Castles, Ocean Views and Distilleries

Gary and David on the 9th tee at Cruden Bay at 8:30pm

A bright and early start for our castle visit. Yes if you remember this was our chance to experience Skibo Castle, the uber exclusive golf and accommodation venue north of Inverness (near Dornoch).

Access to Skibo had been kindly organised by Chris Bertram (our Golf World UK buddy who is writing a book on our Links4032 trip – well a few paragraphs anyway). We left Kingsmill Hotel at 7:30am for the one hour drive (or so we thought). Now just how do you find this place??

With no signage at all we finally entered via the maintenance access road when an assistant told us over the intercom that we should go to another entrance. 15 minutes later (and after two other false entrances) we arrived at a series of grand gates with another intercom.

Buzzing us inside we made the long drive up to Skibo Castle. This castle is amazing. It is grand, imposing, classy and rooms are available for….well a lot of money per night. This is extravagence at its finest. Unfortunately we had arrived at the castle itself and not the golf clubhouse.

A further one mile drive saw us arrive at the golf course. We were greeted with polished friendliness by Jack Bailey, assistant professional (David Thomson director of golf and our host was away for the day). Jack showed us through the golf clubhouse and got us ready for the first tee.

What we really needed were ski jackets as the wind was whipping through the golf course like nothing we have experienced to date. It was cold! No sign of sun just heavy cloud but thankfully no threat of rain. We managed to get away just after 9:30am and began our round.

The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle is a members only golf club that seldom sees more than 8 golfers per day on average. In fact we were the only golfers on the course (silly Australians playing in any conditions). The course is relatively open with large greens and bunkers cut into the moderately undulating landscape. Downwind provides some respite but you know you need to turn around at some stage.

Halfway houses in golf are varied. In fact we have seen a few good ones and a few average ones. But the halfway house at Skibo takes the cake for opulence. In fact it was larger than our hotel room at a number of places we have stayed at. Tea/coffee/hot chocolate/cold drinks/chocolates/chips pretty much anything was at our disposal. It is also well located after the 5th hole and next to the 12th so you get to go there twice! We didn’t because we were “satisfied” the first time around.

A grand buffet lunch awaited us as we came off the course and in the warmth of the golf clubhouse we really did not want to go anywhere. But we knew we had another game planned just down the road (4 hours drive that is) at Cruden Bay.

So with heavy hearts we bid farewell and started on the long trek to Cruden Bay.

Scotland is the home of fine whisky and on the way to Cruden Bay we managed to see no less than 5 distilleries including the famous Chivas and Glenfiddich brands. No time to stop and we eventually reached Peterhead for our evening game at Cruden Bay.

We say evening game because our tee time was6:50pm, yes 6:50pm! Because it is light until after10:30pm you can hit off this late and it is popular with members who work and then go out for a full 18 holes after work.

Kaitlin and Neil were waiting for us in the pro shop (we had changed the tee time a few times and they were great in accommodating this) and they sent us on our way (probably thinking how silly these Australians are…)

This course immediately grabbed our attention and we loved it! It is fun, quirky and has some amazing views, vistas and holes cut around towering sand dunes. Elevated tee shots make you feel you can hit it for miles (downwind that is).

Every hole on this golf course is different, challenging and fun. A combination of drivable par 4s (David drove two of these), long par 4’s and everything in between gave us great enjoyment as we made our way around the course.

Cruden Bay also features a blind par 3, 2 blind par 4 approach shots including a fantastic sunken green on the 14th. On the blind par 3 an innovative bell pulley system allows you to signal to the group behind you that you are on the next tee.

We finished our round at 10:25pm (took a photo to verify this) and then headed off to Aberdeen (45 minutes away). Tired to say the least.

Shot of the Day

Clearly the shot of the day was David’s tee shot on the par 4 10th at Cruden Bay. A 310 metre par 4 playing downwind it features a burn running across the fairway. David’s ball was still going up as it crossed the burn and it landed on the green 35 feet from the hole. A two putt birdie and onto the next hole.

Overall birdie tally

Gary (1 birdie – Skibo, 2 birdies – Cruden Bay, cumulative – 34)
David (1 birdie – Cruden Bay, cumulative – 12)

A well deserved sleep and some catchup on the mounting email tally awaits before our 3:44pm tee time at Royal Aberdeen – another course we have heard lots about. Stay tuned….

By golfselect