Cullen Links - North East Scotland - Scotland

Cullen Links Golf Club,
Cullen,
Moray,
AB56 4WB,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1542 840685

The village (and former royal burgh) of Cullen lies on the Moray coast, around twenty miles west of Elgin. Famous for a culinary delight known as Cullen Skink – a traditional soup made from smoked haddock, milk, potato and onion – it was once a thriving centre for fishing but nowadays its harbour is used mainly by pleasure craft.

The golf club was formed in 1870, with Old Tom Morris setting out the original 9-hole layout alongside Cullen Bay. Thirty-five years later, Charlie Neaves, the professional at Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth, was called in to advise on the expansion to an 18-hole layout.

The additional land came from the Town Council, which rented the ground on the plateau next to the links from a local farmer. Ten new holes were fashioned in total, with one of the old holes lost to the new development.

An account at the time described the development as follows: “the new course is in striking contrast to the old one. The players had few hazards to encounter, and it was plain sailing from first to last. The present course is truly a sporting one, and abounds in hazards of such character that an inexperienced player will find himself punished.

Some holes on the top plateau require careful play. No doubt that in years to come, and with the course in steady use, a good many faults will be remedied, but the course will always remain a good test of golf.”

Today, the course measures just over 4,600 yards, playing to a par of 63, with ten par threes and only one par five on the scorecard. Quirky doesn’t really come close to adequately describing some of the holes that are played here, especially those located around the 80-foot high red sea stacks on the back nine.

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Reviews for Cullen Links

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Description: Old Tom Morris set out the original nine holes at Cullen Links Golf Club, which was founded in 1870. The course has since been extended to eighteen holes, featuring no fewer than ten par threes in a really fun-filled layout. Rating: 5.7 out of 10 Reviews: 6
TaylorMade
Ted Pearson

On a whistle-stop tour of Scotland, Cullen was the single most stunning and surprising revelation of the trip. Playing some big hitters (Carnoustie Championship and Castle Stuart/Cabot Highlands) and some well-known favorites (Dunbar and the Machrie), the single most indelible impressions of the trip were made by a small club that I rolled up to - no tee time in advance - and played for 25 pound at twilight.

Let's start with getting Cullen's problems out of the way because it is not perfect: it's greens are too often tipped-over frying pans, it's bunkering is simple, the holes atop its overlying ridge and to/from the clubhouse are simply boring, and its surrounds are too routinely perched. Throw it in with Scotland's leading lights, and it'll look humble.

However! for those willing to listen through some off notes, Cullen delivers one of the most interesting tee-to-green experiences in Scotland with aplomb. As its core intrigue, Cullen asks the golfer to consistently and repeatedly guestimate their distances under utterly unique circumstances. The 2nd plays up a 20 yard (at least) ridge, requiring only a simple wedge. However, while the temptation, especially with the prevailing breeze playing directly into the face, is to easily over club, a hazard ditch lurks in easy reach just past the green. The 4th and 6th ask similar questions but play 90 degrees rotated from the 2nd and in opposite directions of each other. The result? A puzzle on each tee. Special recognition should be given to the 7th, which finally plays back down off the ridge with the Den Burn lurking just beyond the hole. With a 2+ club wind into and off the left but dry and bouncy turf, I spent more time discussing the appropriate club with my caddy (praise be to my long-suffering significant other) than at any point on my trip.

8 through 11 are fine holes, but it's at 12 that Cullen becomes unmistakable for any other course in the world. Playing directly over the top of rock outcroppings pulled straight out of Arches National Park, 12 through 14 recreate the same tee-to-green test from atop the ridge but now below the exposure. In a strong breeze, club selection is at paramount. For those who would say it's a gimmick or that it only every plays blind the first time, I'd a) refer those golfers to St. George's maiden hole b) point out that Cullen, unlike the aforementioned, has been brave in holding onto its quirks where others have bowed to shifting tastes, and c) question their sense of fun. If you can't enjoy figuring out club selection while hitting over a prehistoric pagoda or revel in the last minute reveal of a ball perched perfectly for birdie, you've forgotten some of the original joys that first created the sport.

No course I saw in Scotland was perfect. Every course had flaws and some of them were dire enough that I wouldn't feel the need to venture back anytime soon. Cullen, however, I look forward to seeing again real soon, even if I have to fly half-way across the world to do it.

August 12, 2022
8 / 10
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3 people found this review helpful

Greg Watson

As we approached the course on a dreek "summer" early morning to play the Old Tom Morris classic, weather closing in, wind howling and temperature more suited to a November morning we could have been forgiven if we had postponed our pending game, and tucking into some "Cullen Skink" However as we caught first sight of the wee links from the coast road on high there was an air of excitement at what was in store.

We were greeted on the car park by the club Secretary Linda, who had made a special journey to greet us and wish us well, what an ambassador for this special club, I was humbled and can not thank her enough.

