Back-Roads Scotland: Cullen

In 2007, I traveled to Scotland on an unusual Golf Digest assignment. I landed in Glasgow without tee times or an itinerary, and I rented a car and set out in a more or less random direction, with the goal of playing only courses I’d never heard of before. You can read my article about that trip here or here.

One of my favorite stops was a quirky course called Cullen, in Aberdeenshire, on the southern coast of the Moray Firth. The original nine holes were laid out by Old Tom Morris, and the course has blind shots, crossing fairways, otherworldly topography, and a cool tee shot that you hit from the top of a cliff. Partway through my round, I joined (as the fifth player) a group of older golfers from a club called Hopeman, about thirty miles to the west. They were on a golf outing, and this was their second round of the day, and they were playing a scramble, in competition with three other groups from their club. Most of them were carrying flasks, from which they were sipping a mixture of something and Drambuie—I couldn’t quite make out the recipe—and their golf bags were so full of empty beer bottles that they clanked when the wind, which was fierce, knocked them over.

They urged me to have a swig from one of their flasks. I declined, because I’d quit drinking about a year before, but they were so relentless that I eventually decided it would be better to risk falling off the wagon than to come to blows. As soon as I’d drunk a capful, though, they began to worry about their supply. “Are you driving?” one asked. His brow was furrowed with concern. When I said I was, he and the others concluded that offering me another swig or a beer would be unwise. Toward the end of the round, one of them asked, in a slurry brogue, “Wha hoe wah noo?” and only I could understand him: “What hole are we on now?” (It was the seventeenth.) Photo below. That’s the eighteenth green in the distance. I went back a year later with friends from home.

The boys from Hopeman: "Wha hoe wah noo?"

The specialty in the clubhouse—at left in the photo above, behind the big rock—is Cullen Skink, a fish soup that has its own Wikipedia entry.

The bent flag shows how hard the wind was blowing.

Looking back toward the clubhouse and the town.

The boys from Hopeman and some of their beverages.

Here’s where my friends and I stayed in Cullen when we went back the following year:

One thought on “Back-Roads Scotland: Cullen

  1. Great post. I’ve never been overseas to play in GB&I, a defect to be sure, but when I do, I’ll try to get to Cullen. A friend says every time he tried to play, it was underwater, rendering it in his mind to mythical status, sort of a Golf Atlantis.

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