We must confess that we didn’t know anything about Spey Bay Golf Course until it was in the media headlines earlier this year. Why was it in the headlines? Well, it became the first golf course in the world to be bought by a US based online cryptocurrency community called LinksDAO. The DAO stands for decentralised autonomous organisation.
LinksDAO’s unique selling point is that they are building the world’s greatest golf community and that they are reimagining the modern golf and leisure club. They have over 25,000 members from all around the world and currently have three types of membership available, starter, players and pro membership. Their starter membership is only $99, the player membership is $499 and the pro is $1499. LinksDAO have big plans for Spey Bay going forward. More of that later in this article.
History and Location
The golf course at Spey Bay was laid out in 1907 by the legendary club maker Ben Sayers and features undulating fairways and plenty of heather and gorse. The green sizes vary from large to small and narrow. Spey Bay is located on the Moray coastline and is around an hours drive from both Inverness and Aberdeen airports.
The course is relatively short by modern day standards. Yardages range from 5290 yards to 6219 yards off the back tees. It’s a par 70 for Gents with a slope rating of 121 off the back tees. For Ladies, it’s a par 71 with a slope rating of 113. We chose to play off the back tees on this occasion but as always, choose the tees to suit your game and handicap.
Playing the Course
View down the undulating first fairway to the green
The opening hole is a par 4 of 427 yards. We found it quite difficult to pick the line off the tee as it was into the sun. Our driver went a little left and left us 200 yards to the green. Fortunately it was slightly downhill and a front pin and our 3 hybrid second shot finished 10 feet from the hole. We really should have had a few putts on the putting green before we went out as we left our ten footer short but in the hole.
We parred the 2nd hole, a shortish par 4 which is 351 yards long, with a drive and a wedge and two putts.
Wonderful bunkering on the 3rd hole
The 3rd hole, at 374 yards, is all about the tee shot. You need to avoid the five big bunkers down the right, the first one of which is a grass bunker. The ideal line is over the 2nd bunker but make sure you can carry it. If you are not sure, aim further left. We reached the green with driver, 9 iron and two putted once more.
An Almost Blind Par 3
Don’t thin it off the 4th tee
I’m almost 6 foot and the photo above was my view from the 4th tee. You can’t see much of the green so you have to trust the yardage. It’s 195 yards and plays slightly downhill. We went with 5 iron and missed the green just short and right. Our chip wasn’t great and we missed our 8 footer for our first bogey.
As often happens, we followed that with another bogey at the 5th, a 433 yard par 4. It’s also stroke index 1 on the card. Our second shot caught the front left bunker and we didn’t get up and down. We steadied the ship with two par 4’s at holes 6 and 7 and as we headed to the 8th tee, we were two over par.
Three, Three Finish to the Front Nine
The narrow 8th green with the tee in the background
The 8th is a tricky par 3. It’s only 138 yards but the green is only 9 yards from front to back. Anything landing on the first couple of yards is liable to roll back down the slope, making a par difficult. Our 8 iron missed the green right but pin high. Our chip hit the pin and finished less than a foot from the hole. Happy to make a par here.
The 9th fairway with its banking bumpers
The 9th hole is the first of two par 5’s on the course. At 476 yards, it’s reachable in two if you can get a good drive away. The banking on either side is like bumpers on a bowling lane. They give you a safety net when you open your shoulders with the driver. We hit a good drive then flushed a 3 hybrid up the right. It must have gotten a good bounce as when we reached the green, our ball was a foot from the hole. A tap in eagle and we finished the front nine, level par!
The Run for Home
The back nine starts with two shortish par 4’s of 340 and 351 yards. We hit both fairways and both greens in two and made two pars. Even though we had wedges in, we did hit either close enough to have realistic chances of birdie. Need to work on our wedge game over the winter months!
Army golf on the tough 12th hole
The 12th is similar to the 9th in many ways. Banking on either side make it easier, not easy, to hit the fairway. We hit a good drive up the left side which left us a 6 iron to the green. We pushed it slightly and it stuck on the bank to the right of the green. A poor chip and a missed putt and we registered another bogey.
