Bridge of Don,
- +44 (0) 1224 702571
On A92 N of Aberdeen City Centre
Contact in advance – restricted at weekends
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club was originally known as the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, founded in 1780, this is the eighth oldest golf club in the world. The members originally played over a public strip of common land between the Don and the Dee. In 1815 the society changed its name to the Aberdeen Golf Club. The common land was becoming over-crowded, so in 1886 they decided to move to their present home, the Balgownie links, north of the river Don, which opened for play in 1888. Royal title was finally applied in 1903, despite the fact that Prince Leopold granted patronage more than 30 years earlier.
A trio of Simpsons had a hand in fashioning this course, brothers Robert and Archie and then the flamboyant Tom Simpson. J. H. Taylor, James Braid and most recently Donald Steel also made revisions.
Royal Aberdeen is a traditional out and back links running along the shore of the North Sea and is regarded by many as having the finest first nine holes in golf. The first tee is under the clubhouse window and the fairway heads straight for the sea. The next eight holes run parallel to the shore, weaving their way through towering sand dunes. You then turn back, heading for the clubhouse. The back nine holes play on higher ground and provide stunning North Sea views.
While the front nine holes are undoubtedly tough, the back nine holes are probably harder. They are more exposed to the elements, and consequently, bear the full brunt of the wind. The par threes here at the Balgownie are also first class as is the finishing hole, a brutal par four, in excess of 400 yards. A good tee shot will finish in a hollow in the fairway, leaving a long second shot across a swale to an elevated green perched in front of the clubhouse.
The 2005 Senior British Open was held at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Tom Watson beat Ireland's Des Smyth in a sudden-death play-off to claim the title. In 2014, Royal Aberdeen hosted the Scottish Open for the first time, which Justin Rose won by two shots from Swede Kristoffer Broberg. This was the Englishman’s first professional victory in Scotland.
I was expecting a lot from Balgownie - a course that I’ve been wanting to play for a very long time - and it didn’t disappoint. The renowned front nine is one great hole after another, with a fantastic first taking you down towards the sea and several fairways winding their way through towering dunes. While less spectacular, the back nine is also full of great holes and is just as challenging.
I’m aware I’m in the minority here, but for me Balgownie is every bit as good as Kingsbarns and the Ailsa at Turnberry (to name two higher-rated Scottish links), and probably a stronger test of golf than both.
The front 9 here is as good as it gets. I absolutely love 8&9. For me 8 is just the perfect par 3. It’s a great length where you think you have a good chance of making a birdie, but one slack shot can see you rack up a 5 or 6 quite easily. 9 is the dog leg right back up the hill. Just a brilliant hole.
The back 9 is a bit repetitive and samey in places but the front 9 here makes the visit worthwhile
Wonderful golf course and terrific traditional feel to the place. As others note, a wonderful front 9 of golf and spectacular views on the back. Plays hard when the weather is kicking up so I wouldn't suggest bringing an 18+ handicapper out there unless its a perfect day. Those who are more schooled in routing and golf course design have noted in their reviews that some tweaks could make the course better. I'm sure that is true but its still an excellent course and place to play. Nobody I have ever encountered has described the course as simply 'good'.
Just like its neighbour Murcar, Royal Aberdeen is made up of 2 very different nines. The front nine is the star and what I will focus mostly on.
On the first hole you tee off so close to the clubhouse that you might hit it on your practice swing. It's a brilliant par 4 going straight towards the North Sea, to a lovely elevated green.
The second is one of the best par 5s in golf, running parallel to the sea, below a huge sand dune. It is followed by a long downhill par 3, similar to the 4th at Royal County Down.
4 and 5 are two solid par 4s, but 6 is a personal favourite. A short par 5 to a bathtub style fairway, from where you hit a semi-blind approach to a small, punchbowl green. 7 is another good par 4, whilst 8 is wonderful short par 3, measuring less than 140 yards. The green is very long, but very narrow, and if you miss it, you'll end up in a deep bunker and do well to make 4. 9 and 10 are also very strong par 4s.
From 11 to 16 the course is good, but not as good as the front nine. A few of the par 4s are similar, and it sits on less interesting land. 17 and 18 however are great holes, the former being a par 3 surrounded by bunkers heading straight towards the ocean, and 18 being a strong par 4 to finish.
Once you've played, make sure you leave enough time to relax in the clubhouse, soak the history in, and enjoy some of their legendary shortbreads.
The Balgownie links contains some wonderful golfing terrain in large dunes right on the North Sea. It is widely accepted that the front nine is world class, but that the back nine suffers by comparison, and I agree.
The round commences with the first hole heading directly to the sea. It's a nice hole, but things go up a notch on the 2nd tee. Holes 2-9 each play north parallel to the sea and each hole is surrounded by the impressive dunes.
There is nice variety in the holes, with the constants being long rough, rumpled fairways and greens amply defended by deep revetted bunkers. It is wild links golf not unlike Cruden Bay in parts, and it is exciting!
