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.
Date: August 14, 2019