The 13th is a tricky par 3 of 194 yards. Our 3 hybrid found the middle of the green and we managed to two putt for par from 35 feet.
Like the surface of the moon, the 14th fairway
The 14th is a strong par 4 of 405 yards. It’s not the distance that’s the problem, it’s trying to get a flat stance on this fairway. If you look closely you can see our ball on the left side. The ball was sitting slightly above our feet and we managed to hit the partially hidden green with a 9 iron. If we had hit our tee shot up the middle, we may not have been as fortunate with our lie and stance.
The Hidden Green
Half a pin is all you can see on the par 3 15th
The last par 3 plays 150 yards and the green is hidden by a ridge and a large bunker. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a breeze on the day we played and we hit 8 iron over the right corner of the bunker onto the sloping green. We cosied our 25 footer up to less than a foot and walked off with our third par in a row after our bogey on 12.
Another par followed at the par 5 16th which was playing 517 yards, the longest hole on the course. A good drive followed by a decent 3 wood left us just short of the green and hopes were high for another birdie. We duffed our chip and two putted for a par. Note to self: work on your chipping as it’s costing you shots.
Don’t miss left on your approach to the penultimate green
The 17th hole is short and another birdie opportunity. At 339 yards it was a decent drive then a gap wedge. The pin was near the slope on the left side and we bailed out right to avoid short siding ourselves. It was an easy par but we should have got it closer to the pin in two…
Playing the Last
The narrow trough like 18th fairway
The last hole is 410 yards. The back tee sits at an angle to the fairway so a draw is ideal off the tee. With that thought, we pulled our tee shot left, almost onto the first fairway, missing the 18th fairway by a good twenty yards. We had a reasonable lie in the springy heather and went with a 7 iron. This time we pushed it and we missed the green right but were pin high. Our bump and run with an 8 iron finished 3 feet short. We knocked it in for 36 back and a one over par round of 71. Were delighted with that. That eagle on the 9th was the only red figure on the card today. If we had a better short game, we might have been under par.
Spey Bay Summary
We really enjoyed our round at Spey Bay. It was fortunate that the weather was kind and that our driving was much better. We hit lots of fairways which would have given us birdie opportunities if our iron play was better. There are a number of holes where the fairways have banks on either side and we rather liked that. It made you feel that the fairways were wider than they actually were. The course was in very good condition which is amazing since there was really only one greenkeeper (more on that shortly) Thank you to Spey Bay’s new General Manager Bert MacKay for hosting us.
Big Changes Ahead for Spey Bay
Normally at this point we normally do an At a Glance section with the key points about the course and the facilities. There is no point as Spey Bay is about to undergo radical changes to its course. Over the winter months, 16 acres, yes, 16 acres of gorse are being removed. In 2024, new greens and multiple tees will be constructed and shaped and there will be 20 greens. Why? Well, the plan is to create a fully reversible golf course.
What does that mean? It means that the impact to the members and visitors during construction will be minimal. There will always be 18 holes to play. Once the project is complete, you will be able to play the course 3 different ways. Forward, Reverse and the Championship layout. It’s an intriguing concept and we can’t wait to return to find out how it’s working for them.
To do this, the investment by Links DAO will be substantial. New greens equipment is on order and the greens team will increase from 1 to a minimum of 7. Their plan and timescale is ambitious and we wish them every success for the future. We will be back to Spey Bay in 2024 to update you on their progress.
Jim Callaghan has been a Category One Golfer for over 45 years. Recently retired from Club Management, he now walks the fairways of some of the best golf courses in the UK, Ireland and Europe and writes about the experience of playing and staying at them for worldsbestgolfdestinations.com
Now in his 60’s, he is still carrying his bag, although maybe not for much longer!
If you would like Jim to write about your venue, email him at [email protected] or call him on 0044 (0) 78522 88732