from the tee. Lots of bunkering await off the 14th tee before another blind approach to what can only be described as sunken bath tub green. Make that a large sunken bath tub green.
Back to back par 3s were a first for me, anywhere! but a pleasant surprise and no doubt these holes have turned many a matchplay game on their head. 17th calls for a drive past St Olafs Well which shouldn't come into play and approach to another raised green with a huge bunker front left that must be avoided at all costs. The par 4 18th has more internal OB, this really is a great matchplay course, and mid iron approach to what was a true treat of links golf. What would I change for my next visit? I would book caddie for a proper lay up yardage on the 6th and help on all the many other blind shots. It's a fun course with each hole different but there is a reason why it is well placed in the Top100, it is a classic links that can be enjoyed regardless of playing ability.
When you do go be sure to order up the generous portion of ham, egg & chips & seek out general manager Les who might even pour you a great pint of Guinness! The post round view with food & black stuff on the go ain't to shabby either.....
The 5th and 6th are interesting holes through the dunes with thick rough all along the coastal side. The shot into the plateau 6th green must avoid a burn which is very much in play. The 8th is a picturesque short par four of 258 yards. There are no bunkers but the green is in a dell slightly to the right.
The views from the 9th tee are stunning in all directions. Behind you is the dune land, sea and Slains Castle in the far distance. A meandering burn is in play on the flatter 10th, 11th and 13th holes but you then re-join the dune land at ‘Whins’, the par four 14th. This is a fun hole, uphill to a narrow sunken green only a few yards from the sea.
The 15th ‘Blin Dunt’ is a blind par three to a green hidden by the dune below the 9th tee. The 16th is also a par three and the hole takes the name ‘Coffins’ from the grassy hollows to the right and back of the green. The round finishes with two good par fours, the 17th being the more difficult.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.