Fraserburgh Golf Club
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

Tenth hole, 330 yards, Solitude; One of the cutest short two shotters the author has seen. The tee ball is aimed into a sea of dunes but the fairway is quite wide in the hitting area and a level lie can readily be obtained. The moment of truth comes with the pitch over a low dune to a flag that is visible to a well-positioned drive in the left center of the fairway. The long narrow green is brilliantly elusive, especially as it generally plays crosswind.

The bunker short left isn’t a bargain but then again…

The bunker short left isn’t a bargain but then again…

…neither is this tightly mown bank right of the raised green.

…neither is this tightly mown bank right of the raised green.

Twelfth hole, 390 yards, The Castle; Part of the charm of links golf is you never know what Mother Nature will serve up. Well removed from the water, this hole plays along a main feeder road into town. That’s two strikes against it and yet, Mother Nature provided – almost incongruently – some of the biggest dunes on the property. A well-struck tee ball that finds the twisting fairway nestled between the dunes makes for one of the most memorable drives of the round.

Thirteenth hole, 345 yards, The Hillocks; Two bunkers were cut into a pair of hillocks precisely where the golfer would like to land his tee ball. What to do? The wind and state of one’s game will determine whether you attempt the 230 yard carry or exercise prudence and lay-up.

A lay-up short of this and its sister bunker to the left is oft times the intelligent play, especially since the golfer has yet to confront this wind direction. The thirteenth is the only hole that plays in a northerly direction.

A lay-up short of this and its sister bunker to the left is oft times the intelligent play, especially since the golfer has yet to confront this wind direction. The thirteenth is the only hole that plays in a northerly direction.

Note the back edge of the green relative to the golfer’s height. Yes, the green drops over five feet (!) from back to front. Give the greenkeeping crew full marks for their commitment to this green’s presentation as mowing grass short on such a pitch is no easy feat.

Note the back edge of the green relative to the golfer’s height. Yes, the green drops over five feet (!) from back to front. Give the greenkeeping crew full marks for their commitment to this green’s presentation as mowing grass short on such a pitch is no easy feat.

This view back down the thirteenth reveals how the two spectacle bunkers seal off the fairway from the tee.

This view back down the thirteenth reveals how the two spectacle bunkers seal off the fairway from the tee.

Fourteenth hole, 200 yards, Homeward; While the thirteenth green features an enormous (!) backboard, and the third, seventh and the sixteenth putting surfaces have significant tilt as well, putting is otherwise a relatively straightforward affair to plateau greens at Fraserburgh. The fourteenth green, which has been in this location for less than thirty years, has the distinction of having the most interior contours of any on the course. Its cascading contours that Moir helped build in the mid 1980s create interesting back, mid and front levels. The prior green was some twenty-five yards to the right and had been built in the 1970s. Aptly named, this is the first of the final five holes that dart home.

The ridges in the green are evident in this zoomed in view from the tee of the green nestled low into the dunes.

The ridges in the green are evident in this zoomed in view from the tee of the green nestled low into the dunes.

This view from across the course of the fourteenth tee areas benched into dune gives a sense of how much the fourteenth falls from tee to green. Controlling one's tee ball from a perched tee is never easy in a windy environment like Scotland.

This view from across the course of the fourteenth tee areas benched into dune gives a sense of how much the fourteenth falls from tee to green. Controlling one’s tee ball from a perched tee is never easy in a windy environment like Scotland.

Fifteenth hole, 510 yards, The Bents; A drive left of center brings the green in view while a ridge line right of center makes the second shot blind. Though the shore is to the right, the hole rarely plays in a cross breeze. Generally the final five holes play either downwind or into the wind. Here, an opposing wind makes this a straightforward three shotter but downwind the hole becomes more vexing. Second shots that don’t find the green benched into the dune follow the short grass left of the green complex and are stymied by a clever back left bunker.

Missing the green left gets increasingly problematic. Better to stay short and chip up its length. This advice is true for much of the course. Keep the greens in front of you; missing to the sides or long will cause the brow to furrow.

Missing the green left gets increasingly problematic. Better to stay short and chip up its length. This advice is true for much of the course. Keep the greens in front of you; missing to the sides or long will cause the brow to furrow.

Sixteenth hole, 380 yards, The Valley; With Corbie Hill high on the left and tall dunes along the Moray Firth to the right the name is apropos. On the one hand, the landforms are the biggest on the course. On the other, the bunkers compress the hitting area into one of the narrowest on the course. Squeezing one’s tee ball between the three fairway bunkers is key.

As seen from behind, the sixteenth plays arrow straight and one’s tee shot needs to be the same.

As seen from behind, the sixteenth plays arrow straight and one’s tee shot needs to be the same.

Seventeenth hole, 190 yards, Peninsula; The top of a dune was leveled and voila, a classic was born. The labor was minimal yet the result is timeless: hit the plateau green or else! Each of the four one shotters is memorable and each has its own admirers within the club. A minor quibble is that they all fall in the 165 to 200 yard range and they don’t box the compass. Nonetheless, 99% of quality courses around the world would gladly trade their set of one shot holes for the sterling collection found here.

Like the course itself, the penultimate hole at Fraserburgh deserves to be better recognized.

Like the course itself, the penultimate hole at Fraserburgh deserves to be better recognized.

The solitary bunker and the tightly mown bank that leads onto the putting surface create problems for short tee balls. The green narrows toward the back so playing safely long isn’t an option.

The solitary bunker and the tightly mown bank that leads onto the putting surface create problems for short tee balls. The green narrows toward the back so playing safely long isn’t an option.

There you have it. Braid provided the backbone for the course that exists today. Some of the best, most flavorful holes (e.g. the second, fourth, fifth, seventh, thirteenth) are his. Some others (e.g. the ninth, twelfth, fourteenth, and the fifteenth through seventeenth) were created later. Most importantly, the holes and the sequence of shots required by them are well balanced. The golfer happily bounces among holes built in the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s blissfully unaware of their evolution. Gordon Moir has seen the course for as long and in as many conditions as anyone and sums it up nicely when he notes, ‘I always thought the course was a fair but tough test in whatever conditions. You needed to be long on some holes, precise on others and shape the ball both ways. Getting on the wrong side often meant you couldn’t hold the green and therefore, although your short game had to be sharp you usually had the choice of playing a variety of shots to recover. The opportunity is there to score low but once you get on that bogey trail… .’

How nice to find a course that challenges but doesn’t humiliate you up in the process! Any but the mightiest golfer will be delighted to find himself in such an environment. Given the cast of holes, why this course isn’t better known far and wide is stupefying. Cruden Bay, a scant thirty minute drive away, was discovered in the 1990s. Perhaps Fraserburgh will be discovered in the next decade? It is most deserving of play and accolades will surely follow.

The End