Our crew is learning quickly that you have to pace yourself on these trips. The morning we got up drive up to Cruden Bay I was beaten down – the jet lag had finally gotten me. An overnight flight on a shitty 757 yielded no sleep. Then Kilspindie & Musselburgh straight into a late night at Duck’s. Then North Berwick and a drive up to St Andrews for a 2:40am wake-up call. Then 36 at Crail and Elie. I get grumpy and run-down when I don’t sleep. It was under those pretenses that I played Cruden Bay (and Metropolitan during Season 1 in Oz.)
And there were other factors that didn’t work in Cruden Bay’s favor – the two-hour drive, the gloomy weather, the transition to dramatic scale and elevation changes after playing the flat-ish courses of the first half of the trip, the overly-lush greens that I didn’t feel matched the rest of the course condition (we were told they were being extra-cautious on the eve of a big event.) In hindsight, however, all of that is irrelevant because the flourishes and truly memorable features are what stick with you. As seen in the video, nearly the entire stretch from the third hole through the sixteenth qualifies as a flourish. Cruden Bay is a grower. In hindsight, the weather was a great change of pace and provided a mystique for the course.
Last thought before the notes: any discussion of Cruden is about the experience and the feelings derived from playing amongst such dramatic features. At NLU we frequently field criticism for focusing too much on architecture, but I’ll preempt any negativity by pointing out that the layout at Cruden is less about architecture and more about nature and geology. Archie Simpson and OG Tom Morris (and Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler later on) let the land do the work and largely stayed out of the way, blind shots be damned. I underrated Cruden Bay in my initial estimation.
SPECIFIC HOLE NOTES:
Soly posted a comprehensive hole-by-hole recap of CB last year – be sure to check that out for a more detailed review.
Just as we did at Elie we glossed over the first two holes in the video but I found them relatively interesting, with some wild movement in/around the fairways (as seen below.)
The fun really gets going on the 3rd, with the prospect of an albatross lurking over the hill to the blind green that features a unique ramp landing area just in front. The 4th is featured plenty in the episode and is the only par 3 on the front side. Pull your pants up and tighten your glove on the 5th, as seen in the video below (an aside: CB has a great website with well-produced flyovers of every hole.)
The 6th (pictured below) was one of the standouts of the whole trip. If there is a knock on Scotland it is that many of the courses have a weak collection of par 5’s on offer. Not the case at Cruden Bay (despite only having two.) The burn that DJ familiarized himself with in the video dictates the entire hole, and combined with the cliff-like right side of the green, makes for a thoughtful approach.
The 7th and 8th are all-world, as the video shows clearly. The views from 9 tee are worth the hike, but you definitely earn them. The 10th was just alright for me, dawg. I quite enjoyed the 11th and 13th, both of which didn’t stand out quite as much for the others in the group. The 12th hole is also a fun, short par 4. There were two things that stuck with me (beyond the golf) from this portion of the course: 1) the most curvaceous burn we encountered in Scotland – just a sexy body of water; and 2) the tee boxes on 13 and 14 are among the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Set right next to the beach, framed by tall grass, waves crashing below and exceptional holes awaiting you. Sensory overload. The flyover for 13 gives a good sense of just how good.
From there you play up to the blind coffin 14th (where some of my conditioning complaints crystallized – I wanted to use the slopes more but the softness didn’t allow for a big hop).
The blind 15th was a treat (I’m with Soly, I like blind holes since it makes you commit and trust and embrace being uncomfortable) and the 16th was stout (in a similar vein as the 4th). The last two holes ran out of gas a bit but it wasn’t even noticeable since we were still trying to comprehend the stretch we’d played just prior.
THE COURSE IN ONE WORD: ineluctable
WEIRD COURSE TRIVIA: The course was built in tandem with a large hotel in 1899. Both were owned by The Great North of Scotland Railway Co. as a means of attracting visitors. However, the destination proved too remote and struggled to attract the crowds envisioned. The hotel was used as a hospital during WWII and demolished in the years thereafter.
WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE PLAYING THIS COURSE?: Rest up. It’s not the easiest walk. Also eat breakfast so you’re not drinking the whiskey on an empty stomach.
CLUBHOUSE/FOOD: Les and his team are exceptional and will ensure you are looked after properly. We enjoyed lunch after our round. I had the steak pie, which was excellent. Soly was magnanimous enough to share some of his sandwich, which was also a delicious treat. We also ordered haggis and Cullen skink, both of which we tried everywhere we went. The clubhouse offers a commanding view of the property – definitely stick around to soak it all in after your round.
TEE TIMES: Here’s a throwback….email [email protected]
GREEN FEES: Range from £135.00 for one round to £175.00 for 36.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We simply passed through, having risen early in St Andrews and passing onto Cullen that afternoon. The drive up was interesting, as it took us through Aberdeen and Dundee, two of the bigger cities in Scotland. The Kilmarnock Arms and the St. Olaf are both recommended options for those wishing to stay near the course.