Organised golf has been played at Moray Golf Club since the club was formed back in 1889, when Old Tom Morris laid out the inaugural 9-hole course for the founding members. Later enlarged to a full 18-hole track, the Old course is acknowledged as one of the finest in all of Scotland.
A 9-hole Ladies course was brought into play in 1905 and this remained the relief course at Moray until 1979, when it was incorporated into Sir Henry Cotton’s design for the 18-hole New course.
The three-time Open champion is most associated as an architect with Penina in Portugal, where he lived, and his list of Scottish projects is far from extensive – in fact, we know of only one other, Stirling, which he redesigned in 1967.
Today, the New course measures a respectable 6,068 yards from the white medal tees. Playing to a par of 70, it features only a couple of par five holes, “King o’ the Castle” at the 3rd and “Dinna Top” at the 14th, both of which dogleg slightly left from tee to green.
The only hole on the course that actually touches the shoreline is “Bents,” the right doglegged 10th, where a ditch crosses the fairway of this short par four as it heads towards a bunkerless green.At 181 yards long, the penultimate hole, named “Caesar’s Grave,” is the toughest of the par threes. Playing thirty yards longer than any of the other three short holes on the card, it requires both length and accuracy off the tee in order to secure a par or better.
The club market the New course as a Henry Cotton design but it was architect Howard Swan's father Alex (who worked with Cotton on many other golf projects) who actually did the heavy lifting here in the late 1970s. Playing to a par of 70, with only one par five on either nine, the course measures just over 6,000 yards from the back tees.
One or two people may have been surprised to see the New course make an appearance in the last edition of the Scottish Top 100 chart but I can fully understand why such a top quality track made the cut – after all, it shares the same great golfing terrain as its older sibling the Old course, with similar firm and fast playing conditions offering an abundance of ground game options.
It’s a bit shorter and tighter in places than the Old course, with high banks of gorse flanking quite a few of the fairways and drainage ditches crossing several of the fairways. Perhaps its biggest drawback is that it lacks the final hole drama of the 18th on the other layout, finishing quite a way from the clubhouse in a relatively anti-climactic location.
Nonetheless, the New is a cracking course and I especially liked the run of holes from the 10th to the 13th at the far end of the property, next to the Silver Sands caravan site, in front of the Covesea lighthouse. And all four of the par threes were sensibly distanced (between 100 yards at the 6th and 181-yards at the 17th) – what a pleasant change to have all four short holes play comfortably less than 200 yards!
Having spent a bit of time in and around Lossiemouth, I have had the pleasure of playing both the Moray courses several times. I enjoy a round on the New every bit as much as one on the Old. Despite sharing the same land the two courses are not that similar. Many holes on the New are lined with punitive gorse and nasty little burns come into play several times. I particularly enjoy the sequence of holes which play towards the lighthouse. The 18th on the New lacks impact but compared to the magnificent closing holes on the Old most holes do!
The New course, designed by Henry Cotton and opened in 1979, is the perfect foil for the Old. It doesn’t quite have the volume of exceptionally good holes of its elder sibling but the overall feel is the same and there’s plenty of good golf to be had. The course stretches to just 6,084 yards and has a par of 70 but don’t be fooled by the numbers.
The two courses intertwine and share the same firm and sandy links turf, however, the threat of gorse is more prevalent and there’s an increased premium on accuracy as opposed to length as the links weaves through the blankets of whin. The greens are smaller too and although there is not as much going on around them this is still entertaining golf.
The best holes on the New are the ninth and tenth which are closest to the sea and enjoy the best of the undulating terrain. Before that the fifth and sixth also make very good use of a burn that runs through both courses and the 13th and 14th are another good couple of back-to-back holes.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.