Cruden Bay is an adventure. The hole layouts vary wildly, sometimes you find yourself practically isolated in between the dunes, sometimes you are high up on the hilltops overlooking the entire course and the North Sea. It is a truly one of a kind course with a very individual layout. It has a great mix of holes, all with their own personality, all laid out in true links style.
The first hole starts right below the clubhouse. A par four with a fairway that slopes severely to the right, it is advisable to stick to the left side of the fairway on your way to the elevated green.
The second hole is the first in a stretch of both fantastic and quirky holes. As there was no large machinery available to Tom Morris and company at the time the course was laid out, they had to follow the land as they found it, putting green surfaces wherever it was possible. The solutions they came up with are both interesting and challenging. On the second hole the solution was a table-top green which requires an expertly strokes wedge to have any chance of stopping the ball on the green.
The 3rd is a par four that is drivable from the club tee by a stronger player. However, the fairway is bumpy and the green is partially hidden, so you have to know where to aim. Difficult to negotiate the first time you play the course.
Next you face what may be the signature hole, a long par three, running towards the North Sea along a river and alongside the picturesque Port Errol. At 196 yards from the club tee, with a green that is wider than it is deep, a gulley between you and the green, and the wind often in your face, this hole requires both strength and precision.
Hole 4, together with 5, 6, and 7 is maybe the most challenging part of the course. Running through and over the dunes, with bumpy fairways and even some water hazards, this is truly a test of your golfing skills. No hole similar to another, this is links golf at its very best.
At the 8th, the course changes character at bit and runs away from the water for the first time. On paper this is an easy hole, but with the green enclosed by high dunes on three sides, there are still plenty of opportunities to get into trouble.
From the 8th green to the 9th tee is quite a climb, but it is worth it. You are now at the highest point of the course with maybe the best view in Scottish golf. Take a moment to enjoy it.
The 9th green is right at the edge of a cliff, and from here you have a fine view of the back nine.
The 10th plays from high up to a green far below, taking you back to lower land by the coast, and a stretch of very exciting golf running along the shore. The 14th green, nicknamed “the bathtub”, is one of the most famous greens in Scotland. With a blind approach this is one of the most exciting holes on the course.
What follows are two back-to-back par threes, the first one with a blind tee shot over the side of a dune. All you have to go by is a marker post on the side of the dune. Don’t forget to pull the rope to ring the bell when you reach the 16th tee.
The course finishes with a couple of rather ordinary holes. Not bad holes, just not as adventurous as what you have just experienced. Maybe this is just as well, to get your pulse rate down to normal before you relax on the 19th hole.
This is by far the most adventurous links course I’ve ever experienced. I don’t think you can find a course of this quality with so many exciting and different holes anywhere else in the world. Golf in its very purest form. Don’t miss it.
One final note, make sure to bring a course guide with you on the course in case you encounter the Haar, a dense fog that can suddenly roll in from the sea. We didn’t encounter it, but when it does appear visibility can quickly diminish to zero.