I’m still catching up with my daily recaps from the HOG World Tour visit to Scotland 1.5 weeks ago. The last post covered the first half of one of the most epic single golf days in HOG history, with a morning round at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. The second half was an evening tour stop at the stunning Cruden Bay Golf Club. STUNNING.
Cruden Bay – ©2016 by Tony Korologos
About Cruden Bay
Cruden Bay is on the northeast coast of Scotland (map below), a couple of hours or so north of St. Andrews. The course is located in the super small and lovely town Cruden Bay, which has an estimated 1,700 residents.
While documentation shows that golf was played on the land in 1791, the course officially opened in 1899, designed by Old Tom Morris. The course ranks highly (no surprise) in so many publications I can’t mention them all. A couple include #54 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 and #29 in the world by Golf Cours Architecture Magazine. Just wait until the 2016 HOG World Rankings come out… I feel a top five coming.
Cruden Bay – ©2016 by Tony Korologos
The course plays to a par value of 70, with a max yardage from the tips of 6,599. The original course in 1899 played to 5,290 yards.
The most unique and memorable aspects of Cruden Bay are its incredible views of the shoreline and the North Sea. From the perch of the 9th tee one can see for miles. It is one of the most amazing views I’ve seen on a golf course, all due respect to Pebble Beach.
The dunes and the way the course winds through them is a bit wild and quirky, with many blind shots and oddball bells to ring or buttons to push to let the group behind know it’s okay to tee off (photos below). The tremendous layout, visuals, dunes, shoreline and vibe make Cruden Bay one of the most memorable golf experiences I’ve ever had.
I’ll go into further detail on Cruden Bay in a forthcoming review. Stay tuned.
Here’s a recap of the first half of perhaps the best single day of golf I’ve ever experienced, the HOG World Tour visit to Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Royal Aberdeen was the morning session on the 2nd day of the tremendous 2016 “Lads in Scotland” tour. The Lads are my group of good friends who get together every two years to golf in Scotland. The evening session was Cruden Bay. Stay tuned on that one.
About Royal Aberdeen
Royal Aberdeen is a fabulous links course located in the northeast of Scotland, about a 2-3 hour drive north of St. Andrews. Golf was first played on the grounds back in 1780, making it the sixth oldest golf club in the world. The clubhouse, staff, and grounds represent great history and a high class club.
In recent history, Royal Aberdeen hosted the 2014 Scottish Open. During the 2014 Scottish open Phil Mickelson was defending his title. Rory McIlory carded the course record, 64. Justin Rose came away with the victory.
My golf experience at Royal Aberdeen was tremendous. I played fairly well, not losing a ball in fairly high winds. The back nine had some serious teeth as we were coming home directly into the wind.
In the photo above I nailed a solid 4-iron to the par-3 17th green, looking out over the North Sea.
I will post a full review of Royal Aberdeen Golf Club down the blog road. Stay tuned.
Now that I’ve confirmed the pending third HOG World Tour trip to St Andrews, Scotland, I can’t help having Scotland on my mind. It is a magical place. Sadly 99.999% of the courses in the United States do not play like true scottish links courses. Scottish golf is a natural, hard style of golf I far prefer to the overly-soft, over-watered, too green, over-manicured courses here in the USA.
One thing most golfers who have not been to there don’t realize is that there are a ton of courses in the town of St Andrews, not just the Old Course. That’s why I’m always giving people grief when they refer to the Old Course as St Andrews. “Hey have you played St Andrews?” they ask. I say, “which course?” St Andrews is the name of the town, not the course(s). In the town itself the other courses besides the Old Course include the New Course, Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Strathtyrum Course, The Dukes, and the Balgove Course. All but the Balgove are within walking distance. In a few minutes by car one can find even more courses: Castle Course, Torrance Course, Kittocks Course, Saint Andrews Bay Course, and Kingsbarns Golf Links.
The closest course to the Old Course is the New Course. While the Old Course dates back to around 1400, the “New” Course opened in 1895. Yeah, that’s “new” alright. The New is literally next to the Old. You can miss a fairway on the Old and the ball may end up on the New, and vice versa. I don’t recommend that though, because the New is out of bounds if you are on the Old and vice versa.
New Course Overview
Old Tom Morris is the architect of the New Course. The new is a par-71 course which tips out a 6,625 yards, short by modern standards. The new has many very similar designs and feels as the Old does, but is a little more straightforward and less quirky.
The course rating is 72.8 with a slope of 127 from the tips. For those of you in the UK, the standard scratch score (SSS) is 73. The rating would make the New just a tiny bit tougher than it’s next door neighbor, the Old.
