Cruden Bay Golf Club
Cruden Bay is one of Scotland’s unique, old fashioned golf courses with many surprises. There are few other links with the same balance of challenge and fun. North Berwick and Prestwick share a similar role. Cruden is not perfect without a weak hole but it retains early features from the initial design by Tom Morris and a later redesign by Tom Simpson. More recently you have a stark contrast with its new neighbour Trump International. This is an excellent, long, modern links on the same coastal dunes built to be suitable for major golf tournaments. It has an exceptional routing with each hole a challenge but would not easily claim to be fun.
Cruden Bay Golf Club is located in a small village on the north coast of the Bay of Cruden. It is on the coastline of the North Sea in Aberdeenshire. The club is 8 miles South of Peterhead and 23 miles North of Aberdeen. Cruden Bay was originally known as Invercruden. The village was renamed in 1924. Port Erroll is the older part of the village of Cruden Bay to the north of the present course. Also to the north are the clifftop ruins of Slains Castle. Built in 1597, the castle was the ancestral home of the Earls of Erroll. The golf club was founded in 1899, the first Captain being the Rev. B. Alcock. It was owned by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company. The 18 hole course was designed by Old Tom Morris with assistance from Archie Simpson. Construction started in 1894 and the course was opened in 1899 as part of the recreational facilities offered by the Cruden Bay Hotel. The hotel was connected to the railway station by an electric tramway. Playing privileges were extended to local residents who were called the Port Erroll Golf Club. The original course measured 5290 yards.
From the outset, golfers came from all over the world to play the championship golf course. Its opening was celebrated with an inaugural professional two day open tournament on 14-15th April 1899, with prizes totalling £120. The leader after the first day’s play was Harry Vardon of Ganton, with a score of 162, while J. Kinnell of Prestwick scored 163, A. Simpson of Aberdeen 164 and A. Kirkaldy of St Andrews 165. James Braid and Ben Sayers were also in the field. On the second day the leading four qualifiers went into match play and in the final Vardon beat Kinnel by 3 and 2.
There is evidence, in the form of a ballot box inscribed “Cruden Golf Club 1791” that a nine-hole golf course existed before the layout of today’s course. It may have been located at Ward Hill near Slains Castle and can be seen from the third hole at the north of the present course. The Cruden Bay Golf Club possesses a winner's medal from a competition played on Ward Hill dated 1883. Local legend has it that the turf for the greens on the 1899 course was originally taken from the Ward Hill course, in return for discounted rates of membership. There was probably also a later course, inland of the present one. In 1897 it is reported that there was a course laid out by Captain Webbe, the Earl’s brother-in-law, which was played by both lady and gentlemen golfers until 1895, when the new railway line and station cut the course in two. So there may well have been two courses in the 19th century played simultaneously, of which the Ward Hill course would have been the older.
By 1908 the course was extended to 5929 yards. In 1926 it was redesigned by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler. However, a great deal of the routing and greens were not significantly changed. Tom Simpson considered it one of his finest achievements. The Cruden Bay Hotel was demolished in 1947, having spent the war years requisitioned by the army. In 1949 the club was sold to a group of private individuals and the club took over the course. A new clubhouse was constructed in 1961. Since 1975 crude oil from the Forties field in the North Sea has been pumped ashore at Cruden Bay, which can be seen at the turn to the south of the course. The Port Erroll Golf Club is now an autonomous club within the Cruden Bay Golf Club with a limited membership of approximately 75 player. They play competitive golf every Wednesday evening from the beginning of April until the end of September. In more recent times small alterations have been made to the course, such as the addition of new tees and bunkers.
