With a bit of imagination, we can see reflections of Scotland’s golf regions with counterparts in France’s wine producing regions. Fife and St Andrews are the classic Bordeaux’s. The links of Ayrshire being the young pretender of Burgundy. Golden Lothian and Edinburgh scream Champagne, where as the Highlands evoke comparison with the heavy tanic Rhone’s. Even the aristocratic inland courses of Gleneagles and Loch Lomond have parallels in the Loire. So where is Alsace; that small and quirky region that comes in and out of fashion? We tend to think that Moray, the slightly forgotten, or even subsumed region between the Highlands and the Aberdeenshire coast, best fits the description. Those who love it, really do love it, and not without good reason
In truth, Moray has a genuinely strong connection with alcohol, but in these parts of course that means whisky. In their early years the membership included a number of distillers. In 1900 the club purchased one hogshead (54 Imperial gallons) of Glen Grant 1894 whisky. Glen Grant continued to be the “club malt” until 1992 when the club changed to “Macallan” having laid down hogsheads of Macallan some years previously. Today’s “club malt” is a 10 year old single malt.
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
|Rating||28th in Scotland|
Moray Old Course
The Course itself
The Moray Old Course was laid out by Old Tom Morris who became a frequent visitor and played a number of exhibition matches in the early years. The Moray Old Course, is a traditional links that extends out along the Moray Firth. Not unlike the Old Course of St Andrews, the town of Lossiemouth seems to attach itself to the golf. The 18th in particular is lined with buildings welcoming you back. Old Moray interacts with the town in a way that perhaps only St Andrews otherwise achieves.
The opening hole is comparatively gentle with an obliging fairway. It’s only when you proceed to the next that the fun really begins. The second is an intimidating par 4 of 481 yards and requires bravery.
The fourth is the first par 3 you need to negotiate. This hole has been selected for a custom built course in Dallas called “The Tribute” which seeks to replicate the top holes of Scotland.
The fifth tee lies adjacent to the RAF airfield. Somewhat ominously RAF Lossiemouth now houses the Typhoon squadrons that make up the UK’s northerly air defence. You are warned about the after-burners, but please don’t shoot one of our aircraft down with a driver. They’re expensive and we haven’t got that many!
After a couple of par 4s at seven and eight the course starts to reveal its more humane side. Two consecutive short par 4s should have you thinking it terms of at least a par on the ninth and tenth.
The eleventh, ‘Lighthouse’, and Twelfth, ‘Beacon’ give you sense of building to a crescendo as they meander between the New Course and a burn which is completely enclosed by trees, and runs out to the savage North Sea beyond.
The fourteenth begins one of the best finishes in Scottish golf. Classic sands, unforgiving grass and windswept exposure combine here. On the horizon is Lossiemouth lighthouse, that traditional beacon that warned generations of mariners as to the proximity of peril. Urm…. golfers take note
The sixteenth is a par-4 dogleg played over jungle and made worse by the fact that you’re normally fighting a prevailing wind. The green is laid out on two-tiers and hitting the wrong level will have you seriously struggling.
The seventeenth is a par 5, and the last hole among the sand dunes. With a tailwind its normally within reach but as with so much of what you’ve just navigated, anything off-line is going to cost you shots in this wild rough.
Finally we come to eighteen, Moray’s magnum opus, considered by many visitors and top players around the world to be one of the best finishing assignments in golf. A number of respected judges include it as their selection for these composite courses that the media is so fond of building. These are not contrarians trying to draw attention to themselves by eschewing Carnoustie. Moray’s closing hole stands on it’s own merits. In 2017 ‘Visit Scotland’ organised a poll regarding Scottish golf. One of the categories was the ‘best closing hole’. Moray came second, but did so to the St Andrews Old Course. Well in truth the St Andrews Old Course might win ‘most recognisable’, or ‘best photo’, but ‘best hole’? The 18th at St Andrews is mostly flat. The drive is into a wide fairway which involves walking over a bridge to cross a burn that isn’t in play. With the wind behind, top-players can even reach the putting surface from the tee. The only real challenge might come from the ‘valley of sin’. At Faraway Fairways we’d accept that St Andrews probably owe their win to other factors, and as such are prepared to agree with Moray that they are indeed the moral victors and proclaim their 18th Scotland’s best closing hole
The first thing you notice from the tee is some rocky crags to your right, whilst the fairway and green beyond only partially reveal themselves in the distance. These crags quickly give way to some impressive tall houses which flank the right edge of the fairway overlooking your progress below. The visual similarities with the Old Course at St Andrews are strikingly unavoidable. There is something processional about a walk up the eighteenth. Garden walls sweep down to the fringe of the fairway to form a formidable out of bounds. All the time the buildings rise taller to your right as they observe the contours. This is an uphill hole and the imposing stonework looms ever more prominent, as you, the player, starts to feel that little bit less significant in the amphitheatre that’s inviting you forward.
The left is protected by revetted bunkers, wicked undulations, and long penal rough. A good straight drive is a must, which will set up a long to mid iron to a large elevated green. Avoid the left hand bunker with your second, aptly named “Hells Bunker” (there seems to be Hell bunkers all over Scotland!), but this one is indeed one of the more deserving of the name. Playing any kind of shot from below the green, yet alone one from the bunker, is very difficult to execute. It’s not as if there’s too much sanctuary to the right either, or hitting long. Either is likely to bring you crashing into a natural grass bank, and a horrible lie and stance usually awaits, along with a quite daunting little rescue operation
Only St Andrews can match Moray’s closing hole for the way in which it interacts with the town. Don’t be surprised to have a gallery watching your approach to the green. It might sound daft, but you can actually imagine yourself playing the 72nd hole of the Open at the Old Course, and needing a par to win
At Faraway Fairways we’re always keen to encourage any visiting golfer to take part in at least one twilight round; a golfing in the gloaming, is very much a Scottish tradition, and a quite unique experience. There is much about the ambience and atmosphere of the Moray Old Course, and the town of Lossiemouth that really lends itself to this.
One final thing you might like to consider is entering the ‘Moray Open’, now in its 110th year and held in mid July. It’s a terrifically fun way of playing in front of an appreciative gallery who happily watch the golfers coming in from the vantage points above the 18th. Don’t forget of course, you’re playing where the River Spey enters the sea, and that means whisky galore for all those who take part.
FOR A HOLE-BY-HOLE GUIDE, CLICK ON THE CLUB CREST TO LINK TO THEIR WEBSITE
BETTER STILL, TO WATCH THE HOLE BY HOLE IVIEW GUIDE OF MORAY, OLD, CLICK THE BUTTON
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Caddies||Yes but limited|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|
When playing Scotland you are very much in the heartland of the sports traditions. In a lot of cases this won’t extend to 20th century inventions such as buggies/ carts. You are invited to take a step-back into history to a large extent and play a round in the manner more akin to how the game was originally conceived. This is quite normal for the top courses.