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In Praise Of . . . Moray Old

This characterful course on Scotland’s north-east coast is a classic example of a true Scottish links, writes Raleigh Gowrie . . .

Whilst Lossiemouth, on Scotland’s Moray Firth is commonly referred to as Scotland’s Royal Air Force base, there is something else that this quaint Highland town should be best known for – golf.

The Moray Golf Club boasts two splendid tracks. The New Course, constructed in 1979 by Henry Cotton, is a tight, flat affair with gorse-lined fairways and well-protected greens ensuring that precision and control are key. However, its hard to find a more quintessential traditional seaside layout in Scotland than the Moray Old Course.

Designed by Old Tom Morris in 1889, the course reflects the land’s natural undulations and offers a perfect balance of strategy and challenge.  Similar to St Andrews and North Berwick, the course starts and ends within the town itself, with a sturdy stone clubhouse watching over opening tee shots and final putts. At 6,717 yards, it’s not long by modern standards. However, the sea winds add length and deception to the challenge.

The course meanders between patches of gorse, sand ridges and pot bunkers, ensuring that trouble encroaches almost claustrophobically at times, on both sides of the fairways.  Add occasional blind shots; fast, firm greens some of which are sunken, others raised; and some beautifully crafted pa​r 3s, and it’s likely that you will play every club in the bag during your round. Importantly, thought and creativity are central to scoring well.  Respect for the course is evident in that it regularly hosts national and European events and has been home to the Scottish National Collegiate Championships for the past 20 years.

Two stretches of the course are most memorable. The Covesea Lighthouse, which holds an uncanny resemblance to Turnberry’s Stevenson Lighthouse, provides a picturesque backdrop to the holes around the turn. The closing stretch of holes run alongside the golden beach shoreline until the final hole, and arguably its best. Tightly bunkered down the left, and out of bounds on the right, a long accurate drive provides the best opportunity to target the raised home green. Even then, a closing par is elusive more often than not.

Moray Old is simple, unpretentious and brilliant. It also offers more than just a memorable round and a warm welcome in its outwardly imposing but inwardly relaxed clubhouse. Its geographical location means it has its own micro-climate, making it one of the driest parts of the country and allowing for golf to be played all year round. More appreciably, its beauty and challenge allows it to sit comfortably alongside a suite of illustrious nearby venues including Nairn, Castle Stuart and Royal Dornoch, such that any discerning golfer would undoubtedly relish the prospect of visiting this part of the world.
Raleigh Gowrie is a co-founder and Director of College Links Golf