From the tee, the new presents some great challenges. The course can be a wee bit (as they say in Scotland) tight. Errant tee shots will be penalized by bunkers, deep rough and in the worst case, gorse. If you don’t know what gorse is count yourself lucky. Gorse is a very nasty dark green bush with thorns which feasts on a strict diet of golf balls and the occasional golfer. Going into the gorse after a ball is usually not a good idea, unless you like scratching the hell out of yourself and ripping your fine golf apparel to shreds.
Some tee shots can be intimidating
Given the shorter nature of this course and the typical hard ground, driver is not necessary on many of the par-4 or even par-5 holes. The longest par-5 is 518 yards. Once again, distance isn’t the most important part of the tee shot at the New. Accuracy is.
The fairways can be tight on the New Course, but fairly flat in most places. If the golfer has managed to avoid the pitfalls mentioned in the tee description, the approach from the fairway is fairly straightforward.
Left rough approach on the 18th hole
If the golfer misses the fairway but avoids bunkers and gorse, the rough can be very thick and inconsistent. Difficult lies in the rough may be tempting for the golfer to hit the hero shot, but it is often wise to be more conservative and get the ball back into play.
The greens at the New are quite different than the Old. They’re considerably smaller and less undulating but still guarded well via bunkering and adjoining gorse and rough areas.
Because of the smaller greens, the hard ground, and the ways the greens are protected by bunkering or natural obstacles, I find the greens at the New fairly hard to hit. This puts a premium on short game. A green reached in regulation is not an overly difficult two-putt proposition like the gigantic greens on the Old.
The St Andrews Links Clubhouse is a very spacious and large facility featuring the pro shop, Swilcan Restaurant and lockers with showers. I’ve enjoyed a few meals in the Swilcan Restaurant and knocked back some refreshing beverages while overlooking the 18th green. Such a great spot.
St Andrews Links Clubhouse
Next to the clubhouse is a nice practice green for getting the feel and working on short game. There is no driving range. The nearest range is a bit of a walk or very short drive to the St Andrews Links Golf Academy.
The St Andrews Links Trust sells a few different great golf packages. I highly recommend purchasing a three-day or seven-day “ticket.” These packages allow the golfer to play unlimited golf in either three days or seven days on the six Links Trust courses other than the Old. In the middle of the summer there is so much daylight that a hardcore golfer could literally play 3-4 rounds in ONE DAY. I’ve done the 3-day twice now and loved it. In one day I played 18 on the the Jubilee, 18 on the New, and a relaxing 9-holes on the Strathtyrum Course.
The New is a fantastic links style golf course. It’s a great course on its own and serves as an excellent alternative or backup for times when the golfer is not able to get a tee time on the Old Course. Plus the cost is a fraction of the Old.
I highly recommend experiencing the New Course when traveling to St Andrews to play golf. The New provides a tremendous and satisfying links experience.
Kingsbarns Golf Links Review
Balcomie Links Golf Course, Crail Scotland
Fairmont Hotel St Andrews Review
Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews Review
It is with great pleasure that I post to inform HOG patrons of a major HOG World Tour event taking place in July of this year. I’ll be heading to Scotland for a third time and checking out many new courses in the Scottish northeast. Courses on the list for that swing are Fraserburg Golf Links, Cruden Bay, and Royal Aberdeen.
Cruden Bay – Hole #8
Following those courses the HWT will be back in St Andrews for a third time. On the way south we will be stopping to to play Panmure at Carnoustie, then on to St Andrews proper. Courses on that list include the tremendous Kingsbarns Golf Links, the Old Course, the New Course, Eden Course, Castle Course, Jubilee Course, Strathtyrum, and Balcomie Links.
I’m thrilled. Not a day goes by that I don’t daydream about the upcoming July tour. I’m not in golf shape yet. I put on some insulation over this brutally cold and snowy winter. I look forward to getting into golf and walking shape and of course, getting my game ready for real golf. Links golf.
I reviewed the Sun Mountain Club Glider Journey golf travel bag a while back. The Club Glider series features FOUR wheels, two of which are retractable. The system makes lugging golf club bags and clubs around airports as easy as can be. Now Sun Mountain is putting that same four wheel setup into luggage.
Soon I’ll be putting this bag to the test and posting my review. I’m thinking perhaps a trip to the Bahamas would be a good test for this bag… Stay tuned.
For now you can see a few more photos of this piece by visiting the Hooked On Golf Blog Sun Mountain image gallery.