Only regular visitors to the southern shore of the Moray Firth will be convinced that this part of the north of Scotland is blessed with such a favourable climate that it's not unusual to see golf played on every day of the year. Happily, this assertion is true and golfers have been enjoying that fact since Moray Golf Club was founded in 1889. Old Tom Morris, who became a frequent visitor and played a number of exhibition matches in the early days, originally laid out the Old Course.
Currently a neighbour to RAF Lossiemouth, the Old course was extended to eighteen holes within two years of formation. J. Ramsay Macdonald, one of the club's more famous sons, was excluded from Moray Golf Club in 1916 because of his pacifist views, and he refused to rejoin on his becoming Prime Minister.
Moray was popular with visiting gentry in bygone years and the club had a number of members who were local distillers. The club is still strongly connected to the single malt whisky trade so hogsheads are bought annually and bottled at ten years of age. Moray and its near links neighbours present a fine option for a few days of links golf, particularly as a second course – called the New – was designed by Sir Henry Cotton and opened for play in 1979.
The shoreline 1st on the Old course is followed by a series of holes that work their way a little further inland over the first eight holes at Lossiemouth. Four of these are par fours exceeding four hundred yards, with bunkers providing an additional defence. The westernmost point is reached as Covesea Lighthouse dominates the skyline on the 11th and this hole begins another sequence of four strong par fours..
A three-hole stretch from the short, but well-bunkered par three 15th hugs the shoreline before the challenge of the 18th. Tightly bunkered down the left, with out of bounds on the right, a long accurate drive on this uphill hole is essential if the elusive home green is to yield up a finishing par.
Moray has played host to many national championships over the years and this excellent 6,717-yard par 71 links provides a real challenge to even the best of golfers. Featuring one of the finest finishing holes in Scottish golf, the Old course is well worth a visit.
Moray Old brought back memories of wonderful days spent on some of Scotland's other great old courses such as North Berwick, Elie and the Old Course which also start and finish in the town. Bordered by the Moray Firth on one side and RAF Lossiemouth fighter base on the other, the two courses here may not be the most tranquil to play on but they provide a fair and challenging test and certainly lack nothing in terms of interest. The first seven holes run straight out in roughly the same direction to the middle section of the course with the 1st and 2nd providing a gentle enough start if the bunkers can be avoided. The numerous bunkers are a constant threat, as is the gorse which comes into play on most holes, even the traditional snaking Scottish burn, more of a feature on the New Course, appears briefly on the back nine. Holes 8 - 14 switch back and forth in various directions, many being long par 4's which seem to be ever present in this tough middle part of the round with numbers 7,8,11,13 and 14 all playing over 400 yards. The attractive run for home plays along the Moray Firth starting at the 15th, a beautifully bunkered 180 yard par-3, and culminating with the excellent and atmospheric 18th. With its crumpled fairway gently rising to a wonderful green benched into the slopes and perched beneath the grand old clubhouse we save the best hole till last. Brian W
Last minute decision to play Moray today and so pleased I made the decision. Super track with great mixture of holes. Thoroughly deserving of top 100 status. The highlight is the drive off 18. The tee box is next to a stone wall and walls and houses follow you up the hole - very dramatic. A little like the closing holes at St A and North Berwick but the closing hole at Moray is far more challenging (uphill par 4 of 420). In summary, a real treat of a golf course.
I suppose the Old course at Moray gets overlooked by many of the visiting golfers who arrive in the local area to play the headline tracks at nearby Dornoch, Brora, Castle Stuart and Nairn. Leaving the Old Tom Morris layout at Lossiemouth off the schedule is a big mistake as there’s some great golf to be played out on the linksland that lies to the west of the town, between the RAF Lossiemouth base and the Covesea Skerries Lighthouse.
Returning here a few days ago was like being reacquainted with an old friend, one that I hadn’t seen for almost nine years. It’s been spruced up a bit since then, as I hear work was carried out recently to renovate bunkers, extend the semi rough and swap the 12th hole tee positions with the 12th hole on the New course. Swan Golf Designs are also involved in a long term bunker renovation program so the club’s obviously taking the upkeep of its most prized asset seriously.
Highlights for me on the front nine included the triangular-shaped green that sits in a bowl on the 2nd hole, the pair of wonderful long grass bunkers flanking the left of the green on the 6th and the sand ridges that are brought into play – the green at the 3rd lies on top of a big one and two smaller ones run across the front of the greens at the 5th and the 9th.
I also noted the heather thriving along the right of the fairway at the 7th and to the left of the 9th and sincerely hope the club is doing all it can to promote this growth here and elsewhere on the course.
I’d forgotten about the delightful little back-to-back short par fours around the turn, allowing golfers a little breather before the rigours of the inward half, starting with the long par four 11th, where the burn that cuts diagonally across the front of the green caught me out once again.
The routing moves closer to the coast at the 14th – the offset tee positions on holes 16 and 17 are such simple, effective devices to knock golfers off their stride on the tee box – before you tackle the magnificent 18th at the end of the round, where a net “4” feels like a real golfing achievement.
