Portlethen is a relative newcomer on the Scottish golfing scene, with the club’s course only opening for play in the early 1980s, a decade before the 1990s golf boom. It’s a very modern parkland design, with fairways routed in two returning nines, and it makes good use of the natural landscape, bringing the Findon Burn into play on several of the holes.
Additional features have been incorporated over time, including the planting of more than twenty thousand trees, the restoration of drystone dyke walls and the construction of a pond at “Cockburn’s Creek,” the 146-yard 5th hole, where the tee shot now has to carry this water hazard. This is the shortest, and best, of the four par threes on the card.
“The Doctor” is another notable hole on the front nine, with this attractive 460-yard par five at the 4th played from an elevated tee position. The aforementioned burn cuts across the fairway in front of the green so extra care needs to be taken to avoid this water hazard with the approach shot.On the back nine, “The Isle” is another formidable hole, a left doglegged par four at the 15th, measuring 402 yards, where the second shot to the green is invariably played from a downhill lie. The burn again protects the putting surface in a moat-like manner, running right across the front of the green.
Laid out as two returning nines, Portlethen’s a modern track that ticks the boxes for many golfers in terms of appeal and challenge, epitomized by the water hazards that have to be carried on the approach shot to the 4th and 5th holes – though personally I’d remove some of the trees that narrow the entrance to both greens considerably.
I liked the par four 7th with its back-to-front sloping green but thought the stroke index 1 hole at the 9th (“Findon Burn”) was by far the best on the front nine, playing uphill through a narrow gap in a line of trees that cross the fairway as it heads towards the green in front of the clubhouse.
You then cross a road to play an inward half that appears somewhat disengaged from the clubhouse and the opening nine holes. Laid out on similar rolling terrain, with the burn (from holes 4, 5 and 9) cutting across at the 15th and 18th, the back nine holes are set out in a general southwest-northeast orientation.
The 415-yard penultimate hole is a peculiar beast, with a long 250-yard walk downhill (alongside the fairway) from the 16th green to the 17th medal tee, where you then drive uphill before virtually retracing your steps to play your next shot from where you were standing minutes before!
Alternatively, this hole can be played sensibly as a 157-yard par three from the yellow tees located close to the 16th green – all rather bizarre, I’m afraid! Perhaps if the nines were reversed, I’d have forgotten all about this hole as I finished. With the current configuration, it’s all I could think about as I crossed the road back to the clubhouse...