The land at Cruden Bay with 15 green below
When you get out of your car and look out from on high promontory where the clubhouse sits you can’t believe your eyes at the scene below. Cruden Bay has undoubtedly the best setting of any course in Scotland. What makes it fantastic is the course is not only set in among huge dunes, but also features a massive 100’ sea cliff that comes into play along the way. That’s an understatement when you consider the 8th plays into a huge bowl surrounded by the sea cliff and the 10th tees off the top back into the valley below!
The punchbowl at 14
Where Cruden Bay is great like the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 10th and 13th it takes aback seat to no course in the world for both drama and quality of holes. Even others like the 4th, 8th and 17th are exceptional in there own right, but are overshadowed by the most dramatic holes on the course. If the rest wee as high a quality we would be talking about this being one of the 10 best in the world. So why is this not a top 10 or top 20 courses in the world? Mainly because of the couple of holes that vary from weird to awkward depending on whom you ask.
Some think the opening stretch are pretty average but I found the first two to be good solid holes. A few have suggested that the 3rd is an odd duck, but that’s because the green is tucked tight behind the large dune on the right. The hole is still short and relatively easy and the green is fairly receptive to the bounce of the hill if you don’t mind trying a little luck in your approach. The course picks up pace from 4 through to 8 with a very memorable stretch. The 9th atop the sea cliff is an ideal transition hole from the spectacular 8th to the dramatic 10th tee shot and I think people are crankier about the walk up from 8 than they are about the hole. The run in approach is a must for this fall away green so possibly it is more of a case of people not finding the strategy than there being any weakness in the hole. The course once again is pretty solid from the 10th to the 13th. It is 15 and 16 that cause all the complaints. This is also where the club is considering change, partially due to safety too.
The sea cliff at the 8th is 100' above the green!
The 15th hole plays up hill into a beautiful bowl shaped fairway. The next shot is over a rise to a green that is a full 20 feet below in a tight little bowl with all sides sloping sharply in accept the back of the green. This is a fun shot to hit and see where you ended up. It is also a fair shot since you can literally bounce the ball in from any side or fly it directly in to achieve your goal. I think removing this hole would take away one of the more fun and quirky holes I have ever had the pleasure to play.
The 16th has been called the blind dogleg par three because of its length and the massive dune that obscures all views to the green. The hole is fair since a short shot will be run towards the green and shots can be bounced into the green from the massive dune. The problem is more the tees are in full flight from the 14th, the tees on 16 are definitely in play from the 15th tee and you can’t see if play is through (if players forget to ring the bell). There is no question that this is a safety issue. I just think there aqre other alternative to what is currently proposed.
The awesome approach to 13, notice how small Rob is, the green extends to his location
The highlight of the day for me were the natural landforms in play and the roll in the front of the 13th green was the best feature I have seen in quite a while. It towers 20 feet above the grade short right of the green and features a very sharp slope down to the hollow. Anything hitting it falls will feed back into the hollowing leaving a nightmarish shot into the green. The green is actually set 6 feet below the roll and hides behind it creating a bit of punchbowl due to the huge sea cliff backing the green. The green falls right and away from play to create a reverse redan. This is definitely one of the finest green sites I have seen and one I will copy one day in my own solo work.
The other cool feature that I want to use in the right situation is the huge knoll in the centre of the 17th fairway. It is 15 feet high and steeply banked but also kept short. It is right where tee shots land and defends the hole without being unfair since most shots are playable from a lesser slope or simply find their way down to the fairway. The feature is more sheer fun than anything else, but that is what Cruden Bay and great golf are all about.