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 par of 71 from the back markers. However, visitors to Moray who play here shouldn't expect a leisurely round of holiday golf, as the par becomes 69 from the regular yellow tees with the short par fives at the 1st and 14th playing as long par fours.
There may be three short par fives contributing to the overall length, but six 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!
Elgin is located close to a cluster of famous Speyside distilleries where I suspect most tourists arrive in search of whisky, not golf. This seems rather a pity as Elgin Golf Club provides an interesting and testing round despite measuring less than 6500 yards from the back tees. Length on the card can often be misleading and with seven par-4's over 400 yards and only one par-5 on the card Elgin proves the point.
Regarded by many as one of Scotland's better inland venues, the course is laid out across an undulating piece of land which rewards long and straight driving. With tree-lined holes and well defended greens providing quite a challenge, fairway bunkering is thankfully not overdone.
The quality of the par-4's is undeniable but the quartet of short holes are also memorable. I really enjoyed the back to back par-3's, beginning at the excellent 6th which is a tough nut to crack at 220 yards. The picture perfect green is set amongst large pines with a deep dell swallowing anything missing to the left. A very different challenge follows at the tricky downhill 7th which is fronted with bunkers and demands careful club selection to hold the green.
I wasn't that enamoured with the approach to the 11th green which sits close to a row of houses or the short par-4 which follows at the 12th but these are minor gripes and soon forgotten when reaching the excellent closing stretch which begins at the 14th. The final five holes on this free draining layout are amongst the best onsite and bring an enjoyable round to a satisfying conclusion.
Maybe not one of Scotland's biggest name's but certainly deserving of its national Top 100 status. Brian W
What if we're in search of whisky *and* golf?
Then you're in the perfect place with plenty of great courses and whisky galore within easy reach.
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.