Cruden Bay is a small village on the north coast of Scotland in Aberdeenshire, 26 miles north of the city of Aberdeen. Golf in Cruden Bay is said to date back to the 18th century, as evidenced by a ballot box bearing the inscription “Cruden Golf Club 1791.” The actual Cruden Bay Golf Club wouldn’t be formed for more than 100 years after that, however.
Cruden Bay’s course was first laid out by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson at the request of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company. Opened in 1899, the course was originally meant to complement the Cruden Bay Hotel, the 55-room, pink granite “Palace in the Sandhills” that the railway company had also built. Though the hotel met its maker in 1947, seven years after it had closed its doors for good, the course did not meet a similar fate. Good thing, too.
Aside from some modifications made by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler in 1926, the modern-day Cruden Bay course remains close to what Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson first had in mind. This is interesting, given that Tom Simpson was generally critical of Morris’ design work. Nevertheless, he withheld any criticism he might’ve had, giving us the course we see today.
Cruden Bay is a cult classic that has been described as both “quirky” and “a masterpiece.” It’s a rugged beast, with sky-high sand dunes earning it the nickname “Ballybunion of Scotland.” As such, expect no shortage of blind shots and dramatic elevation changes. Rounding out the Cruden Bay experience are views of the steely North Sea, as well as of the ruins of Slains Castle, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What more could you ask for?