Murcar Links Golf Club was founded in 1909. Archie Simpson, the professional from Royal Aberdeen, designed the course. Simpson didn’t have too far to travel because Royal Aberdeen golf club is literally next door, and, apparently, he popped over to Murcar in his lunch break to get to grips with the design. As with so many courses of this era, Murcar was later revised by James Braid.
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.”
‘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.
Like returning to a long lost love, it’s not always as good the second time around – and so it was with my second visit to Murcar, almost four years after first playing it.Certain aspects were better – the clubhouse itself has undergone a modern makeover, the practice facilities have been improved and many winter projects like bunker and grass path repairs have been undertaken – however, the greens were absolutely terrible – no other word for it.
The pro in the shop told me they had suffered due to a combination of bad weather following preparations last summer for a PGA event but the member I spoke to at the bar after my round was far from convinced that a good price had been paid for raising the club’s profile amongst professionals at the expense of ordinary members nine months down the line.
It's such a pity as Murcar is a fine course and the stretch from the 3rd to the 9th is excellent and the 7th “Serpentine” is one of the best holes in the country. I’d forgotten there were only three par 3’s on the card and two of them are very good short holes at the 5th and the 16th. Unfortunately, the other par three at the 12th is weak and it follows another poor hole at the 11th which together let down the course immeasurably – if only some way could be found to beef up these two holes, Murcar’s reputation would soar.