Spey Bay has a distinguished history - laid out by North Berwick’s famous professional, Ben Sayers, in 1907. Like several other of the area’s clubs, Ramsey MacDonald played a hand in popularising the game. The club still play for a handsome trophy donated by the former Prime Minister. While the club’s fortunes have somewhat faded, I found the course to be one of my unexpected favourites on a strong coast.
Essentially an out and back layout, it’s laid out on a narrow but beautifully undulating strip of links land. The adjacent beach is pebbles rather than sand, and these form the basis of the course’s landforms. Apparently created during storm surges over 6000 years ago, several wave like formations were created from the stones and pebbles parallel to the shore. The golf generally plays in the dune slacks between these high points, and the fairway topography is as good as anywhere.
Some holes were lost to storms in the 1980s, and the newer holes that replaced them are more of an inland character - not up to the same calibre as the original 16. Of the many great holes that do remain at Spey Bay, the best is the short par 3 Eighth - the point where we turn to head back in the direction of the clubhouse.
Only 138 yards, the plateau green is tricky to hold with the wind whipping off the Moray Firth. From the Tenth onwards, we have plenty of views of the sea - some overly encroaching gorse the only detraction.
I was amazed I hadn’t heard of Spey Bay. My understanding is the club struggles financially, a local businessman acting as benefactor to keep it going. The risk of further erosion is still very real - and I do hope the precariousness of the club’s finances won’t threaten its long term survival, or loss of any of these great holes. The green fee is modest (about £25), exceptional value for such an enjoyable links.
I’d highly recommend putting this on your Moray Coast itinerary.