Cruden Bay Golf Course (6609 yards, par 70)
Cruden Bay is a World ranked golf course that offers an internationally famous golfing experience. It has an inspiring layout which some consider quirky and eccentric and others a say is a remarkable masterpiece. It is old fashioned links golf at its best. On a perfect coastline of dunes the designers have used the original lie of the land to extraordinary effect. The course creates unique challenges demanding the skills of power, placement and fine judgement upon the perceptive golfer. Set against a backdrop of subtly contoured greens and magnificent panoramic views, the course truly justifies its position as a memorable traditional layout. From the first tee you should be impressed by the conditioning of the bent and fescue grass. The opening tee shot plays away from the clubhouse to a fairway that sits below the town. Players begin to encounter the uniqueness of the routing with elevation changes, the odd blind shot, a driveable par four, and terrain framed at times by gorse and marram grass. At the 9th tee, the highest point of the course you will enjoy one of the most inspiring views in golf. The back nine has an exceptional collection of holes with 13-15 perhaps the most memorable. This course is a traditional links and well worthy of your attention on a trip to the North East. Expect beautifully contoured greens and tight, shapely fairways. The layout is a truly stunning links routing, with traditional humps, hollows and numerous blind shots making the round as challenging as it is enjoyable. It requires a good power game and an accurate play to master it. The course also offers spectacular views of Slains Castle and panoramic views of the bay, making it a picturesque and challenging test of golf. It is rugged links land with sand dunes as high as a three-storey buildings. Elevated tees cut high into the dunes, humped and hollowed fairways bumping their way along to punchbowl greens nestling in attractive dells. All of this set against the backdrop of the steely North Sea. Cruden Bay winds its way in a figure of eight through towering dunes. Many of the holes are separated from each other by the sandhills, enabling that wonderful feeling of seclusion. There are panoramic sea views, a stunning beach, driveable par fours, blind drives and back-to-back par threes.
A Memorable Stretch of Holes (13,14,15)
Hole 13 - 571 yards, par 5, index 8 - The back nine at Cruden Bay is simply a treat with the stretch of 13-15 being quite fantastic. The lengthy par five 13th requires thought and strategy from tee to green. From the tee players need to avoid the large bunker left of the fairway as well as the partially hidden bunkers on the right which are in the driving zone. If you are playing downwind you could bring the burn into play which crosses the fairway 325 yards from the back tee. Playing into the wind can mean dealing with it on your second shot. The fairway continues to wind in between small mounds on a steady ascent to the green site which is tucked in next to the base of an immense dune. From the preferred angle on the left side of the fairway, it is common for only the top half of the flag to be visible on the approach and to miss seeing the partially hidden bunker short and left of the putting surface. The green complex is a small blind shelf wedged between a low dune and a tall dune behind.
Hole 14– Whins - 431 yards, par 4, index 2 - The tee marker faces you straight into the large dune that frames the left side of the hole while the fairway angles away to the players right and hugs the dune all the way home. Missing the three fairway bunkers found on the left side is imperative in your goal to reach the green in two. Driving down the right side a slice can send your ball into the ocean. Like the 15th, a diagram of the green is offered on the tee since the approach shot is blind to the putting surface. Cruden Bay delivers a "bathtub" green here with a sunken but rectangular putting surface. It is tough to express the excitement felt when hitting a blind shot to such a green and the anticipation of discovering how close to the hole your ball is. With the ocean on your right, a huge dune on the left, and the bathtub green to attack from a blind approach, it all adds up to one of the most memorable holes you'll ever come across. The punch bowl effect is helpful but the green is so long that gauging distance to the pin is crucial. An important hint is provided in “the box” next to the tee.
Hole 15 - Blin Dunt - 195 yards, par 3, index 18 - This is the most memorable par three on the course. Blind from the tee, players must rely on the hole sign which shows a description of the green with a tee placed close to where the flag is that day. Given the blind nature of the tee shot, the hole sign also asks players to wait for the bell to sound before teeing off which will be rung by the group ahead of you. Players not willing to take on the dune fronting the green will play this hole as a dogleg left. This requires laying up to the fairway on the right side before playing their approach onto the putting surface. The hole is played over the end corner of the ever-present mountainous dune, blind and dog-legged, to a green which we can only trust is out there somewhere. There is no need to worry about bunkers or crazy green contours here. The blind tee shot is enough of a test; perhaps more mentally than physically. It is a great hole that unfortunately would never be designed today . However, this is the kind of character that makes Cruden Bay such a unique course to experience. It is madness and sheer fun