Cruden Bay (Championship) - North East Scotland - Scotland

Cruden Bay Golf Club,
Aulton Road,
Cruden Bay,
Aberdeenshire,
AB42 0NN,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1779 812285

  • Golf Club Website

  • 23 miles N of Aberdeen

  • Welcome weekdays – advisable to contact in advance


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Cruden Bay

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.

Cruden Bay HotelThe 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.”

Tarald suggested we mention that on July 30th 1914, heroic pilot Trygve Gran took off near the 3rd or 4th holes at Cruden Bay and flew from Scotland to Norway, becoming the first person to fly across the North Sea.
Cruden Bay winds its way in a figure of eight through towering dunes. Many of the holes are secluded from each other by the sandhills, enabling that wonderful feeling of intimacy. There are panoramic sea views, a stunning beach, driveable par fours, blind drives, back-to-back par threes. That’s entertainment.
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Reviews for Cruden Bay (Championship)

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Description: 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. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 66
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Jason
The most interesting feature of the championship links at Cruden Bay is the routing, originally laid out by Old Tom Morris. The journey of the golfer through the links is a memorable one that weaves in and out of the natural links landscape, through the magnificent dunes and along the sea. The view on the 10th tee is especially great of holes 10-14 and of the sea (Bay of Cruden). The quirkiness and blind shots of some of the holes is expressive of the true nature of classic links courses and found in a profound manner here at Cruden Bay.

It is easy to imagine how the landscape would have looked when Old Tom Morris walked the site and put stakes in the ground to indicate tee and green sites. The site feels very natural and like the topography wasn’t touched in order for golf to be played on it today. I think the excellent landscape integration of the course is a very unique feature of the course and sets it apart from many links courses. The routing of the 15th hole is especially special being a long blind par 3. Not only is the hole blind but it is right along the coast and the wind has a major effect on the ball as it enters through the tall dunes as it nears the green. While it is rare to aim for a stake and not the green on a par 3, this is just another unique quality of Cruden Bay. It is interesting to hit your shot and speculate its fate, and as golfers approach the green the result of their shot is revealed to them. This surprise can be a good one or frustrating for those who thought they hit a great shot right over the aiming stake and cannot find their ball amongst the dunes and long native grass.

Another surprise that golfers face is on the 6th hole, where a blind burn winds around the front of the green. First time golfers at Cruden Bay don’t realize the hazard comes very much into play on the 525 yard par 5. The burn and the green are both blind from the left side of the fairway which makes the hole play very difficult, especially for first timers. But, for those who have played the hole often the burn is at a good distance that forces longer hitters to consider laying up or trying to hit their second shots over the burn and toward the green. The features of the golf hole may frustrate golfers the first time they play it but keeps them coming back to challenge Bluidy Burn, which is a characteristic all architects strive for when designing golf holes.

I think it is interesting that the climax of the golf journey at Cruden Bay is actually from holes 10-15, which start with an excellent driving hole on the tenth tee and finish with an interesting 200 yard par 3, and plays along the sea in between. The winding burn feature in the 13th fairway is also a very interesting natural feature on the course that both forces golfers to make a decision as well as being very aesthetically pleasing. But after playing these 6 holes the last 3 holes definitely do not live up to the quality of the previous 6.

