Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cruden Bay, Aberdeen, Scotland

Cruden has got to be the most stunning golf course I have walked but didn't see!  The day I toured through these massive dunes, just an hour north of Aberdeen, the fog was so thick that I could not see my Titleist fly more than 100 yards.  After contact the golf ball would seemingly disappear into the mist, I was lucky to find any of my shots on this day.  The real shame is not in the loss of my Titleists but that I was not able to take in the broad vistas of the Cruden Bay links.  Each hole was shrouded and isolated by a chilly fog while the ocean could be heard but not seen.  Under these circumstances my experience on the golf course was one of mystery and discovery, finding mounds, bunkers, and greens with each footstep.

The course begins while a challenging drive to a heaving fairway that tilts from left to right.  A rather long dune runs parallel to the line of play for the first few holes, setting up a similarly vexing tee shot on #2.
The landing area for the #2 fairway, not much room for error

Once you get past the first par 3 and step onto the 5th tee box, you start to get a sense for the size of the dunes you are about to navigate.  I should say mountains of sand, because these are some of the biggest sand dunes I have ever seen.  At the mid point in the round, golfers climb to the very highest point and play along a high seaside plateau.  I can only guess how beautiful the view is.

A narrow uphill approach to the 7th green saddled between two dunes
Originally laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1899, the course was lengthened and redesigned by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler in 1926.  Despite its age, the golf course stands up as a great modern links and is a real challenge.  Golfers will face a variety of approaches to each green with some heroic carries and plenty of opportunity to run a golf ball along the ground..  There are only two holes(9 and 10) where I was let down a bit, however these holes link you back to the best ground for golf, sending golfers through a unique class of holes on the back nine.
The jaw dropping and unforgettable "bathtub" green,
the ocean is only a short pitching wedge from the next tee
There are no bells and whistles here (well maybe one bell, on the blind, dogleg, par 3 15th) just great links golf.  Cruden Bay is a must play on your way to the highlands, but remember to bring your coat and a fresh dozen, one never knows what weather or golfing temptations lie ahead.