Fraserburgh is the most north-easterly town in Aberdeenshire, 42 miles north of Aberdeen and it boasts one of the finest links courses in the country. Its location exposes the course to air currents from both the Moray Firth and the North Sea so this par 70, 6,308-yard layout offers a stiff challenge when the wind blows from whatever source.
In addition to its 18-hole Corbie Hill course, Fraserburgh also has an interesting 9-hole course, the Rosehill, which may be short at 2,400 yards but few can match its par of 33. The courses are well protected by sand hills that fringe the length of Fraserburgh Bay and both are fine examples of traditional Scottish links.
Fraserburgh has records of golf played as far back as 1613. The Parish Kirk Session of that year contains details of young man called John Burnett who, “for playing at the gowff” on a Sunday instead of attending church, was sent to “the maisters stool” for correction!
Fraserburgh Golf Club was founded in 1777, meeting every third Tuesday during the season. The club moved to their present location, the Philorth Links, in 1891 and much of today’s course was shaped by the great James Braid in 1922.
A couple of substantial alterations to Braid's layout have been made down the years. In the 1950s, three new holes (at 15, 16 and 17) were brought into play then, in the 1970s, a pair of adjacent holes were laid out at the 8th and 9th, 11th and 12th.
Fraserburgh Golf Club are always pleased to see visiting golfers and, unusually for many clubs, they offer a choice of tee to the visitor – “whether you want to play the full distance of the course from the medal tees or would rather play off the yellow boxes is entirely your option” – now there’s a refreshing attitude that many other clubs (who are over protective of their medal tees) should note!
Initially, when I was making plans to head to the northeast corner of Scotland I did not have Fraserburgh on my list. Thank heavens I was able to benefit from the comments of a fellow golfer who sent me an email prior to my journey. I'm glad I received the news before departing.
There's little question on the "value" front the course is clearly a windfall. On the downside -- the conditions could have been much more consistent during my one and only visit. While some of the putting surfaces were fine -- others were more akin to making a shoulder-turn on a 6-8 footer.
The weakness of the course stems from having two of the most boring holes in all of Scottish golf -- the 1st and 18th holes. If such holes were buried elsewhere in the routing it's possible their impact would have been far less of an issue for me. But, the starting hole is nothing less than ho-hum at best. The same can be said for the finishing hole -- nearly identical in length to the 1st and no less of a major letdown for what a closing hole should provide. When one utters the phrase, "dead flat," these two holes are the epitome of that description.
The good news is that as one ascends the hill of the 2nd the qualities of the course are about to be discovered. When you reach the 3rd tee you can see all of the marvelous vistas the course provides. The holes that follow have been described by others in their comments and I do concur that given the course's lack of length -- just over 6,300 yards there's enough design features mandating thoughtful execution.
On the conditioning side -- I would hope the penal nature of the rough be somewhat thinned out to allow a bit more playability.
The par-4 16th and par-3 17th are two stellar holes. I am also a big time fan of the "short" uphill par-4 4th -- arguably, one of the finest holes of its length in all of Scotland.
Corbie Hill shows quite well that quality links golf doesn't have to be overly produced to provide for a fun time of golf. So long as one can forget the involvement of the 1st and 18th hole -- the rest of the course certainly provides enough quality holes and shots to make the visit there well worthwhile.
by M. James Ward
Fraserburgh is quite an unfashionable links for many a touring golfer but seems to be increasing in its popularity as word gets out about this genuine hidden gem. Oddly, the clubhouse is on the other side of the road from the eighteen holes that make up the Corbie Hill course and the opening and closing holes are as flat as a pancake. This contrasts with the hills in the distance and the dunes that separate the course from the sea. The thought as to what lies beyond those hills should offer enough intrigue to draw you in.
From the 2nd tee, the front nine takes you up and down on a pleasant journey across undulating linksland and is exposed to strong winds due to the high ground, but it’s the back nine that proves to be the superior of the two halves and is the part of the course that covers the best terrain. The 10th was one of my favourites and whilst only a short hole, the second shot offers the genuine quirky links experience as the green is obscured by mounds that hide most of the green from view. The 13th is maybe Fraserburgh’s most famous hole with hillocks dotted up the fairway; two of these mounds provide protection in front of the green and interestingly gave inspiration to Gil Hanse for the design of the 9th hole of the Rio Olympics course.