The 17th and 18th holes are pretty average par 4’s in comparison to many of the outstanding golf holes on the course that wind between the dunes and offer great views to the sea and have quirky features that make them interesting, while the last two holes don’t offer any of these features. The elevated 17th tee does offer decent views to most of the first 7 holes and features a large dune in the middle of the fairway but still feels like a left over hole that is there just to get golfers back to the clubhouse. The last hole lacks any real features to make it an exciting finishing hole besides the clubhouse towering above the right side that offers great views for those watching golfers come up the final hole.
March 09, 2010
8 / 10
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sdodd
March 10, 2010
I feel the reviewer has drank the Kool-Aid and missed Cruden Bay's faults. First I think Cruden Bay is a good course. The reviewer highlights 15, which is the worst hole on the course, after the pedestrian 9th. In looking at the 15th anyhole in which a lost ball is more than likely is a bad golf hole. The brillance of Cruden Bay is in holes 3 through 8, with 4 being world class. There is maybe not a better 3 hole stretch than 4 through 6. If a couple of the holes on the relief 9 were brought into the main course Cruden Bay might close in on being great but until then teh best of Cruden Bay can be savored from the club hosue window. For a really nice links experience drive up the coast and give Fraserburgh a go at half the cost.
Hamish Wilson
A round here is unforgetable. Simply a delight. Links golf at its very best with some superb holes. The only ho;e that is ordinary is the 9th. but a necessary link. The setting is beautiful. Having played all the great links courses in Scotland and some in England and Ireland I rate this as one of the best.
October 22, 2009
10 / 10
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colin hancock
One of the most idyllic days of golf I can remember. Two wonderful rounds, with a pause at lunch for great haddock and chips and guinness. The course is well-enough described in the reviews below. All I'd add is that the 4th and 5th immediately became two of my favourite holes of golf (if the walk from the 4th tee to green doesn't make you glad to be alive you're in trouble), the 13th is a great par 5 and, even though I'm no great lover of blind shots, the sunken green on the 14th makes that hole something special. The only hole I thought a little weak was the 9th - relatively featureless because of its height above sea-level - but even that rewards you with a beautiful view of the bay as you reach the crest of the hill. It's a stunningly-beautiful, testing, thought-provoking course: sure, not every hole is brutally-tough, but with everything else going for it it doesn't need to be. I agree with others below that Royal Aberdeen is a truly great course, not always getting the regard it deserves, but it seems a shame to knock Cruden Bay for others' neglect. RA, Cruden Bay and Murcar are all within a 25 mile stretch of coast (and there's even a bus from Aberdeen central station that drops you/picks you up from virtually outside the clubhouse). I can't think of a better way to spend a few days than playing all three.
October 15, 2009
10 / 10
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Cameron Roy
This is my favourite course in the world. There are no two holes which look or play the same way. Blind shots, elevated tees, small greens, humps in the middle of a faairway, beach in play and gorse everywhere make for a fascinating game. I love the quirkiness and breathtaking beauty of the place. Golf as it was meant to be played.
August 27, 2009
10 / 10
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Larry Armatage
I first played Cruden in 1999. I have since returned 8 times, and the love affair will last forever.... the most fun I've ever had playing golf. I have played all of the Open courses except Royal Troon, but Cruden and The Old Course stand at the top. Tip; google "The Battle of Cruden Bay", and read the facinating history of this ground that took place in 1012. This is one of the few courses that I would fly over from Canada to play, and you will have wonderful memories our your time on this wonderful golf links.
August 01, 2009
10 / 10
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Johnson
August 01, 2009
I played the course for the 1st time in 99 also. I returned in 07 just to see if it was what I thought it was. In 99, there was low level fog so you couldnt see more than a 7 iron. My dad and I thought it was the greatest day ever. We had lost our stroke saver, as a result, we ended playing our second shots from the 10th tee into the 11th green, it was the only green we could see. The foursome we met on the green were kind enough to give us one of their books. When we returned in 07, it was amazing to play this course in the sun, we could see it all and I knew my first thought was correct, this is one of the best in Ireland/Scotland. I was amazed standing on the 8th tee that I could see the 16 th green which was visible in 99. One thing does amaze me about some reviews and the hatred of blindshots. It is part of links golf and some of the best holes in links golf are blind shot. The 16th Cruden Bay, The Dell at Lahinch and many other par 3's and approach shots in links golf. I wish I had more links courses in Canada that were true. Johnson
Kurt Krause