The Old course, with firm and fast fairways laid out over gently undulating terrain and very even-paced greens, was an absolute treat to play and I was gratified to see it in such excellent condition. The game of golf is in good hands at understated, unpretentious places like Lossiemouth.
Moray Old, or more affectionately known as Lossiemouth is without doubt one of the most underrated courses I’ve come across. The golf club’s location isn’t ideally located for Scotland’s visiting golfers and all too often, touring parties make the mistake of driving between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands whilst bypassing this classic Old Tom Morris links layout.
An imposing granite stone clubhouse keeps watch above the course and offers members and visitors wonderful views of the opening and closing holes. Whilst the clubhouse exterior maybe grand, the interior is modest and has the atmosphere of a social club.
The day I played Moray Old, my round came accompanied with 40+mph winds which I thought would make the course unplayable. However, this was absolutely not the case. Whilst this made the course the most severe of tests, the course was still eminently playable. Other than the final hole which I’ll get to later, the ground game is a real option here and bump and run is the order of the day. But you’ll need to make sure your game is sharp as the fairways are full of lumps, humps and bumps. To my personal disappointment, those winds I described did mean that the Typhoon jets at the nearby RAF base were grounded, so I was not exposed to the sound of the planes flying overhead which I know has been a bugbear of some people. However, the landing lights are unavoidable and offer a fun, quirky feature across the course.
Moray Old is a traditional 9 holes out and 9 holes back set up, but the course twists and turns along the way, so you’re saved from playing a long string of holes with the same wind direction. In addition, seven of the par 4s measure over 400 yards, so it pays to be a long hitter at Lossiemouth, particularly when those holes are played into a stiff wind. When you combine this with the deep, revetted pot bunkers that are ready to collect a stray shot, and the heavy gorse alongside the fairways, you’re presented with a championship standard test that will examine every facet of your game.
It’s a flat layout and whilst none of the holes on the front 9 are particularly standout, the Covesea Lighthouse offers a picturesque backdrop to many of the holes. The most memorable holes come at the end of your round. 14 is a brute of a par 4 with a drive towards the lighthouse and a green that has a gorgeous setting against the beach. You then turn back towards the clubhouse at the 15th and this stretch through to 17 is played alongside the beach. The 16th is a challenging par 3, followed by a short par 4 across a road to a sunken green and then the penultimate hole is a wonderful dogleg par 5 around the dunes. Whilst I’d class this as probably the second-best hole on the course, the round culminates in absolute classic. The 18th, Lossiemouth’s pièce de résistance must be the equal to any final hole in the UK and Ireland, and I include the Old Course within that comparison. The tee is set at an angle from the houses that border this hole and you’re asked to hit a gentle fade to a heavily bumping and rolling fairway. The second shot is then an absolute masterpiece as you hit towards the stone clubhouse, up to a deep and raised plateau green guarded by a gaping bunker on the front left of the green that is well worth the challenge of playing out of, even if only just for the sheer fun of it.
Finish your round with a pint with the locals and look out at the beast that you’ve hopefully just tried to tame. Play this unheralded gem like I did during Spring when the gorse is in bloom and you’ll find it to be every bit as good as some more high profile clubs in the region.
The Old is an unheralded classic links designed by Old Tom Morris with deep revetted bunkers, undulating gorse lined fairways and some excellent green complexes. At 6,717 yards to a par of 71 and SSS of 73 it is a superb test of golf but also throws in little bits of quirk to the mix creating a truly engaging experience.
We should perhaps start at the end because the 18th on Moray Old is something else. It’s out-of-this-world good and undoubtedly one of the best finishing holes in golf as well as being the first thing you see as you enter the club grounds. At 413-yards the first two-thirds of the hole are relatively level, although there is plenty of undulations in the fairway, with out of bounds tight to the right and a splattering of bunkers down the left to negotiate. It then climbs up to a raised green sitting right under the impressive clubhouse like a theatre stage with two menacing sand traps – Hells Bunker and Devils Hole – to the left hand side which falls away towards the firth. The intoxicating setting is magnificent but the actual hole is even better and I’m sure much drama has been witnessed here.
There’s a real feel of Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch to the setting around the clubhouse, the first and eighteenth holes with some magnificent houses looking down on the links from the inland side of the course. Meanwhile, Covesea Lighthouse dominates the horizon at the opposite end of the links.
The proximity to the road on a number of holes, the RAF landing lights dotted about the course and the wonderful 18th are all fond memories I will take away from Moray Old as is the quality of fairway bunkering and the many fine green complexes.
Moray Old more than holds its own when compared to other apparently better courses. I had played the famed Nairn course the day before and Moray was certainly a match for this if not its superior, albeit by just a fraction. High praise indeed though for a course that often goes under the radar.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A traditional links course with firm fairways and fast greens. A little disappointed with holes 5 to 8, the fairways a little scrappy in parts and the landing lights intrusive. However very strong and excellent finish with the 18th one of the best finishing holes in UK. Overall a must visit for any golfer worth his or her salt.
