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  • Neil White

Moray Old

If you want to play championship-quality golf and simultaneously feel as if you are an extra in the latest instalment of Top Gun, Moray Golf Club cannot be bettered.

The splendid host of our B & B accommodation is a former club captain and wanted to play down the noise which accompanies rounds.

I believe him when he says that the jets are comparable to the dolphins off the Moray coast in that they may not always appear just because they are there.

And, in any case, he joked: “I have only seen one hit by a golf ball once!”

But I have vowed to say honestly as I see it and our two days in Lossiemouth were punctuated by deafening but rather exciting Typhoon sorties.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. My drive on the fifth hole, which abuts the RAF base, required a rare feat of concentration as I tried to block out aircraft noise and ignore the cars on the parallel B9040.

I hit a belter and went on to a subsequent par.

Our B & B host is rightly proud that his family have been instrumental in the development of the club whose Old Course was orginally designed by Old Tom Morris.

Moray Old is a raw links with humps and hollows, similar to those we experienced at Brora a week ago.

Its revetted bunkers can cause problems (more of that later) and the gorse can intrude on a good round but there are many chances to score (unfortunately, my short-putting let me down otherwise it would have been my best of our Scotland trip).

Thankfully, only the deepest rough will result in a lost ball. Mainly it is thin and wispy and allows a decent contact.

The first hole sets the tone with several hillocks including a particularly tall one which renders approaches blind if tee shots, such as mine, drift to the left.

The second, an exciting par five, curves around with the boundary wall and the third is a deceiving par four to a raised green before a wicked par three whose target is just in front of the aforementioned B9040. Club selection on all is dictated by the wind direction.

I agree that holes over the road, next to the RAF base are less intoxicating (unless the jets are taking off) but the 8th was the first green I have ever played directly next to landing lights.

They become a feature of a second nine which stimulated me more.

The short 10th looked gimme off the tee but the strategically placed bunkers seemed to suck in drives which both Mrs W and I thought we had hit well.

Lossiemouth’s lighthouse becomes a central part of the vista for the following holes and a burn comes into play on the 11th - one of my favourites - which demands a key decision whether to attack or defend.

I loved the 17th - a bending par five to a partly hidden green which I struck in regulation but succumbed to yet another three-putt.

And then there is the 18th, one of the most fun closing holes I have experienced. Down the right is a hotel wall and the centre of the fairway is a series of dips and mounds but it is the second shot which is the real challenge.

I made the mistake of going straight at the elevated, sloping green and my well-hit ball fell away to a giant bunker lurking down on the left.

I disappeared from view of the clubhouse balcony but, for the final time on this holiday, opened my stance, lowered my tailbone and swished. To my considerable delight, the ball emerged on to the green.

Thereafter, we spent several hours imbibing beers and the dram of the week in the clubhouse and saw a chap chip in for an eagle two. Obviously, he approached from the right.

We were warned in advance that the fairways at Old Moray were not as pristine as some and that is true – they have suffered from lack of water in the region, but the ball did not need to be picked and placed. The greens certainly matched the standards we have seen elsewhere.

So, did we enjoy our round and our entire experience of Scottish golf at its purest? We certainly did. The history was wonderful the welcome was superb but next time, we might just take earmuffs.

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