I just don’t get it. I played this course and also an additional 17 on my recent trip to Scotland and I would put Cruden Bay in my top five. I played every course in Scotland ranked 40th or better in this publication and the only courses I thought were more fun or interesting than Cruden Bay were maybe Turnberry, North Berrick West, Royal Dornoch and Royal Aberdeen. I think 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.
November 04, 2008
10 / 10
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kcbritton
Fantastic golf course. Visually stunning and very difficult rough. Make the effort to come here, you will not be disappointed.
July 21, 2008
8 / 10
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Mardo
As hilly a course as I have ever played. I enjoyed the variety of holes and generally enjoyed the course. I really cannot see it as one of the best in the world. The view from the 10th Tee was terrific, but the holes on the back nine did not make me want to come back for more. I had fun, but playing Cruden Bay once is probably enough for me. Give me Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, and Kingsbarns again. Mardo.
June 18, 2008
6 / 10
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BraidsBrora
Sublime links golf ! Wanted to go out again straight after the best ever fish and chips in the clubhouse.Will be back ,miss it like an old friend.
May 13, 2008
10 / 10
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Cédric
Here is my advice for Cruden Bay... Go into the lovely club house, enjoy a wee beer and a good lunch, enjoy the fantastic views but surely don't play the course!!! What a disappointment... If that course was rated as a gem, then my opinion would probably be different... But that high?? You must be kidding!! Higher than Royal Aberdeen, you must be kiddidng again!! F air enough, the course was in good condition (apart from a winter green and a winter tee on the back nine). Greens were pretty slow, especially on the back nine... The view from the first tee as mentionned above is as fantastic as it gets but I am afraid that's about it... First 3 holes are uninteresting. 4th and 5th are ok...9th stroke index one is really poor and starts your official entry to farmer's field land, no links land over there!! One thing I don't understand is why they don't use the middle gorse area for the main course and develop a few holes into the gigantic and beautiful dunes in the back... Quirky is the word that comes over and over again about Cruden Bay and I like quirky; I loved Old Prestwick!!! No Cruden Bay is definitely my biggest disappointment ever in golf... No Championship Links golf to be played there...Cédric
April 20, 2007
2 / 10
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John
February 01, 2010
What tickles your fancy Cedric? Cruden Bay rates near the top of my personal favourite links courses. Quirky it most certainly is but I can’t imagine how anyone could really be disappointed by Cruden Bay. It’s a place where architects and golf course aficionados come to study, and, for me, it’s perhaps the most exciting “holiday” golf course in Scotland, perhaps equal only to old Prestwick. It’s bizarre and almost unbelievable to read that you liked old Prestwick but disliked Cruden Bay. Both courses are monumental reminders of bygone days and fall into a similar category. With burns to negotiate, dells to sail into, dunes to encounter, elevation changes that most links courses would love to have on their property (and the odd blind shot) are just a handful of reasons as to why I find Cruden Bay a very satisfactory experience… actually I find it exciting. You mention the first three holes are uninteresting, well I think the 1st is one of the most strategic opening holes to be played which requires a well-positioned drive down the right to leave a rather tricky approach to an angled green that is well bunkered… it’s quite the opposite of uninteresting in my opinion, which, let’s face it, is what taste is all about. A massive plateau on the 2nd, a charming punchbowl green on the 3rd don’t really equate to uninteresting in my book either. Granted the 9th is a rather ordinary hole but the panorama is extraordinary. Some people like red wine, others prefer white… happily I like both. For those having read this far, I can tell you that Cruden Bay is absolutely NOT a poor course (I’ve played every links course in Britain and Ireland’s Top 100, so I have some experience). It may not be a championship course but frankly neither is Prestwick these days and I personally thank my lord for that.
Cedric
February 02, 2010
As you say, it's all about taste. It'a a while ago now since I played there, so I don't quite remember every single hole. But reading all the great reviews, mostly from Jim McCann which taste one can really trust, I was very enthusiastic. And also really disappointed. Maybe I'd need to play it again? The quirkyness was not what I disliked, even though it's really Mickey Mouse in places. 2nd and 3rd if I remember right were like a 6 iron and a flick with a wedge. The start of the back 9 was especially disappointing (9th to 13th if I remember well). Can't really explain more, that just didn't happen for me there. And it didn't happen either for the mate I played with, so it wasn't just me... I've played quite a bunch of the top links courses in the British Isles, and Cruden Bay really is at the bottom of my list (with RCD at the top, which to some might also be considered quirky by some with all the blind shots).
John
February 02, 2010
Fair enough. I really do think, however, that you should pay another visit to Cruden Bay. Your other reviews seem pretty much on the money, but this one appears rather at odds with the others.