In early December 1908, at a meeting in the Imperial Hotel, Aberdeen, it was decided to proceed with the formation of a new golf club. By March of the following year, the Murcar Links Golf Club officially came into being. In March of 1909, Archie Simpson the Professional and Keeper of the Green at Murcar’s neighbouring course, Royal Aberdeen, gave advice on the original layout. His design was adopted and the course opened for play in June 1909. James Braid and George Smith both advised on alterations and refinements to the Murcar golf links in the 1930s, but it is essentially the same layout that is in play today.
The coastline north of Aberdeen stretching out to Peterhead features some of the largest dune systems in Europe. Nature clearly designed these for golf, and like it’s Royal neighbour, Murcar doesn’t waste anything in accepting this bequest. The legacy is an undulating landscape, of capricious bounces, blind shots, and unnatural stances. Fickle wind shifts that shelter and expose without prejudice can also play on the golfer’s mental fortitude. It’s very easy to start thinking the ‘course is out to get me’ and allow your judgement and game to sail away on the breeze
|Yardage||Championship course 6516 yds|
|Course Ranking||34th in Scotland|
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
The Course itself
The Murcar Golf Links almost sets up as one giant risk and reward, and nowhere are you more vulnerable to being tempted than the opener. The first is a straightforward tee shot and birdies abound. The danger comes from being tempted beyond this though. Many a golfer with their ego pumped up from a successful introduction to Murcar has gone charging off in the mistaken belief they can continue to reproduce the same strategy for the next seventeen holes.
The dune holes tend to be the ones which players revel in most. These dominate the outward, but unlike Royal Aberdeen where the inward nine possibly falls victim to the magnificence of the outward leg and can never quite match it, Murcar arguably maintains a greater level of consistency. The third is a par 4 that typifies so much of the outward nine as it requires a blind shot that needs to find a plateau to the right of the marker pole overlooking a sunken green. Having negotiated the steeply falling ground, the golfer on looking back from the rear of the green may be under the impression that he has just negotiated a lunar landscape.
A testing hole even for the scratch golfer, who may try to get home in 2 shots to the plateau green. No assistance is given to the 2nd shot and many dangers await a ball sliding off either side of the green.
The signature assignment is the seventh, ‘Serpentine’. The elevated tee affords you stunning views of the North Sea, but you’re quickly back on message as you survey a tee shot that makes this as demanding a par 4 as any in Scotland. The drive has to carry a looping burn, whilst avoiding a deadly ravine to the right, and some elephant long grass to add to the defences (as if anymore were necessary). To the left you only have to worry about gorse. If golf balls could talk, there has to be a chance they’d be wishing farewell as they sit down on the seventh tee at Murcar.
The eighth and ninth might give you an insight as to what would be produced if an upturned egg box were ever introduced to a pin ball machine. The feature of the eighth is a semi-blind 2nd shot to the green. An area of heavy undulation lies in front of it forming a gully, which will prohibit a weak 2nd shot running up. Anything short will also feed back into this dell. Recovery might make for an entertaining challenge, but it won’t do much for the prowess of your scorecard.
The ninth, ‘Blackdog’ takes it’s name from one of the alternative names proposed for the club in 1909. Ultimately Black Dog was the first eliminated as Murcar and Seaton were tied on 11 votes each, requiring the chairman to cast his vote to decide. Today Black Dog is a short par 4 that necessitates an accurate 2nd shot, to a long green with danger at either side posed by hummocks and punchbowls.
The tenth is the last of the out and out dune holes for a bit. It’s a difficult dogleg to the left. The marker pole at the top of the hill is the direct line to the green; however, any error to the left of it can be very costly. The ideal line from the tee is slightly to the right of the marker, as this opens up the green to the 2nd shot.
The fifteenth, ‘Field’, is another well regarded hole with 360 degree views of Aberdeen to the south and the Peterhead area to the north. The hole begins from the ‘Royal Gold’ tee deep in the gorse, and invites you to blast your way from this jungle into the sanctuary of the ‘field’/ fairway. ‘Field’ is one of the finest holes on the course – especially in match play. The hole is then defined however by the seemingly innocuous burn that defends the front of the green with the inevitable swail only too happy to gather up anything that dares to flirt to closely.
The par 3 sixteenth is another enticing little assignment. There are no safe routes in here. You simply have to hit the target. The shot requires that you clear the burn again and also avoid two pot bunkers to this raised green. The best tactic is to go aerial, but the wind will usually have a say in that strategy. Good luck.
You’ve probably encountered the worst that Murcar can throw at you by now by the time you reach the penultimate challenge. The seventeenth, ‘Hummocks’, is a slight dogleg to the left. Although a relatively simple looking hole, it has burned the occasional scorecard. Any ball going left is as good as lost.
The Murcar Golf Links are fondly regarded by those who play them. The course is perhaps one of the best educations to links golf in Scotland. All the hazards that we want to find on a links course are there. So to is the requirement to play a teasing variety of improvised and instinctive shots. The wind can normally be relied upon to take a hand on this exposed shoreline in amongst these challenging dunes too. Perhaps of greatest significance though is the yardage. Murcar is fair. It rewards skill and strategy as much as it does someone who might lack subtlety but can compensate by overpowering it. The links is challenging enough to take most players to their limits, especially in the wind. It stops short however of being so brutal that it humiliates however, where a boxing referee would otherwise step in to stop the contest. Murcar is a great course for allowing you to recalibrate your game for a links challenge, before going onto tougher assignments
The courses stock rose further in 2015 when the European Tour visited it for the Paul Lawrie hosted, Saltire Energy matchplay. The event was very received and the course earn plenty of plaudits, and particular so for this type of format. Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat beat Sweden’s Robert Karlson after a series of pulsating finishes that saw many matches swing one way and then the other all week
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving Range Available||Yes|
|Rental Carts Available||No|
|Caddies||Yes, but can be limited|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|
It’s always tempting, and probably a bit naughty, to compare Murcar with Royal Aberdeen. It would be a mistake to do so. Despite sharing the same shoreline and some similarities, the two courses are distinctly different. The Murcar Golf Links keeps coming at you with a series of different challenges requiring you to stay honest and use every shot in the locker. The real joy of Murcar comes from the wind though. If she comes out to play then anyone is going to have their hands full