The location is nothing short of sensational; nestled in Cullen Bay on the Moray Firth Coast there is a sandy beach for company and spectacular sea views a constant companion.
Dissecting it a bit further there are two varieties of golf going on at Cullen – both at opposite ends of the spectrum.
A number of the holes are played on relatively flat terrain with little movement in the land – I don’t think the club would argue if I describe these as ‘run of the mill’.
The other holes are amongst the wildest and strangest I have ever seen. There's a real novelty factor. The second is played directly up a mountain face, the fourth along the cliff tops is also blind and must be fired over a deep ravine, the seventh plummets straight back down to sea level whilst the ninth crosses both the eighth and tenth holes. And that’s just the start of it because the fun really notches up a gear at the 12th and 13th! These holes are part of a run of four consecutive short holes between the 11th and 14th.
The 12th is played between a giant 80-foot high red sea stack ‘Boarcrag’ and over a rocky outcrop to a hidden green set on a raised knob – hitting the green here for the first time visitor is more a case of luck than judgement.
The 13th is also completely blind and is played over another outcrop to a green complex that drops away at the left and towards the back. Another huge sea stack, Red Craig, is also in close proximity to the left.
These two holes are without doubt the most bizarre 330-yards of golf you’ll ever play. It’s a geological phenomenon and we have the Ice Age to thank for Cullen’s craziness.
Throughout the round there are marker posts, bells to ring and call-up holes on this nutty adventure. It doesn’t quite have the gadgetry of Shiskine but it’s a close second.
The remainder of the round is more conventional, in so much that you can see where you’re going for the most part, as you make your way back to the clubhouse alongside the beach.
The course was originally just nine holes, which were designed by Old Tom Morris, before it was extended to the full 18 by local architect Charlie Neaves. It’s quite a compact site and given the number of blind shots and crossover holes (plus a number of beach-goers and dog-walkers wandering aimlessly across the links despite the public footpath) I suspect it can get quite dangerous when the course is busy.
With ten par-threes and just the lone par-five it all adds up to a par of just 63 with a yardage of 4,623 – The Club claim to be the shortest true links course in the world - but don’t read too much into the numbers. Just take your tin hat, forget about your score and simply have a blast!
As I said I’m still a bit perplexed with it but my 8-year-old boy who played the course with me thought it was very cool. In truth it probably pushes the boundaries of good-quirk too far and I can’t say I’d rush to go back but I’m glad I’ve played it – it’s one of those courses you’ve simply got see once.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.