The back nine turns back south for the road home, and heads inland away from the dunes. The terrain is less inspiring but is higher and has sea views and is exposed more to the weather The golf is decent without the immediate appeal of the front nine Having said that I liked the par 3's at eleven and seventeen
Notable holes include:
- hole 2, a lovely par 5, and a wonderful introduction to the dunes
- hole 3, a long long testing par 3 in a gorgeous setting
- hole 5, a short tricky par 4 where the areas of play seem almost overwhelmed at times by the rough and bunkering
- hole 8, a magnificent par 3 with ten bunkers protecting the green
- hole 14, a strong par 4 with burn potentially in play off the tee
- hole 17, a strong par 3 heading back toward the sea
Royal Aberdeen is an exhilirating links experience in a natural wild dunes environment not unlike Machrihanish or Cruden Bay This is my type of course Recommended!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Often quoted as one of the best front 9s in golf, something that definitely doesn’t let down. From the memorable first tee shot right next to the clubhouse played towards the North Sea packed with oil tankers, followed by the rest of the opening holes played through dunes right next to the beach, it offers plenty of great golf. The postage stamp style 8th is another hole that comes to mind. I also feel the back 9 is underrated, despite not being on as great golfing land as the front. Some strong short 4s with great greens are of interest. There’s also no doubting it is a stern test of golf, having previously held the Scottish Open & Walker Cup. A traditional and prestigious club, but also extremely welcoming, makes for a great day.
There are a handful of golf courses where I wonder whether the original architect got the routing correct and whether the golf course, as great at it is, would have been even better if it had been laid out in reverse. Pebble Beach also comes to mind. As far as I know, only Eugene CC in Oregon had the courage to do so and the result made a good golf course even better.
It is often said that Royal Aberdeen has the finest front nine in links golf, or certainly holes 2-9 as you first have to arrive at the dunes from the clubhouse. But I wonder if the course would have been even more tremendous had the 18th green become the first tee, with the 18th tee becoming the first green, and so on. The result would have been a golf course that would have built in anticipation as you approach those holes in the dunes, rather than a golf course that takes you there so quickly, but then stops at the 8th as the 10th brings one completely out of the dunes.
Sure, this routing would have left you finishing right in front of the clubhouse but so does Royal Troon and Royal Lytham & St Annes.
One would play on the higher ground all the while thinking about those holes in the dunes that awaited you as opposed to playing them early and finishing higher up.
Yes, the views are outstanding from the back nine, and you get a great look at the water on the 17th hole. But I will always wonder why it was built this way - was it the prevailing wind? Did the architect intend to beat you up, and then make it easier on you as you come in.
I do note that the final nine plays about the same in terms of difficulty on a relatively windless day, but I found it to play much easier on days of high wind.
Okay, that being said, the golf course is to be judged as it is and it is still spectacular. I liked everything about this golf course from the starting hole on. Yes, I felt a little let down coming out of those amazing dunes with the many elevated tees. The holes from 2-9 are really terrific, particularly the world renowned 8th hole, although I actually preferred 17 more in terms of the par 3's.
It is hard to say which is the best hole from 2-9 as they are all good. To signal out one hole would be unfair to the others. On the back nine 13 and 14 are also very strong, well designed golf holes offering much in the way of strategy and challenge.
The humps and bumps and relative rolling of the golf course is exceptional. You often don't quite know where one's shot into the fairway will finally come to a rest.
The green complexes are well designed with falloffs and bunkers perfectly placed. Not all of the bunkers are similar in difficulty so that is often a blessing if you have a day where you are repeatedly finding them.
Obviously with a few new courses, Royal Aberdeen has slipped a bit from being one of the top six golf courses in Scotland, but it remains a top ten golf course in my opinion. Whatever handicap one establishes as a member at Royal Aberdeen, it would travel elsewhere. If one is a member here or has the chance to play it often, you would improve your golf game due to the requirements put on your tee shot and short game.
It is a very good golf course, even if I will always wonder about that routing.
Balgownie is sublime.
The front nine stands side by side with...hmm....the front nine at Portstewart and probably the back nine in Tralee and all of Portmarnock Old....as some of the finest stretch of links roller coaster fun to be had (or at the very least experienced by me).
They say that the back nine is somewhat a let down by comparison, it is indeed different, however, no less demanding as it is played into the prevailing Southerly wind. Surely, they are two different nines, however the somewhat flatter topographical nature of the closing half in no way deters from the thrill or enjoyment.
Special mention must go out to Cameron Black my caddie for the day and his able deputy Sarah (who assisted my sancho panzo (AT) for the day. Their quick thinking enabled us to leapfrog another group of visitors to find the course completely empty in front of us.......
We all know that often childlike freedom that emanates from occasions where you are alone on the links where a delightful rhythm .......of shot to shot....assessment and reaction takes place. The only complaint is that the experience was over too soon :)
Royal Aberdeen is a phenomenal golf course where David the pro was the consumate host and tour guide. You must visit the jewel that is the Balgownie.
Amazing view from the clubhouse and if you haven't brought your game with you it is best you stay there looking at it.
The second fairway must be handcut as it isn't by wide enough to get a ride on down it !
Superb test of golf ..... too tough for me on the day in a stiff breeze.
GREAT old course and Club to visit ...highly recommended
Just go play it!!