Cruden Bay

Whether it’s St Andrews or Royal Dornoch, there is always something a little bit special about a links course that sits in a bay. In the first case it allows you extended vistas of your tormentor as it arches its way round the coastline, but its usually the case too that its been subjected to spectacular wave actions and weather. Cruden Bay, is definitely one for old-school purist to purr over, as it has an untamed and rugged quality. It also has other old-school qualities that help make it an archetypal links exhibit though. About the only thing missing is a railway line!


Founded 1899
Yardage Championship course 6287 yds
Par 70
Golf Digest World Ranking 70th in the world
Handicap Restrictions No handicap restrictions apply

Cruden Bay

The Course itself

This particular part of the North Aberdeenshire coast is characterised by some of the largest sand dunes in Europe. These are the Himalayas compared to Ayrshires Alps. Indeed, exploiting these natural sugar loafs is one of many things that drew Donald Trump to the area when he declared he was going to build the “greatest golf course in the world”. To no small extent the Cruden Bay was the original. Where as the Trump International might be thought of as a golf course built round a landscape, Cruden Bay is a landscape built round a golf course.

Perhaps its important to try and remember how links golf courses emerged?

The land itself was of poor quality. It was too sandy and too exposed for agricultural use, and equally not sound enough to build on. It did after all link the shore with the more fertile land behind it. Pioneer golfers entertained themselves by striking a small ball with a stick through this abandoned landscape. Plotting how to get from A to B taking the fewest number of shots was a natural enough challenge to adopt, but it was essentially a solitary pursuit that pitched the player against the landscape, and the landscape itself was very much the product of the players imagination in terms of incorporating features into the challenges they conceived. Consequently the patches of playable ground would become fairway havens that fulfilled the role of stepping-stones between start, finish, and hazard. Particularly flat pieces of grass would become greens. Sand-dunes would ultimately become bunkers. Being so close to the sea, the landscape was also bisected by a number of burns that crossed these fairways running out to the ocean. These could easily gather up a bouncing ball and would become both omni-present, and feared features of a links course. Gorse and heather were plentiful amongst the arsenal of local shrubbery that could be called upon to marshal natures defences, as was untrammelled rough grass. Finally when you added a fickle wind to the cocktail, you had all the ingredients necessary for the lone golfer to lose themselves in their own little world on a Sunday afternoon. Oh….. you suddenly have Cruden Bay as well

It wouldn’t have been too long however before players started to engage with each other and compare notes regarding particularly challenging assignments they’d conceived. Gradually approved routes and holes would be adopted, which in turn begat courses. These early holes however still had an emphasis on fun. Blind tee-shots, eccentric lay-outs, unreasonably undulating fairways that turned the bounce into a ricochet lottery. The utilisation of stone walls, burns, roads/ tracks, and later railway lines would all come to contribute to the fabric of a links course.

As the game grew in popularity and started to become internationally competitive, many of the defining features of these ‘original’ course concepts had to be diluted or abandoned. The golf professional wasn’t too impressed by the large slice of luck that could take a hand in the outcome. Some courses lost status as a result of this realignment. In Scotland, Prestwick, home of the original Open championship, is perhaps the most obvious casualty.

It might have been its comparative peripheral location and absence of Championship pressure that insulated the links of Cruden Bay from these pressures, but like Prestwick it too has never really surrendered its original character either. The third hole involves a blind tee-shot through the dunes, and the thirteenth green is barely visible too. The sixth is a feature hole from the original Tom Morris design and counts the ‘Bluidy Burn’ amongst its defences. The burn crops up on the tenth and thirteenth as well should you have managed to escape it first time round. The water hazard on the fourteenth is the North Sea no less, and if eccentricity is what you crave, then wait until you see what awaits at fifteen; a blind dog-leg par-3!

The Cruden Bay, Golf Links has defended its position as perennial in the world’s top-100 courses largely as a result of being what it is. It would be completely wrong to suggest it’s a complete time-warp however, the club does march to the beat of the 21st century, but its always been very respectful of the past and has the blend about right.



Additional Information


Driving Range Available Yes
Rental Carts Available No
Rental Trolleys Yes
Caddies Yes – gratuity at own discretion
Rental Clubs Available Yes
Pro Shop Yes


Buggies/ Carts, Trollies, and Caddies

Ride-on Buggies are not allowed on the Main Course due to the uneven terrain of the course, the changes in elevation, narrow pathways and the unreasonable adjustments that would be required to the course to enable the safe use of buggies.

Pull trollies and caddies can be hired


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