Located close to the centre of Aberdeen, Newmachar is one of the most progressive golf clubs in this area of Scotland, boasting two exceptional 18-hole courses. Dave Thomas designed all 36 holes here at Newmachar and the Swailend opened for play in the summer of 1997, with the Hawkshill opening in the autumn of 1990. In common with all his designs, well-shaped and prominent bunkering is a key feature.
The Swailend course is the shorter and easier test of golf at Newmachar, measuring 6,388 yards from the back tees against a par of 72. The course is set on gently rolling ground and its look and feel is changing year by year as the thousands of saplings which were planted back in 1997 are beginning to put down their roots.
The Hawkshill took more than ten years to evolve from the first steering committee meeting in 1979 to its opening. Land had to be acquired (leased from the local Council) and planning permission granted before 135 acres of arable fields, rough grazing, heathland and bog were transformed into 18 golf holes over a four year period, beginning in the summer of 1986.
There is nothing easy about the Hawkshill, which measures 6,730 yards from the back tees. With par set at 72 and the SSS set at 74, the story is clear: this is definitely one of Aberdeen's most challenging courses. A watery grave waits on five holes (1, 9, 10, 13 and 17), and, of course, Thomas's clever bunkering is also there to catch you out.
Despite its youth, the Hawkshill looks and feels more mature than its tender years, mainly due to the stately pine and birch trees, which flank the fairways. For us, it's these wooded holes that provide the most enjoyment and it's here on these fairways that it's easy to draw a parallel with the Rosemount or Lansdowne courses at Blairgowrie.
Newmachar is an excellent golf club with a tremendous clubhouse and two contrasting but complementary courses. A day's golf here will not only be memorable, but will represent fantastic value for money. Save your best golf for the Hawkshill course, though. You'll need it.
Almost eight years after I last played here, I returned to where I remember having been spat up and chewed out by the course during one of my first Gents Opens. Am I glad I made the return trip? You better believe it as I became reacquainted with one of the best modern inland tracks in the country (even though I couldn’t see this first time around).
Don’t allow the swanky styling of the holes around the clubhouse put you off the Hawkshill. The manicured landscaping with rock garden and ponds might upset your golfing sensibilities a tad, allowing you to imagine that you’ve somehow just stepped onto a South Carolina resort (assuming the sun is shining overhead) but dispel all such thoughts as the rest of the course serves up Scottish inland golf at its very best - I’m not knocking holes 1, 9, 10 and 17 actually, as they fit in beautifully with the other 14 on the card, offering a little aquatic variation to a very good layout.
Let me say at the outset that there’s absolutely no way the Hawkshill should be languishing around the lower reaches of the Scottish Top 100 listings; certainly not when it drew comparison from my playing partner and I with the likes of Blairgowrie (Rosemount), Letham Grange (Old) and Dalmahoy (East). Yes, the Hawkshill IS that good – big, bold, and beautifully presented with many of the fairways laid out on lovely, springy heathland turf.
Not everybody likes Dave Thomas bunkering but the sand traps here are the features that provide the aforementioned big and bold design elements to the layout and they are, in general, simply stunning. Just don’t expect to play too many bump and run shots as many of the greens are protected by enormous sand pits.
The short par four 3rd is a case in point with a massive frontal sand hazard and I think it’s one of the best looking holes that I’ve played in a long time. The 170-yard 6th is another great hole on the front nine. With maturity, this hole could easily, in time, be mistaken for any of the great par threes to be found on the heathland courses of Berkshire. I’m not a big fan of the ultra narrow 8th hole but overall, it’s a very strong outward half to the round.
Holes 11 to 14 are four fine par fours with the 399-yard 13th a real killer due to an expanse of water that runs along the right side of a very narrow fairway. There are no weak holes on the inward half though I was maybe a wee bit disappointed by the excessive mounding around the 18th, as if excess fill from the nearby ponds had been spread around here. That gripe aside, the Hawkshill is a very fine course that will surely rise through the rankings once it becomes better known to a wider audience of golfers who appreciate good golfing venues. Jim McCann
I entered the Newmachar Open and played the Hawkshill course in September 2002. There are good practice facilities adjacent to the clubhouse with a driving range available for warming up. It is obvious from the hole contouring around the opening holes that both courses here are very new and very modern in design with water brought heavily into play.
The Hawkshill course is a tough track, with trees, sand and water hazards in play at many of the holes. There are not too many places where you can ease up - this place will keep you on your toes throughout. The clubhouse is on two levels with locker room below and big lounge and function room upstairs. Don't come here looking for a walk in the park as the Hawkshill is not set up for golfers out for a leisurely stroll!