Onto the course, with its awesome sea tacks in the distance just visible through the sea mist the course oozes a magical mystique like nothing I could describe. The course is natural rustic links, prepared outstandingly well by a single green keeper and volunteers, it played lovely. As you weave you way around the old layout through the sea cast formations and along the coast you can not help but be inspired, and despite the weather hindering the view it was a lifetime experience to make the visit.

The weather into the back nine started to settle and the tranquillity was body tingling, with only the gentle ambient wave sound the setting was transcendent, as we pause to take in the glory we were joined by a young deer that emerged from the ferns within 10 yards of us, and with a cursory glance of its head it gently disappeared as gracefully and quietly as it had arrived.

The blind tee shots over markers painted on the rocks are really fun to play and a different challenge. I can not speak high enough of the club and course, this needs to be enjoyed by as many golfers as possible, and I would urge you to make the "pilgrimage" and tread the hallowed fairways.

July 19, 2022
6 / 10
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Dan Hare

Our tour of the lesser lights continued at Cullen - we'd driven past a couple of times en route from the more famous links in the area so made it a visit this time.

A no frills, friendly community course in a pretty town, the golf is great fun and better than one might imagine from the yardage or clubhouse.

Obviously the highlight for us was Craig holing out on the 200 yds elevated 7th with a 4 iron, but the whole course was a challenge and had shots that you'll never find anywhere other than British links - Cullen deserves a place with the likes of Shiskine and Bamburgh Castle for unforgettable challenges, and it's a super quick round allowing you to fit in another course if you've the energy.

It's great to see so many more golfers up in this neck of the woods drawn by the goliaths old and new - they will be missing out if they don't visit local gems like Cullen, Pitlochry, Boat of Garten, Hopeman, Spey Bay, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Inverallochy, Rosehearty etc etc ...the Highlands must be considered the premier links golf destination in Britain, particularly if scenery, friendly welcome and value for money are in the equation.

March 30, 2022
6 / 10
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Robert Mcallan

I played Cullen in June 2021, with a pair of friends. We had been forewarned to be careful on the links with the routing providing a few cross over holes, we were also warned to pay attention to the lay out on the scorecard to make sure we were hitting to the right greens.

Cullen the town is a surprising haven, reminiscent of what I imagine the boom of the victorian era beach holiday. I mention this as the course has a strong element of a holiday links and can just imagine what it was like back in the early 1900's. I do not think a lot has changed.

We found the course to be great fun for three friends having a friendly game with nobody that serious about the score. Like many Scottish courses, the first is very straight forward, a simple start. The second hole has you hitting a sand wedge into the skies to let you climb up on to a plateau above the majority of the course. The hole is simple enough if you can throw it high but it must ruin a lot of weekly medal rounds.

The real fun seemed to start with a blind par 3, that makes full use of the rocky out crops, which sit there, like something from the Jurassic age. If one is not enough, then immediately the next one, is the same, a blind par 3.....

I wouldn't travel far to play the course again but if i was in the area, I would absolutely get out and play as it a really is fun course. Definitely a course you play for the challenge :)

June 06, 2021
4 / 10
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Jim Robertson

Some courses fade in the memory as years pass. Holes mingle and elide until you're not quite sure where you played them. You will not, repeat not forget playing at Cullen! There are some completely conventional holes here, 1 and 3 for example and the closing stretch. But the middle section is unique. The landscape is dominated by huge rocks and strange escarpments.It is at once a primitive and thrilling place to play and you half expect dinosaurs to appear! There are blind shots aplenty and tees so elevated that vertigo is a danger. There are firsts they say you never forget : first kiss, first car and others. I would undoubtedly include your first round at Cullen in that list!

June 01, 2020
6 / 10
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Jim McCann

The club celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, which is a great achievement for such a relatively obscure golfing outpost up at the top end of the country. If you like your golf to be on the unorthodox side, with a little out of the ordinary and unconventional thrown in for good measure, then Cullen Links is bound to appeal to you.

Playing to a par of 63, there are no fewer than ten par threes on the card – with consecutive short holes played at holes 2 to 4 and 11 to 14 – so you might say golfing convention gets turned upside down here. The early holes are played along an escarpment overlooking the links ground before the long par three 7th plunges downhill to the holes next to the beach.

The remainder of the round is played out among the big sea stacks located close to the shore, with blind shots, crossing fairways and lie of the land greens all adding to the old-fashioned charm of the course. For sure, it’s a rather surreal setting for golf and one of the most unique I’ve ever come across – I wonder what Old Tom made of it all when asked to lay out the original nine holes?

My advice is not to bother about keeping score if you play Cullen, just go out and have some fun, like the locals have being doing for the last century and a half. Your green fee allows you to play all day if you like so maybe go out a second time and replay the holes you liked best. And when you’re done, don’t miss out on a bowl of Cullen Skink in the clubhouse – it’s delicious!

Jim McCann

March 09, 2020
4 / 10
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