Cullen Links is one of the more remarkable golf courses in Scotland. Squeezed between the sea and the high ground above the bay where the Great North of Scotland Railway once steamed, the limited acreage demanded an imaginative course design. At first nine holes, it was extended to eighteen in 1905 and opened by “Sheriff Reid from Banff, in the presence of a large and representative company”.
Extension was achieved by use of high ground above Round Craig and Boar Craig. You can get some idea of the height achieved by standing at the foot of the town’s railway viaduct as it towers above. Then consider this – by the time you reach the upper level of the course, the railway has disappeared into a cutting beneath the level of the 5th fairway. At the seventh, with one glorious drive into the unknown, you descend in a single shot to sea-level. Forget the Pacific Highway, this is the best drive in the world.
Golf in the Wild at Cullen. The view of the 12th green from the 7th tee – the 13th tee is adjacent to the green and plays between the rocks on the right.
Golf in the Wild at Cullen. The view from the 4th tee.
Despite the course skirting the beach, there are not many opportunities for even the wildest of hitters to reach the briney sea. Only at the ninth do you aim towards the bay and it would be a monstrous misjudgement to reach the shore. However, that is not to say that there are no balls in the bay, indeed, there could be thousands.
On the original course map, at a position roughly in line with the current 16th tee, there is marked a “Battery” and on the wall of the clubhouse, an image of a row of cannons.
The exact purpose of the battery is unclear, but presumably there was some thought to coastal defence. However, while possibly never fired in anger, they were certainly exercised regularly for “Volunteers Big Gun Practice”, a sport which bears some resemblance to foursomes golf. A press cutting from the time indicates that the match was halved:
On Friday last, this Company, under the command of Capt. Ross and Lieut. Peterkin, fired off the remaining allowance of shot and shell for year 1865. The day fixed on was anything but favourable for practice – the wind blowing a regular gale off the land – yet the detachments mustered at the stated time nothing daunted, and it was a general remark of the on-lookers at the battery, that seldom if ever had such fine practice been made in like weather. At the conclusion of the practice, Adjutant Crabbe, who was present inspecting, complimented the several detachments in the highest terms, both as to their efficiency at drill, and their precision in the laying of guns. In the course of the evening, the recruits of the company competed for the prize of one thousand rounds of carbine cartridge, given by Alex. Wilson, Esq., Tochineal, a thorough supporter of Volunteer matters. The prizes were to have been awarded to those showing the greatest proficiency in big gun drill. The contest was judged by Adjutant Crabbe, and in presence of Captain Ross, and other officers, along with Mr Wilson, and a goodly number of the company, when it was agreed that distinction or any individual superiority could not well be pronounced, the whole having done their part so well, so that the prize came to be equally divided among the ten young recruits of the detachment, giving satisfaction to all. As a finish, three hearty cheers were heartily accorded to Mr Wilson by all present.
With thanks to Cullen Past and Present and Cullen Links for unearthing the information relating to the Battery.
Golf in the Wild – Going Home is a work in progress – the sequel to www.golfinthewild.co.uk