Cannot praise enough the Links Lodge B and B which overlooks the 18th. Run by golfers, luxurious and super value!
Like the reviewer immediately before me I too played Moray the day after Cruden Bay in July 2015. I played 36 holes, firstly on the New followed by the Old. Whilst it wasn't my favourite course on my itinerary the moment I enjoyed best from my golfing week was sipping a pint on the chair placed up high just outside the club house overlooking the opening holes and trying to work out what the land mass was across the water. Is that where Dornoch is I kept wondering. Or is it around the corner. Does anyone know if that line of sight takes you to say Wilkhaven or more towards Brora?
As for the course, the beers loosened me up and I started well on good solid golfing ground. It's not a links course that weaves through dunes, rather one that is on fairly flat land but enough variation to make it a good course.
The closing hole is a beauty but there are numerous excellent holes along the way and some that are just so so. Like many courses on a perfect sunny afternoon there was barely a soul around. I just don't get it. Anyway this allowed me to ramble away, started to tire after about 27 holes and played some very average golf to finish but not that you care about that, but rest assured the state of my game doesn't influence my rankings.
The Old course fits perfectly into 4 ball territory. It is not up there with 5 ballers (for me) like Murcar, Panmure, Monifieth, Brancaster, Hunstanton but it's 4 ball peers include say Dundonald, Peterhead, Newburgh, Montrose. That's to say it's a great day out, just get a sunny day, stuff all people around, have a couple of beers and get into it. Warren from Sydney
Two great places to play golf at: North Berwick and Cruden Bay. I had been there the days before and had the friendliest chats. At both places I got the same recommendation: Go to Lossiemouth, you won’t regret it. Since I had not exactly planned my further travel I gave it a quick thought and decided to do so.
You could easily argue that it was not the fault of the course, but then again the nearby RAF airport is a well known feature: Due to an international military exercise it was really hard to find a proper B&B anywhere near. In April! Well, finally I found something, actually a very nice place and took a stroll around the town. It is a really scenic town with two marinas and some good restaurants. At the end of the town the Moray Golf Club is situated. There are 36 holes for worshipping to the God of Golf and his son actually laid out the Old course: Old Tom Morris. I found it in the late evening light and hoped for a tee time on the following day.
When I showed up, the course was more or less empty and so it came to no surprise that the very friendly young pro told me, that going out for a round should be no problem. The price of 40 pound sounded more than reasonable so I went to the locker room. Beware: Really no golfing shoes in the club house here, they are very strict about that but with the nicest of smiles.
When I came out of the club house a small crowd just started their 4- and 3-balls. I watched the first group to tee off and then started to think about alternatives because they seemed to be so slow and where using golf carts. Two things I really do not like together. I had a good chat with a lady who relaxed after her very early round and she told me about the practice area a few hundred metres, aehm, yards down the road. When I came back, the tee and the first couple of holes were clear and so I started my round. I made a complete mess out of the first hole by finding a hidden bunker, with a very poor hook, which I was not able to leave and then topped the drive on the second horribly 50 yards forward. But then my round began and I had so much fun. Most of the holes are quite isolated by gorse bushes the greens were in good condition and the routing was interesting. You could argue about the crossing street which even may come into play for a heavy slicer on the fifth and actually I do not like the nearby military base and the landing lights all over the holes at the far end of the course. But nevertheless the Moray Old is a really good course to play. Many long Par 4 were a challenge for me as a shorter hitter but my fairway woods did a good job that day so I was able to cope with that quite well. The wind was against me on the inward nine but I had much fun with that, too.
What happened to the two groups ahead of me? Well, the first group was no problem at all since they kindly asked me to play through after the fifth. But the obviously more experienced group in front of them did not even acknowledge me and preferred to play in a rush, running from one side of the fairway to the other and becoming more and more frustrated instead of just giving me a short wave. Nobody in front of them for at least three holes, nobody behind me. Unfortunately, I can not avoid to be a little bit annoyed by that kind of behaviour on a golf course.
But all in all the Moray Old experience was a very good one. After Cruden Bay and North Berwick West Links the two days before, it is a little bit unfair to measure but if I compare the Moray Old to The Glen for instance, it is the far better golf course. Then again the surrounding is not as scenic and even annoying for some, so on a rough scale of 1 to 6 balls it is the same rating of 4 balls to me.
The 10th is a short par four of 318 yards and is a potential birdie opportunity. The key here is to ensure your drive is on the fairway and avoids the nest of three bunkers on the left side. The 15th is a super par three of 184 yards. There is thick rough and a bunker left of the green whilst the right has five bunkers and a grassy hollow.
Up until now, the greens have all been quite flat. The 16th and 17th however are quite different and feature large undulations. The par four 18th is definitely one of the best finishing holes in Scotland. The green is elevated and sits just below the clubhouse. You will need two very precisely struck shots to be on this green in two.
This really is an excellent test of golf. Tight, bumpy and well bunkered gorse-lined fairways, together with very good greens is pretty hard to beat. Play Lossiemouth on a Sunday when the RAF base is non-operational and you will see why it quickly gained its deserved high reputation.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.