Peterhead Golf Club was founded in 1841, making it one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. Their present day Old course was originally created as a 9-hole affair, designed by two times Open Champion, Willie Park Junior in 1892. It was extended to 18 holes sixteen years later by Archie Simpson, then a New course was added fifteen years after that in 1923. The New course was reduced in size to its present 9-hole layout when it fell into disrepair during the early 1940s.
Laid out among the sand hills that lie to the north of where the River Ugie meets the North Sea, the Old course at Craigewan is a natural links with contours that owe little to the hand of man and everything to the assistance of Mother Nature – old-fashioned layouts like this are discovered and never manufactured, of course.
Two of the best holes on the card are found back-to-back at the furthest point from the clubhouse. The outward half ends with “St.Fergus,” the 460-yard, par four, bunker-free 9th where the fairway runs along a valley between dunes to a green that requires a very precise approach to hit and hold. The back nine then starts with “Cottage,” the 133-yard, par three 10th hole which has a burn in front and five bunkers surrounding a green that slopes from back to front.
Peterhead constructed a new clubhouse in 1996 and it was here that Butch Harmon – well known American golf instructor – declared to those members present when he visited in 2005 that the course was a real “hidden gem” which he had really enjoyed playing. Praise indeed from a respected figure who has walked many a fine fairway around the world!
The Craigewan Links at Peterhead is set mostly amongst splendid duneland and fully encapsulates what golfing by the sea in Scotland is all about.
We got a very poor day weather-wise for our visit to Peterhead with persistent rain for the majority of the round, however, the brilliance of the course still shone through.
After a fine opening tee-shot, played heroically across the River Ugie, the course has a little bit of a wobble. There is nothing wrong with the first few holes but on reflection they lack the sparkle and scale of what follows.
The start of the really good stuff commences with a superb, and well defended, uphill par three at the sixth but it is not until you reach the seventh tee that the true splendour of the course at Peterhead presents itself.
You have now gone from flat, almost meadow-like ground conditions to rolling duneland; exposed plateau greens, dune-lined valley fairways and traditional links bunkering is now evident. The transformation is as staggering as it is pleasing. From here on in this is links golf of a very high calibre.
It’s a shame that Peterhead gets off to a relatively slow start because if the first five holes were of the same high standard as that of the majority of the course this would be an essential venue to visit when putting together a short Aberdeenshire itinerary.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
From the elevated par four 5th, ‘Mount Zion’, the whole perspective changes as you look back towards the town and the sea. From the 7th there are some really good holes in the expansive dune area. The next five or six holes have a wonderful links feel and firm fast greens to match.
The par four 7th is appropriately named ‘Valley’ and features a green surrounded by seven treacherous little pot bunkers. The 8th is one of the most attractive looking holes. It plays as a short par five from the back tee but a rather difficult par four from the forward tee.
After the par three 10th , the holes generally head back towards the clubhouse. The par three 16th has a green that slopes away to the back and was impossible to hold with the wind behind. The 17th is an intriguing hole along the shore line. It is a short par four with large mounds that don’t look natural and would be far better if they were located further back.
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.
The course is accessed from the car park by a pedestrian bridge across the sand banked river Ugie, giving it a feeling of seclusion. The welcome from the starter could not have been warmer (even though it was early on a blustery Sunday morning) and we soon settled into our round.
The first couple of holes are nothing special but the 3rd to the 6th are good, solid holes that lead to the 331-yard “Valley,” the best par four on the course, which is played from an elevated tee to a green surrounded by no fewer than seven bunkers.
The next two holes are very good too, played between two sets of dunes before turning for home after the short, par three, 10th hole. Holes 11 to 13 are routed over higher ground away from the coastline then the course drops down again at the toughest hole on the back nine, across the burn in front of the 14th green.
I loved the old-fashioned, short par four 17th with its blind tee shot and semi blind approach to a punchbowl green before striking out for the clubhouse on the par five home hole.
I can understand the feelings of some locals who think that golfers who visit Cruden Bay should also play here (but then you could say the same about the fine Corbie course at Fraserburgh) as they believe you get better value for money with only the odd blind shot to play – they may have a point too, you know.