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Fraserburgh

Yardage
6308
Par
70
SSS
71
Built
1777 and 1922
Architect(s)
James Braid
Nature:
Historic, James Braid designed undulating, classic links with fine grasses and interesting par threes.
Location/Address:
Scottish north-east coast. Postcode AB43 8DT
http://www.fraserburghgolfclub.org/
Secretary
Debbie Reid
Telephone
01346 516616
Professional
-
Green Keeper
Morris Rodgers
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
well-behaved dogs welcomed
Open Meetings:
Buchan Firkin - July, Marr Trophy - September.
Fees in 1960s
25p
Fees today
£45 - 2018

Review

Fraserburgh on the North-East coast of Scotland has been best known, along with Peterhead, as one of UK’s most thriving and famous fishing ports before the nation joined the EU.

fraserburgh golf club,

Clubhouse entrance window

Nevertheless, its golf club, founded in 1777 is the oldest in the world still operating under its original name. There is evidence of the ‘game of gowff’ being played here in 1613 when a young lad was sent to the ‘maister’s stool for correction’ for playing on a Sunday!

The original nine holes were a half a mile nearer to the town than where they lie today, when in 1891 they were extended to eighteen holes around Corbie Hill.

fraserburgh golf club,

View to Fraserburgh from Corbie Hill

The Club then invited James Braid (five times Open Champion before the First World War and Scotland’s most prolific golf course architect) in 1922 to redesign the course. This redesign runs in parallel with Philorth Bay, well inland of the sea, across classic fine grassed links land, sited between the sand dunes of marram grass and the inland agricultural land of meadow grass (Poa annua). It is this Braid layout that we play today.

fraserburgh golf club,

The fifteenth green

The fifteenth hole (‘The Bents’), at 508yards and the sixteenth (‘The Valley’), 378yards are two of the finest holes and run along valleys whilst most of the other holes are on undulating ground. Corbie Hill is the dominant feature with the second green (‘Braid’s Bellow’) 391yards and the fourth green (‘The Plateau’) 328yards both being cut into its side.

fraserburgh golf club,

The sixteenth hole

Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping in charge of the seven St Andrews links courses, learnt his trade at Fraserburgh, a club with a historically small budget.

The present course manager Morris Rodgers has a greenkeeper and two other greens staff to help him manage 27 holes! An extra nine holes (Rosehill) were built on flattish parkland/meadow land on the inland side of the B9033 road that runs alongside the Corbiehill course.

Corbie Hill

Morris’s tiny team does an astonishing job and with a tight budget is not tempted to waste it on fertiliser and fungicides. It maybe worth noting at this point Jim Arthur’s famous quote from page 39 of ‘Practical Greenkeeping‘. “The old adage – the poorest clubs have the best courses – is based on the fact that they could not afford to over-feed.”

The greens are 80% fine grasses, cut at 4mm and run at around nine foot on the Greenstester. These provided certainly ideal conditions when I played here, as the 20/25mph wind would have made the greens almost unplayable if they had been any faster.

The course is 6308yards, par 70, SSS 71, and is a good mixture of par four lengths, continually challenging the golfer without any simple holes, except for the first and last that are on flat uninspiring ground and both of 435yards in opposite directions. Of these, the first was playing as an effective par five and the last a mere drive and a wedge with the effect of a southerly wind.

fraserburgh golf club,

The thirteenth- ‘ Hillocks’

One of the most characterful holes is the thirteenth (‘Hillocks’) a short par four at 341yards with mown hillocks in front of the green. It inspired the design of the ninth hole in 2016 of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, following Kyle Franz playing the course during winter visits to Fraserburgh.

Kyle Franz, is an American golf course architect who helped Gil Hanse design the Olympic course. Kyle said: “I visited Fraserburgh numerous times during the winter and the fescue on the mounds was low and tight. It made me think of those shot options that could make for one of the coolest ideas for a green ever”.

The picturesque seventh

Though they used Zoysia and paspalum, both hot-season grasses for this course in Rio, (as fescue is a cool-season grass), nevertheless the firmness of these grasses allowed them to replicate a near to ‘running-golf’ links type experience and with a breeze from off  the nearby ocean, the pros were challenged to be more imaginative in their shot-making than on the usual lush target-golf courses they play.

The four par threes are excellent, with the seventh (‘The Well’) at 165yards, the most picturesque.

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The fifth, par three

The fifth (‘The Hump’), at 185yards is played from the side of Corbie Hill and along the B9033 road. It is wonderfully old fashioned being played over a hump that hides the green but please allow me to mention that I hit my best shot of the round here; a smeared one iron into the teeth of the wind that held its low line to just make it over the hump and onto the back of the green. The slippery movement in the green made me work for my par.

fraserburgh golf club,

The fourteenth, par three

The fourteenth (‘Homeward’) is 198yards and has a two-tier green that slides to the right and though quite large is not easy to hit, being somehow out of balance from the tee. There is plenty of room in front from which a bump-and-run can be played.

fraserburgh golf club,

The seventeenth, par three

The seventeenth (‘Peninsula’) is 189yards long and its green is on a raised plateau and here it is better to be long than short as the front mid-right bunker, cut into the steep front, is of true cigar-smoking delight, from which one may never again emerge.

As a warning, one does not want to stray too far off the fairway here, as particularly on the inland side of the course the rough has thick choking grasses that will swallow your ball. Sadly, there were also a lot of daisies on the fairways when we played, a downside of the tight budget.

Fraserbough is one of FineGolf’s 200 finest running-courses in GB&I but it is tucked away in an area seldom visited. But those visiting Royal Aberdeen, Trump Aberdeen and Cruden Bay which are now all on the American tourist map, will be rewarded with fantastic value when playing this traditional links. It is a venue which excites with glorious views and fine grasses, and as Ran Morrissett of GolfClubAtlas says: “It challenges but does not humiliate you in the process.”

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The clubhouse

The course record is a nine under par 61 suggesting every hole offers an opportunity if a sensible low under-the-wind golf strategy is deployed. The old clubhouse was burnt down in 2004 and in its place is a brick built fortress but with good views from the first floor reception rooms. You will not find a pro shop but the bartender will happily sign you in.

There are plenty of good nearby hostelries and FineGolf from personal experience can strongly recommend Martin & Lucy Taylor’s traditional Kilmarnock Arms Hotel at the heart of Cruden Bay. Equally appealing is the luxury Aikenshill House B&B situated near to Trump’s course, run by James Duthie an ex-fishing skipper out of Peterhead. These are both excellent staging posts from which to explore this area that is growing in golfing importance and tourism.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith in 2018 and who is pleased that well-behaved dogs are welcome guests on the links.

Reader Comments

On February 25th, 2018 Ralph Romanis said:

I fear my friends who are members of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh will take umbrage at your suggestion that Fraserburgh Golf Club is the World’s oldest club. They published a very nice Volume 1 of their history called the “CRONICLE” which claims to be a history of the club during its first Two Hundred Years, from 1735 to 1935, and very fine reading it is for those interested in golf’s early endeavors. Another interesting read is “A Swing Through Time” by Olive M. Geddes, National Library of Scotland.

Ralph, thank you for your helpful extra advice and information.
Fraserburgh is the 7th oldest club in the world founded in 1771 but it is claimed the oldest with the same original name. Was the fine parkland club in Edinburgh called ‘Royal’ from 1735? Many thanks, Lorne

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