According to geologist, geographer and golf consultant Robert Price’s book Scotland’s Golf Courses, “a different type of links course is to be found at Spey Bay. An 18-hole course has been laid out on a series of raised, storm-beach ridges which accumulated during periods of higher relative sea level some 6,000 years ago.”
He continues: “The ridges consist of boulders and pebbles and largely coincide with the rough of gorse and heather, whilst the fairways are to be found in the shallow ‘valleys’ between the ridges. Wind direction and strength obviously play an important part in determining the difficulty of this course.”
Ben Sayers, one of the best players to compete in the Open championship and never win it – with twelve top ten finishes in thirty four tournaments – was the man who laid out the course in 1907 when he routed the fairways in an out and back fashion along the Moray coastline. Several holes were lost during the 1980s due to storm damage but most of the original layout remains intact.The signature hole is still the 138-yard 8th, situated at the most easterly point on the property. Out of bounds extends to the left and beyond this par three hole, with a nasty pot bunker positioned to the front left of an elevated, shallow putting surface. Pray the wind is blowing against when standing on the tee as that’s the best chance of playing a tee shot to hit and hold this treacherous green.
After playing one or two soulless new “corporate” courses in recent times, it was a real tonic to discover that an old-fashioned course like Spey Bay could re-affirm my love for traditional links golf layouts. The club could do with a little self-promotion by way of its website as it seriously under sells itself both on and off the fairways.
Its charming wood framed clubhouse has been upgraded inside with a very modern bar cum dining area that serves the campers on the adjacent site as well as the golfers, providing very comfortable facilities for everyone.
The fairways are the real feature on the course and these playing corridors navigate the humps, bumps, hollows and valleys that lie along the coastline in between dense areas of high gorse and heather.
The fact that many of the holes favour a slight fade suited my game but I can see why others would not be so pleased to have such a high number of similar-style holes on the card.
The par threes were a bit of a disappointment, with only the table top green of the very short 8th providing an abiding memory.
Overriding everything, the state of the putting surfaces left a lot to be desired – something catastrophic has obviously occurred to cause so many bare patches on the greens, making putting a complete lottery.
Spey Bay certainly offers excellent value for money and its inherent charm is hard to ignore. Not quite a four ball rating on this occasion, I’m afraid, as there’s plenty of room for improvement on the conditioning aspect of the course.