Those planning a trip to North-East Scotland may rightly include Trump International, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Murcar Links on their itinerary. However, without a visit to Fraserburgh their repertoire of quality links golf will not be complete.
Five-time Open Champion, James Braid, is mostly to thank for the current layout we play today. Par is 70 and the yardage 6,308 on this versatile links.
Playing the relatively bland opening hole at Fraserburgh first-time visitors, with no prior knowledge of the course, will be totally unaware of what is about to unfold before their eyes over the next few hours. They may get an inkling as they walk off the first green, but only if they glimpse across to the left and spy a partially hidden green nestled in the dunes, or maybe as they play the sporty second hole straight up Corbie Hill, however, it isn’t until the third tee is reached that the immense beauty of this charming links is displayed in its full glory.
From this viewpoint perfectly undulating, unspoiled linksland stretches endlessly before and below you. Huge dunes to the left, that house the closing holes, and smaller sandhills everywhere else define rippling fairways and intriguing green complexes. Exposed putting surfaces, shelf greens and the tops of flags hidden in dells can be seen. It’s a mouth-watering prospect that lies before you.
For the next 15 holes you play to every point on the compass and are asked to hit a vast variety of shots. Out of this 15 I would say at least a dozen are either good or very good with a handful that reach or border on great. There are a couple of 'filler' holes, that simply help join the dots to the best bits of the course, but there isn’t a sniff of a weak hole.
The third itself is a majestic short par-four of just 331 yards, perhaps my favourite two-shotter on the course, with a tempting drive, perfectly placed sand-traps and a cunning green for a hole of this length.
The next has another taxing green setting, carved out of the side of a dune with two-tiers on this long putting surface. My playing partner hit a wedge into the back-right-hand corner of the green and it must have had just too much spin on it because as many as 30 seconds later it re-appeared trickling off the front and down the steep 20-foot banking short of the green! Maybe he should have been cursing his bad luck but instead there was a wide grin on his face because this is what golfing at Fraserburgh is; great fun.
Don’t think for one moment though that this is tricked-up golf, there is also a deadly seriousness to Fraserburgh and will provide a true examination for all departments of your game.
There are only two par fives on the course but both are stellar holes and played in different directions so the wind conditions of the day is likely to make one easy and the other hard. A cross-wind neither. Meanwhile the set of short holes are divine. The best of the lot comes at the 17th, in my opinion a world-class hole. Simple and subtle yet it has an air of authority that you usually only find on Open Championship courses.
Other highlights include the mischievous 10th; a great example of a short par four, the drive at the excellent 12th, the endless hours of fun you can have around the 13th green and the run for home along and between the towering dunes.
Admittedly, the round ends in a similar way to how it started with an unremarkable long two-shotter. The first and 18th are often cited as Fraserburgh’s Achilles heel, and this is perhaps true, but these are far from poor holes. The openness and flatness of these two adjacent par fours doesn’t do them any favours but they are strategically sound and demanding holes.
Fraserburgh won’t appeal to everybody but this is a golf course that delivers good old fashioned traditional links golf. It massively over-delivered on our expectations and a place I would strongly urge you to play. I see it as a bit of an underdog for links golf in Scotland and one I will certainly be rooting for.
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.