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Cruden Bay Golf Club

Cruden Bay golf club....
If this view doesn't get your pulse racing, maybe it's time to buy bowling shoes!

Never have I seen a links golf course or any golf course for that matter so intimidating on first viewing. A first look at Western Gailes will raise your pulse a few notches, but Cruden Bay is downright scary! Maybe it's the way you approach it, looking down at the layout from the parking lot high above. Maybe it's Cruden Bay's reputation--rated No. 52 in Golf Magazine's World's Top 100. Maybe it's the Bay of Cruden, that crescent of water bordering the golf course. Maybe it's the dramatic marram-crested sand dunes and deep valleys. Whatever it is, Cruden Bay is the fiercest-looking golf course in Scotland and certainly one of the finest. Cruden Bay is a golf course Nature built, the architect just decided where to place the holes.

Cruden Bay number 5
Don't think about the two accurate shots you will need to reach the green of this difficult par four fifth hole. Just enjoy the view from the elevated tee and give it a relaxed swing.
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Hard holes, easy holes and fun holes

It's been said that a good golf course should have six hard holes, six easy holes and six holes for fun. I'm not sure there are any "easy" ones on this golf course but there are a few legitimate chances for birdies. Take them, because there are just as many chances for bogeys and doubles. And there are more than 6 fun holes. I shot a poor round when I played--couldn't get off the tee and couldn't sink a putt--but I still had a fantastic time.

Third green at Cruden Bay
The third hole is a par 4 that is only 286 yards long but the fairway looks as if a herd of camels is buried beneath the grass Even a good drive can leave you with a downhill/sidehill lie making holding the green a real test of golf.

The view from the first tee should give you a hint of what's in store. Off in the distance is the lovely Port Erroll village but also visible are the ruins of Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's DRACULA. Hmmmm...is there a monster lurking here? You'll keep these ruins in view until you finish the third hole. Then you turn toward the sea and the village of Port Erroll. That's when you encounter as fine a par 3 as you'll see in Scotland--and one of the most beautiful. Teeing off directly toward the sea, you may need to take out your driver to reach this elevated green 183 yards away if the wind is blowing at you. If it's behind you, an eight or nine iron may be your choice-- who knows? But choose well because short will leave you with a devilish second shot. From the sixth hole on, you will be on a roller-coaster of hills and valleys and burns (creeks). The sixth, like the 13th, is a par 5 that is almost impossible to get on in two. Both are great holes.

First tee at Cruden Bay
Cruden Bay first tee

So integrated into the environment is this golf course that you'll feel as much a part of nature as if you were out for a hike. Although not a short course (AFSD is 177 yards from the Gents' tees), length is not stressed at Cruden Bay. Accuracy is paramount. Typical of all Scottish links golf courses, if you do not approach the green at the optimum angle, you will have a much more difficult shot.

Cruden Bay number 15, a blind par 3
#15 - Can you believe it--a blind par 3! It's my only complaint about this fabulous golf course. (Photo taken from the tee toward the hidden green.)

There are quite a few blind shots on this golf course and I'm a bit conflicted about what I think of them. I don't at all mind a blind tee shot if you are given something to aim at. Some of the greatest golf holes in the world have blind tee shots off the tee to the fairway, including the fabulous #8 at Pebble Beach and # 17 (the Road Hole) at The Old Course at St. Andrews. But blind shots to the green? I don't think so! And there are two in a row on Cruden Bay. The 14th is a double whammy with a blind tee shot toward an aiming box on the fairway, followed by a completely blind shot to the green. This is followed by a blind par 3 at the 15th. But that's my only complaint about this layout and, really, it's not that big a deal since, while these holes may not necessarily be fair, they are great fun. In fact, Rosemary Pittendrigh, the Managing Secretary, tells me that "...these holes are enjoyed greatly by visitors, not so by members." She also said that most visitors would like to play the course again immediately but, too often, their itinerary does not allow. (This is a perfect example of why we always advise leaving an entire day for a round of golf and not scheduling two separate golf courses in one day. The second round at the same course allows you to take advantage of the knowledge you just acquired.)

Cruden Bay 15th and 16th greens, very unusual set-up
A bird's eye view of the 15 and 16 greens-both par threes. An unusual set-up for this unusual golf course.

As with most Scottish links layouts, wind is hugely influential in club selection. Whether in your face or at your back, you'll be compensating for it all day. Don't let it play with your mind, though. Consider it a challenge not a liability, and you'll be just fine.

 Cruden Bay 8th green
Number 8 green looking back. This short par 4 is one of the few "gifts" this golf course will offer. But don't be too far past the hole on your second shot or you'll be facing a downhill putt that, if struck too hard, can roll your ball back onto the fairway.

Cruden Bay is a great example of a golf course that the independent golf traveler will play and the player on a structured tour will seldom see. And friend, Cruden Bay is a must play. From the time you look down on the golf course from above it until the time you knock in your final putt on the 18th, you will know you've played one of the truly great golf courses in the world.

There are excellent insights into playing the golf course by the Club Professional, Robbie Stewart. You can find them at http://www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk/robbie.htm

Golf Nook Scotland rating = a solid EAGLE.

www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk

For What To Do All Day please see Aberdeen & Grampian Highlands