I’d like to say I saved the best until last and, whilst clearly that was never going to be the case, I was smitten with what I found on the cliff tops at the East end of Buckie on the Moray Firth Coast.
I’d driven past the course previously and from the little bit I had seem from the road previously it looked interesting but unspectacular. I was therefore happy to be proved wrong because at times Strathlene is spectacular and very much underrated when it comes to discussing links golf.
Coming in just a few paces under 6,000 yards and playing to a par of 69 Strathlene, founded way back in 1877 but didn’t become 18 holes until 1936, is not a long course and unless the wind is howling it isn’t going to beat you up but if you are going to tame this gem of a course you will need to be able to play a wide variety of shots.
Set high above sea level on a raised marine platform the exposed nature of the site lends itself well to the ground game and for the most part it is generously wide but there are spots of gorse which must be avoided.
The first couple of holes wander out towards the cliff-edge before turning back and playing towards a central hill and dune-ridge which much of the course is routed around.
The best stretch of holes come in this section, between the fifth and the 10th, where we play over some tumultuous terrain towards some fine green complexes, many of which are elevated on high ground.
The final four holes are played over a road and further from the coastline and you would be forgiven for thinking these may not live up to the rest of the course. And although they are not quite as linksy as the other holes, they do feature some interesting gullies and ravines, and there are some strong holes (17 in particular) which provide a fitting finale to a very enjoyable round of golf.
Strathlene is not a classic links course but it plays really well, the views are fabulous and is just another feather in the cap of what is a highly underrated stretch of golf along the Moray Firth. I’ll even forgive the monstrosity of a clubhouse it has!
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.