Located on a classic stretch of links land with huge sand dunes, crumpled fairways, whins, burns and heather. There are some magnificent views from the elevated tees across the North Sea and to Aberdeen City in the south. It’s a beautifully rugged course with lots of natural appeal.
Murcar is not a championship monster, but it’s a seriously challenging course which belies its meagre yardage. From the back tees, the course measures 6,516 yards with par of 71. But the par fives disappear from the card when the regular tee boxes are used and par drops to a lowly 69. Murcar asks some serious questions. The hummocking fairways are sometimes cruelly tight and the ball has a habit of bouncing off the knolls and into vicious rough. Add this to the odd blind shot and you can find yourself leaving quite a few balls behind for the members.
Having said this, the experience is engaging and the elevated tees provide that wonderful on-top-of-the-world feeling. The greens are most exquisitely sited on raised tables and amongst the dunes. There is little need for bunker protection around the greens, but to make life even more difficult there are pot bunkers sited there too.
There are many strong and memorable holes, especially those in the dunes. The 7th is considered to be the signature hole, called “Serpentine”. From the high tee we can soak up the panoramic view of the North Sea, and then we realise why this hole is called “Serpentine”. This par four requires a drive over a looping, snaking burn, avoiding the ravine on the right and the vicious rough on the left. Somewhere out there, there’s a narrow fairway wedged between towering dunes. Now, let’s think about this one for a moment and take a deep breath. Perhaps it’s now time to find that old dog-eared ball that’s hiding at the bottom of the golf bag.
When the wind blows, Murcar Links can be an absolute brute. Whatever the weather, this is a must-play golf course. It’s tremendous entertainment all the way round.
Ross Weir commented on our article: “The 16th could also be considered a signature hole. It is a beautiful par three requiring an accurate iron shot with a burn and ravine below the first 80% of the flight path to the pin. The 15th tee gives a 360 degree view which includes the whole of Aberdeen and north to the Peterhead area.”
Murcar is a wonderful golf course that is a victim of its location. It is literally next door to Royal Aberdeen and only 20 minutes from Cruden Bay. As such, we set the bodacious goal of playing all three in one day, in October no less. The folks at Murcar were exceedingly supportive of our goal. They let us out early, ahead of their regulars. Met us mid-round to see if we needed any assistance. We teed off just before 7:30 and were headed to Cruden Bay at 10:05.
The course has an interesting pedigree. It was designed in 1909 by Archie Simpson, the keeper of the green and golf professional at Royal Aberdeen. A subsequent redesign was done by James Braid. It has lovely views of the North Sea. The first hole is a short par 4 and opens its arms to welcome you. The 3rd not so much, long par 4 with a split fairway. Based upon our challenges, I am not really sure what advice I should provide. The 4th looks like an easy par 5 at 489 yards on the card, not so much. It has an elevated green with a false front and severe slope left. The 6th is a neat par 3, called Plateau, it is protected with 2 pot bunkers right and an abyss left. The 6th is a long par 4 dogleg left and is the number 1 handicap. This is followed by the 423 yard par 4 7th named Serpentine. The tee box has one of the best vistas on the course. You can also see the stream snaking through the first half of the hole. As you make the turn, lower your expectations. As exhilarating as the front is the back cannot but help itself to be a little disappointing. The par 4 13th is 386 yards with a blind tee shot over the hill. My advice is to drive to the top of the hill, about 230 yards. All kinds of downside if you go much further. The 15th is a 383 par 4 with an elevated green and a stream running in front of it at the bottom of the hill. Be wary of the group in front of you teeing off to the right and bisecting the 15th to the 16th green. The 16th is super par 3 where your ball flight is just about perpendicular over the 15th hole. The 16th has a false front, but an interesting hole.
I heartily recommend Murcar. I would go back and even pay to play it again.
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The rankings have it right, Murcar is not quite top 100 being a manifest level below those courses comprising 90 to 100. It's a decent course but feels tight and stifling. Too many blind shots for me (personal preference) and very undulating generally. Some top holes however such as the par 3, 5th and the wonderful par 4s, 7 and 13. A good course but no more than 4 balls in my view.
Murcar is a championship links in the very finest Scottish tradition. This is unquestionably one of Scotland’s leading seaside courses. It has a character all of its own, forms a true test of the game and provides a stretch of magical golf on the front-nine that is particularly to my personal taste.
A magnificent setting is created at Murcar by the way that the land gradually falls from the highest point on the course down to almost sea-level. This sloped-tiered effect not only gives us stunning vistas from virtually all parts of the course but it results in perfect terrain for exciting and exacting links golf. Gorse abounds throughout the links and the splendid view out to sea, where vessels wait in line to enter Aberdeen Harbour, is another constant.
From the third to the ninth you are in the thick of the duneland, the best of the terrain, and for an hour or more I was in pure golfing heaven.
The real beauty of Murcar, however, is that although the feel and character of the course changes on the back-nine the quality stays the same.
The fact that Murcar, literally next door to Royal Aberdeen and less than ten minutes from Trump International, is sometimes overlooked by American visitors to the North-East of Scotland tells me two things. The first is that the strength of depth in this area is of an uber-high quality and secondly that the Yanks are missing out on one the best examples of links golf in the UK.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played Royal Aberdeen, Trump and Murcar on this trip and for me Murcar was the most playable and certainly the best value at well £100 per day.
This is a short Links course which gives all handicappers a chance to make a score. The difficulty when laying it the first time is that there are a number of blind shots, so when going out keep an eye on the holes coming back because it can be a help.
‘Plateau’, the 5th, is the first of the three par threes. The green is up a steep hill and has bunkers to the right and at the rear. There is no fairway at all, so anything short can be a lost ball in gorse, heather or grassy mounds.
The 7th, ‘Serpentine’, is one of the most demanding par fours you will ever encounter. From an elevated tee you hit over a burn which also runs in a wetland area along the right hand side between the fairway and the seaside dunes.
The 16th hole is a good little par three of 160 yards. There is no bail out area anywhere here. You have to clear the burn and miss the two pot bunkers around the uphill green. The round finishes with two shortish par fours but beware left on the 17th and out of bounds on the well trapped 18th.
Murcar is a real test and requires very accurate driving. One criticism would be the number of blind shots on the back nine which are especially difficult for the first time visitor. There is never a dull moment here.
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 that he played and 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.