Formerly known as the No.1 course at Hazlehead Park, this 18-hole tree-lined layout was renamed the MacKenzie Championship course in August 2015. Originally opened for play in 1927, the course is part of an extensive 45-hole golf complex at Hazlehead Golf Club which is operated by Sport Aberdeen on behalf of Aberdeen City Council.
Alister MacKenzie was appointed by Aberdeen Town Council as the architect for the city's new public course on 2nd October 1922, with his brother Charles acting as the main contractor for the build. Problems arose during construction of the layout, which didn't officially open for play until 3rd July 1927, years late and over budget.
Exactly a year earlier, The Aberdeen Press & Journal had reported that MacKenzie was “exceedingly indignant with the Town Council and certain of its officials for the way in which his work had been traduced and held up to public approbrium”. The architect then used the newspaper over several months to publish correspondence between him and the municipal officials.
Much of the acrimony could be blamed on the Aberdeen Town Council Finance Committee deciding on 7 December 1925 that MacKenzie "be paid the final instalment of £80 due to him, being the agreed-on rate of 6 per cent on £8000" It was deemed this would be the last payment and Mackenzie would not get any percentage on anything spent more than the contracted amount.
Set out within dense woodland close to Aberdeen city centre, the course isn’t all that long, measuring a modest 6,209 yards from the medal tees and playing to a par of 70. There are only two par fives on the scorecard and both of these holes appear close to the end of the round at the 15th and 17th.
Feature holes include the 391-yard 2nd (“Hazledene”), which plays to an elevated green, and the first of the par threes, the 174-yard 5th (“Garden”), where there’s a pronounced dip in the fairway between tee and green. On the back nine, the left doglegged 475-yard 17th (“Blackhill”) presents itself as a birdie opportunity near the end of the round.
Hazelhead Mackenzie has the potential to be a great course in Aberdeenshire. The tight layout and large greens are great. Unfortunately the course needs some TLC , tee boxes were in a very sorry state and extremely dry. Fairways have had by looks of it drainage added however a few times my ball landed in these and was pretty much a drop shot to get out of it. The bunkers were very hard to play from as there is no real depth of sand and it is very compact. If your ball leaves the fairways into the trees you can say good bye to the ball. Thick rough and trees. Weather and views were great. Slow greens stopped the break on a lot of greens.
The Hazlehead Championship course closed in 2018 to allow extensive drainage work to be carried out on the course and that sort of move is to be applauded by any local authority willing to invest in its leisure facilities.
Quite a few trees have also been removed – though there’s still plenty to be done in that regard – so it looks like there’s perhaps a plan of action in place to remedy what appears to have been years of neglect.
I’d like to think this course might be able to attract visiting golfers but the nearby links attractions, though pricey, are too much of a draw to seriously entice anyone other than MacKenzie aficionados to play here, which is a pity.
Incidentally, don’t let the “Championship” tag in the course’s title put you off, thinking it might be a long, hard slog playing here. In actual fact, there are only two par fives on the card and only two of the par four holes are longer than 400 yards from the back tees.
It’s a very pleasant woodland stroll around gently undulating terrain that won’t overly tax you whilst walking. All the holes except the 10th and 11th are tree-lined on both sides of the fairway, allowing you to play in isolation for most of the round.
At the first hole, I marked “HUGE GREEN” on my scorecard, never thinking for a minute that this comment might be repeated for the entire round – the total area of the putting surfaces has to be one of the largest in Scottish golf because the greens are all massive.
Bunkers are generally big and bold, reminding me of those at Duff House Royal, which Charles Mackenzie also built for his brother Alister. Here, the hazards are not quite as sharply defined as those on the Banff course but they could be with a little more attention.
I loved the horseshoe-shaped internal green contours on the par four 2nd hole, though I was less enamoured with the par three 5th, where there’s no bunker behind the green to prevent over-hit tee shots running into a drainage ditch, which seems a very harsh penalty.
On the back nine, both par threes at the 12th and 16th caught the eye, as did the short par five 17th, veering left and down to the green. The 18th is also a fine finishing hole, dipping down to a heavily sand-protected home green in front of the clubhouse.
The Hazlehead complex is a great 45-hole facility for local golfers, offering very reasonably priced green fees and season tickets (that can also be used at other council-run venues) and even if you were just to play this course repeatedly then such a purchase would still be a bargain.
It's great that the municipal courses get a mention on this website. The green fees are fantastic for what you get. I haven't played Hazlehead but did play the links at Balnagask and Kings Links which are both available via Aberdeen City. Both offer incredible value, especially as a twilight player. As does the muni links in Troon. Darley must be one of the best value green fees in the world.