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Cullen GC. Original nine holes by Old Tom Morris, 1870. Shoehorned into a small site along the


Strathlene Cullen

Royal Tarlair Peterhead Cruden Bay Trump International Murcar Aberdeen Braemar

Braemar GC. Golf from 1902; present course revised by Joe Anderson, 1920’s. Tis small course in a highland mead-

ow is not far from the Royal Family’s summer palace at Balmoral, and with the Duke of York [HRH Prince Andrew] as patron to the club, who knows whom you might bump into? At an altitude of 1200 feet, it is also the highest course in Scotland. Te narrow grass-bank hazards that serve in lieu of bunkers are similar to features I’ve seen in 1890’s photos of early American courses, but this is the only place I’ve seen them in person. 2 - - - [1982]

Cruden Bay G & CC. Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson, 1899, with revisions by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler, 1926. Here is the sort of golf course this

book is all about -- indeed, it was the picture on the cover of the original Confidential Guide, because it was a spectacular spot still


unknown to most of the world. I had only gone to see it because of a single black-and- white picture I’d seen, with sheep grazing over the 8th hole in a 1930’s edition of Golf Illustrated. Fast forward thirty years, and Cruden

Bay has become something of a “cult” course. Its range of holes, from the one-shot 4th along Cruden Water to the drivable 8th to its pair of sterling par-5’s has helped the course stand up to the increased scrutiny, in spite of the blind and semi-blind holes near the end. So now, worrying about their spot in the top 100 being threatened because some panel- ists think it’s not a serious enough (groan) “test of golf” – which it never was – they are letting thick rough intrude on the play, and considering other changes. May they re- member what makes the course special, and stop worrying about what they are not. 8 8 8 7 [2006]

Royal Aberdeen Rosehearty Fraserburgh

beautiful beach at Cullen, this crazy par-63 course is different than anything I’ve played, and worth a visit just for the novelty of it. At 4,600 yards you would expect it to be nothing more than a family course, but it really doesn’t fit the type well -- the uphill par-3 2nd would probably send your wife and kids back to the Cullen Bay Hotel across the road, although there are plenty of 200- to 300-yard holes af- terward that are fairly simple for the beginner while still being difficult to complete in par fig- ures. Te 225-yard 7th takes you back down to the linksland in dramatic fashion, and the 11th through 14th are four consecutive par-3 holes playing bumper pool through and over the top of giant red rock spires that might have been dropped in from Arizona. Aſter all the par-3’s, the 510-yard 15th is a great change of pace, and then there is more criss-crossing to be done before the finish near the beach. 5 - - - [2013]

Fraserburgh GC. Golf from 1777; present layout by James Braid, 1922. Set among big dunes at the north-east-

ern tip of Scotland, forty miles north of Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh is the seventh oldest golf club in the world, and every bit as charming and quirky as Cruden Bay, though the vista from the clubhouse gives little indication of what is to come. Te flag had blown out of the hole at the 2nd when I first walked it, and as I climbed Corbie Hill I had no clue where the hole was going to end. Te four par-3 holes are as good a set as any I’ve seen in Scotland, and there are several fine short par-4’s as well, including the 3rd and 4th where the course really gets started. Coming home, the par-5 15th and long par-4 16th up the valley were a terrific tandem, and the 17th is a strong par-3 before the flat 18th. 6 7 - - [2013]

Te short 12th at Cullen, looking back.

Moray GC, Lossiemouth. Old Tom Morris, 1889, with revisions by Henry Cotton. In the old days Lossiemouth was known

as the narrowest course in Scotland. Te gorse has been cut back quite a bit, but it still lurks to the sides of many holes, particularly at the flatter far end of the links. Te par-4 18th play ing up to an old stone clubhouse at the edge of town is one of the most demanding finishing holes in Scotland, but that’s not what you’ll remember most if the RAF fighter jets are on patrol. 4 – 4 - [1982]

Murcar GC, Aberdeen. Archie Simpson, 1909, with revisions by James Braid. Extending just to the north of Royal

Aberdeen, Murcar is quite similar in character to its neighbor, with the outward nine closer to the sea and bounded by huge sandhills. Tere are a couple of arresting short holes early, and

One of the new Confi dential Guides

photos of it. An Australian GCAer even helped arrange my golfi ng tour of the Melbourne Sand Belt in 2003: Royal Melbourne West (10), Kingston Heath (8), Commonwealth (8), Victoria (7)…. A turning point arrived in

2004. Another GCAer organized a game for me at Pine Valley, widely considered the best course in the world, during a forthcoming work- related training trip to New York. But two nights before my fl ight, another company made me a job off er I couldn’t really refuse. Should I immediately tell my employer the truth, and possibly forfeit the ultimate golf course experience? I did, and I did: integrity cost me a date with architectural destiny. Pos- sibly for the fi rst time, I chose not to be ruled by my strongest golfi ng passion. The scales before my eyes began

to fall. I now lived on Scotland’s “Golf Coast”, belonged to two golf clubs – nearby Dunbar and distant Machrihanish – with wonderful links courses, and played com- petitive golf everywhere from Royal Dornoch to Silloth-on-Solway. The Guide and GolfClubAtlas

72 The American

now instilled jealousy of faraway fantasies, spoiling my contentment with the abundant riches on my doorstep. Was I really a student of golf course architecture, or merely a bedpost notcher addicted to the thrill of new conquests? My answer to that question – probably a bit of both – didn’t feel right enough. So I drifted away from GolfClu-

bAtlas, and I stopped studying the Guide, and ultimately I’m probably happier for it. I’m already blessed beyond belief at the golfi ng life I’ve managed to live, far beyond what I ever dreamed growing up in suburban Atlanta. I’ll probably never play Pine Valley or Sand Hills or Barnbougle Dunes or Cape Kidnappers…but that’s OK. The publication of a new fi ve-volume Guide – now featuring ratings from three new contributors, including GolfClubAtlas founder Ran Mor- rissett, in addition to Doak himself – frightens me, much as a recover- ing alcoholic might fear a new pub opening next door to his fl at. But as with most of life, I’ve found that the secret to golfi ng happiness involves moderation in all things, including moderation. Now, I wonder: has

Doak properly revised his overly hasty rating of Dunaverty Golf Club in Argyll from a “2” to at least a “4” or “5”? I jolly well hope so.

The fi rst two volumes of the

updated Confi dential Guide to Golf Courses can be purchased via

US expat Darren Kilfara formerly worked for Golf Digest magazine and is the author of A Golfer’s Education (below), a memoir of his junior year abroad as a student-golfer at the University of St. Andrews. His latest book, a novel called Do You Want Total War?, is also now available online at Amazon and elsewhere.


Guide to Golf Courses Volume 2 – The Americas (winter destinations)

Tom Doak • Ran Morrissett • Masa Nishijima • Darius Oliver

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