Review: Moray Golf Club, New Course

By Andrew Jessop, Contributor

The New Course at Moray Golf Club is a wonderful addition to the golfing set up at Lossiemouth. This course embraces none of the grandeur of its older and more illustrious big brother "Moray Old"; the first tee perches unassumingly next to a small concrete shelter and the last green nestles between the seventeenth green and the eighteenth tee of the Old Course. And yet this is a very natural links course which seems to almost relish the fact that only those with a willingness to explore and seek out this course will have the opportunity to enjoy the challenges it presents.

The idea of a second eighteen had been a consideration at Lossiemouth for some seventy three years before the dream became a reality. As early as 1906, a small relief course was opened to ease the demands on the Old Course. Ever since, the concept of a full second eighteen seemed to be perpetually on the agenda at Moray. Eventually, on the twenty-second of September 1979, that dream was realised with the opening of the New Course.

The course is not long by modern standards and is not designed to make length an all important factor. That said, the official yardage of 6,004 yards does not adequately reflect the stern test posed by the New Course at Lossiemouth, for there are some wonderful holes here. Furthermore, two extremely short par three's on the front nine mean that the rest of the holes on the course have plenty of length to challenge even the finest of golfers.

Indeed, the quality of the test posed by the New course is easily illustrated by the fact that the Scottish Universities Team Matchplay Championships has been held here for the last three years. The event is staged in April when the weather conditions can make the challenge even harder, but the fact that such an event comes here at that time of year is great praise for the greenkeeping staff who keep the links well manicured all year round.

The opener at Lossiemouth sets the scene for much of the golf course, for the first fairway, like many of the holes here, is lined on either side by thick gorse bushes. Another factor of Lossiemouth, which is far less obvious until it is actually pointed out, is the lack of fairway bunkering. These two factors mean that while the target from the tee is usually fairly generous, the penalty for missing such a target is that your ball is likely to find a prickly resting place.

The third at Lossiemouth is one of the toughest holes on the golf course, standing at an impressive 420 yards long. The fairway is lined with gorse and the slight dogleg left means that the tee shot demands a draw. Anything fading right is likely to be nudged by the slope of the fairway into severe trouble.

The approach shot regularly demands a long iron or even a wood and is played to a small two tiered green. Stopping the ball on this green is difficult, as anything fractionally short often fails to run on while anything which carries to the top half of the putting surface will inevitably run through the back. If in doubt, better to be a fraction short as there are out of bounds lurking back left of the green here.

The fifth at Lossiemouth is named after the old professional here, Jimmy Neil, one of the pivotal figures in the establishment of the New Course. This was his favourite hole on the course and is the first hole where the Ditch, which runs across the course, plays a significant role. The tee shot is played to quite a tight landing area, while the second must be hit with true conviction. The smallest hint of doubt and your ball will find a watery resting place.

The sixth is one of the two very short par three's on the opening nine. Even from the medal tees, it's maximum length is one hundred yards. However, don't be fooled, this must be one of the hardest one hundred yards in golf to negotiate successfully. Immediately in front of this green lies the ditch which was such a prominent feature on the previous hole. While beyond the green is a large grassy bank from where it is very hard to get down in two. Accordingly, do not be disappointed with par here.

From the ninth hole onward there is a tremendous trio of holes known locally as the Bermuda triangle, perhaps because a good score can disappear without a trace very easily here. The ninth is a relatively short par four at only 364 yards, however for shorter hitters the carry over the water filled ditch will be quite an intimidating prospect. Moreover, the second is played to a tiny green which is protected on both sides by bunkers and slopes viciously from front to back.

The tenth was one of my favourite holes on the course. The tee shot from an elevated tee is played to a tight fairway nestling amongst the sand dunes. The second is a short pitch played to a raised green. To have any chance of a birdie requires a delicate touch around the greens as anything just a little clumsy will come up short or run through into the thick grasses beyond this green.

Without doubt the best stretch of holes here are the closing ones. From the thirteenth onward the visitor is treated to a tremendous stretch of links. The fourteenth is the only par five on the course and at 512 yards often requires the full three shots. The fairway is again lined with gorse and the decision comes with the second of whether to try and carry the ditch which lies some eighty yards short of the putting surface in two. Laying up leaves a much longer third, but may be the safe option if there is little chance of actually getting home in two.

The sixteenth is a great matchplay hole and is almost made for the climax of any game coming down the stretch in the Scottish Universities championship. The safe option is to take an iron off the tee and play to the corner of the dogleg left. The alternative, braver and riskier route is to aim left over the trees in the gorse bush and hit the driver going for the green. The rewards of the latter approach can be tangible, but misjudge the line and you're in trouble, the line is always much further left than you initially imagine.

The closing hole is a long par four at 417 yards and if played into the Wind, may be unreachable in two. The terrain all the way down this fairway is rolling humps and holes and encapsulates what links golf is all about. A fantast natural end to a golf course which might provide some welcome relief from the longer tests that the visitor faces on most of Scotland's championship links.

After your game enjoy some time in the clubhouse here. Attractively situated overlooking the eighteenth green of the Old Course, the staff and members provide a tremendous welcome to any visitors.

Moray Golf Club
Stotfield Road
IV31 6QS
Tel: 01343 812 018

Andrew Jessop, Contributor

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