Elgin Golf Club celebrated its centenary in 2006 and members have enjoyed golfing over the same wonderful, free-draining terrain south of Elgin city for every single one of those one hundred years, playing first on a 9-hole course then an eighteen hole layout since 1924.
Measuring 6,458 yards in total, Elgin plays to a Standard Scratch Score of 71 (two over the par for the course) so visitors to Moray who play here shouldn't expect to pitch up to play a leisurely round of holiday golf!
There may be only one par five at Elgin contributing to the overall length – the 487-yard “Hardhillock” 5th hole – but eight of the par fours on the card are longer than 400 yards, with three of them, from the 457-yard 8th to the 433-yard 10th, particularly demanding.
These three holes around the turn follow another delightful, old-fashioned feature at Elgin – back-to-back par threes – with the hefty 221-yard “Pines” 6th hole faced before the 167-yard “Road” hole at the 7th.
At clubs such as Elgin you sometimes discover little golfing gems, like the original head greenkeeper (who also laid out the course) spending 44 years in the job and a former secretary remaining in his post for 20 years. Little wonder Elgin has fittingly named the first hole “John MacPherson” and the last hole “Gordon Wilken” after both club stalwarts!
I recently played Elgin with a friend in my challenge to play the top 100 golf courses in Scotland. We arrived earlier and enjoyed lunch before our tee time. A newsletter in the clubhouse showed what a well run and social club we were visiting. Everyone prior to tee off was friendly and helpful. We played the full 18 and had the added boost of a friendly member joining us and talking us through each hole before we played. The course is not to be underestimated and is long relative to the course par. It is a difficult 18 with this reflected in the SS being 2 higher than the par. I am on my way around Scotland taking in the full top 100 courses and I can honestly say I was surprised at the position occupied by Elgin as I would definitely say it should be further up the listings. A great, well run, family club that is great value in the summer season. I will be back to play, I am sure.
I can’t believe it’s almost nine years since I last played at Elgin but, because it’s a course I remember fondly from my previous visit, I was delighted to pay it a return visit the other day to reappraise a layout that’s just undergone a substantial upgrade with the replacement of the old irrigation system with a brand-new infrastructure.
My book Frank Pennink’s Choice of Golf Courses (printed in 1976) mentions “the three most recent holes, 2nd, 3rd and 4th” at Elgin so they’ve been carved out of the mature woodland at the southern edge of the property in more modern times, greatly enhancing the overall routing.
The new bunkers at the short 4th have really improved this hole but it’s not the best par three on the front nine for me as that accolade belongs to the long 6th (measuring all of 221 yards from the back tees), where the fairway slopes from left to right with a wicked fall off to the right of the green.
In between these terrific two holes, the par five 5th – which is played as a monster 458-yard par four from the yellow tees – is probably Elgin’s signature hole. Two splendidly shell-shaped bunkers lie on either side of the fairway before it heads sharply uphill to a multi-tiered raised green that surely hardly ever sees a birdie putt attempted on it!
The left doglegged par four 11th and short par four 12th are easily the weakest holes on the card, located as they are along the northeast boundary of the course, adjacent to residential housing that seems to encroach ever closer as the years go by – perhaps further tree planting would act as a buffer to the outside world along the perimeter fence here?
The back nine ends with two strong par fours: the 17th fairway narrows considerably as it approaches a putting surface with a lovely spine running down the middle of it then the demanding 18th rises conspicuously to the home green in front of the clubhouse, where I’d love to see the two former bunkers on the left reinstated to give “Gordon Wilken” even more teeth at the end of the round.
Overall, Elgin was in as good shape as you would hope to find it – and so it should be when you hear the head greenkeeper worked in recent times at Wentworth! Fairways were a delightful mix of heathland in the heavily wooded areas to the south and parkland in the more open, northerly reaches of the course. And with greens in fabulous condition, what more could you ask for?
Elgin is probably not the first place that springs to mind when a golfing tour of Moray is being planned, but that is not to say it should be omitted from such a trip as it’s a fine inland track that will ask more than one or two questions of your golfing ability.
What impressed me most was the overall condition, with a) nearly half the fairways running firm and fast (like a links, actually) and b) good quality putting surfaces from start to finish.
There are a few insipid holes (the par three 4th and the 11th and 12th, where housing bounds the course) but they are more than balanced by a great run from holes 5 to 9 on the front nine and holes 14 to 18 on the back nine.
Altogether, Elgin's a fine parkland-cum-heathland course that will certainly test your game from the back markers.