Whilst the 13th is a lovely hole, 15, 16 and 17 are outright Scottish classics. These holes were added after the original James Braid design and are the only holes where you genuinely feel immersed within the dunes. The fairways of both 15 and 16 are routed through a valley and offer a legitimate comparison with the front nine holes at nearby Royal Aberdeen. 17 is a brutish par three that takes you to the end of the most exciting land on the property, but it’s a shame the 18th couldn’t have continued through the dunes rather than crossing the first and playing across the flat land where you started.
Some of the green complexes around the course are excellent, many of which are raised with drop-offs on one side of the green, and whilst not in the supreme condition of some more high profile clubs in the area, the greens offered a fair roll and decent pace. Later in the tour, I travelled to Cruden Bay where members reported that they had heard tales of poor condition at Fraserburgh with dandelions and buttercups growing in the fairway. I can categorically say that this was not my experience and found the standard of greenkeeping across the course to be very good.
Overall, when considering the high cost of golf at the premier clubs across Scotland, Fraserburgh offers a quirky but first class links experience at a reasonable cost whilst still offering plenty of quality. A 4.5-ball rating if there was such a thing.
Those planning a trip to North-East Scotland may rightly include Trump International, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Murcar Links on their itinerary. However, without a visit to Fraserburgh their repertoire of quality links golf will not be complete.
Five-time Open Champion, James Braid, is mostly to thank for the current layout we play today. Par is 70 and the yardage 6,308 on this versatile links.
Playing the relatively bland opening hole at Fraserburgh first-time visitors, with no prior knowledge of the course, will be totally unaware of what is about to unfold before their eyes over the next few hours. They may get an inkling as they walk off the first green, but only if they glimpse across to the left and spy a partially hidden green nestled in the dunes, or maybe as they play the sporty second hole straight up Corbie Hill, however, it isn’t until the third tee is reached that the immense beauty of this charming links is displayed in its full glory.
From this viewpoint perfectly undulating, unspoiled linksland stretches endlessly before and below you. Huge dunes to the left, that house the closing holes, and smaller sandhills everywhere else define rippling fairways and intriguing green complexes. Exposed putting surfaces, shelf greens and the tops of flags hidden in dells can be seen. It’s a mouth-watering prospect that lies before you.
For the next 15 holes you play to every point on the compass and are asked to hit a vast variety of shots. Out of this 15 I would say at least a dozen are either good or very good with a handful that reach or border on great. There are a couple of 'filler' holes, that simply help join the dots to the best bits of the course, but there isn’t a sniff of a weak hole.
Fraserburgh won’t appeal to everybody but this is a golf course that delivers good old fashioned traditional links golf. It massively over-delivered on our expectations and a place I would strongly urge you to play. I see it as a bit of an underdog for links golf in Scotland and one I will certainly be rooting for.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played today on a sunny, breezy day. Arriving from the pretty town, a friendly welcome and the usual gentle Scottish links opener . The second is a fun uphill hole before the walk up to the third reveals the remainder of the course with a great view. It was reminiscent of the climb at nearby Cruden Bay, but not as spectacular, which would be an accurate depiction of the course. However, that's not a fair comparison and if someone were to want a quick, fun, good value round with some quality holes I would not hesitate to recommend Fraserburgh. In some ways it's a victim of its location with many near neighbours making more use of their sand dunes. At this time of year fairway mats are in operation with some forward tees and one temporary green. If I could, this would be 4.5 balls, and if I return in the Summer maybe this would be a five ? Recommended anyway.
The seventh oldest course in the world, but does it still stand up to the advances in modern playing equipment? If the wind is blowing then it does most certainly. The 1st and 18th share the same expanse of flat land with light rough and the odd bunker separating the two, and both have flat, lightly-defended greens. So the start and finish are quite relaxing. That is probably the one area where the course could most do with alteration if the greens committee were so minded. The 18th could easily be turned into a downhill par5 with a tee box on the hill. The bunkering could also be beefed up or have the two fairways become one of the world’s widest as per you know where. Beyond the 1st green the hill looms large, like at Gullane, and you know that level lies may be quite rare for most of the holes. Holes 10, 13 and 14 reminded me of Hayling in Southern England with good compact and fairly flat holes, enhanced by bunker placement in sympathy with the natural mounds. The temptation is there to play aggressively and take consequences if it fails. Holes 1-3 and 15-18 form two blocks of holes that run in the same direction but other than that you are presented with frequent changes in playing and wind direction. Very few holes play North-South though as the course is on a fairly slim parcel of land between dunes and road. If the long rough can be avoided you can make a good score even if the wind is up. I’m sure the nine-year-old in the group behind who plays off nine would agree. Lucky young chap learning his golf here.