From bubble wrap terrain to ocean side views, Murcar Links brings the challenge all gofers want and dangles the rewards all golfers need.
Just 10 minutes from Aberdeen, Murcar was originally designed in 1909 by Archie Simpson, professional and keeper of the greens at neighbouring Royal Aberdeen with James Braid adding his Midas touch in the 1930’s. A strong combination of clever and thought provoking design for this Championship golf course, where the East Coast of Scotland meets the North Sea. Testimony to such a strong design is the course has changed little since conception.
Murcar started life with some controversy in so far as its name was undecided between Berryhill, Black Dog and Seaton – all names relating to the local area. With Seaton and Murcar equal in the voting system with 11 each, the chairman was given the casting vote and the rest, as they say, is history. A nod towards these contenders, are on holes 6 and 9, which are called Seaton and Black Dog respectively.
On a sunny day in August we set off down the 1st fairway and away from the clubhouse with a warm breeze for company. The clubhouse, while not tall in structure, remained a beacon throughout and was a good landmark to get our bearings as it appeared on the horizon from time to time.
Two relatively easy starting holes did little to prepare us for the 3rd with its split fairway which drops down to a second level before taking a subtle turn through the dunes to the bright, verdant green ahead.
In the middle of a harsh hot summer which had left, in places, firm, colourless fairways in its wake, the emerald island greens were dotted along the landscape as if a giant was being taunted into playing stepping stones. They added a delightful contrast to the course and its layout. Straighter fairways with the greens at the end resembled an exclamation mark as they drew you in.
Allowing way more than needed for the undulations (or lack of!) on the greens, it became apparent the greenkeepers had worked hard to maintain not only their pristine condition, but the consistency across all 18 of them.
High-sided, banked up bunkers seemed to entice the ball closer and closer, rarely giving any relief from errant shots when we did end up in the sand. It was true the conditions were dry and maybe that didn’t help either! Perfecting the ‘coming out sideways shot’ one had to be creative. At one stage I had to turn the club face around and come out sideways, after what can only be described as an ugly tee shot.
Sandy coloured long wispy grass framed the tee boxes and lined the fairways, with patches of heather adding splashes of colour. Fairways shaped around the natural terrain became more and more apparent and helped keep the ball in play. As we turned back to the North sea and headed inland for the back 9, the ocean views came to the fore with the wind turbines rotating majestically in the breeze, belittling the huge structures they really are.
The 11th hole, called Railway, has its own fascinating back story. Back in the day, The Seaton Brick & Tile Company would, for a princely fee of 30 pence per week, transport golfers from Aberdeen, directly through neighbouring Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, and past the doorstep of Murcar clubhouse where they were dropped off to play and enjoy Murcar Links.
The par-3 16th crosses over the 15th as you take on the ravine to an elevated green. As you approach the final stretch you are brought back to reality with a jolt as helicopters buzz overhead, presumably ferrying rig workers back and forth. It’s the beginning of the end of a round you simply never want to end.
Even as the wind got up towards the middle of our game, the summer warmth held its own as we started and finished in short sleeves. In all, a perfect day for golf on this beautifully sculptured course.