The word 'quirky' is often used to describe Cruden Bay but this suggests something less than the very enjoyable links challenge the golf course presents. It is very much an old style layout, set into the natural terrain. Being an area of towering sand dunes this means a winding golf course that requires a number of blind shots.
There are elevated tees, long rough, punchbowl greens and raised greens – and of course wonderful sea views. The course is both dramatic to look at and fun to play. It is rated highly in many golfing publication 'best course' lists.
The course was originally designed by Tom Morris and Archie Simpson. While it is believed a golf course existed here as early as the 18th century the current links was commissioned in 1894 and opened in 1899 as part of the recreational facilities of the newly opened Cruden Bay Hotel. The current layout is the result of a re-design in 1926 by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler, but many of Tom Morris's original greens and routing are still in place.
Cruden Bay is the northern most of the four great Aberdeenshire links of Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links and Trump International Links – as challenging and enjoyable a set of golf courses to play in the same area as you could wish to find. All offer sea views, classic undulating Scottish links fairways, massive sand dunes and quality greens.
A fascinating glimpse of a golf match being played at Cruden Bay from 1914 can be found at the National Library of Scotland moving image archive. Go to 5:00 minutes for the start of golf coverage and 6:40 for a splendid panorama of the links – finishing with shots of the hotel, sadly demolished in the 1950s. The match featured Harry Vardon, six times Open Champion.
Golfers who find blind shots difficult to navigate from course guides may wish to consider requesting at least one caddie per group at Cruden Bay Golf Club for assistance in managing their route to the green. This is not to put you off playing, as Cruden Bay is to be strongly recommended. It's also one of those courses that we would suggest perhaps would benefit from playing twice – the first round will give you some important lessons for a second approach.
Cruden Bay Golf Club Aulton Road Cruden Bay Aberdeenshire AB42 0NN