Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie) - North East Scotland - Scotland

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club,
Balgownie Links,
Bridge of Don,
Aberdeen,
AB23 8AT,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1224 702571

  • Golf Club Website

  • 3 miles 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. The 43rd Walker Cup Match was then held here in 2011, with Great Britain & Ireland defeating the United States 14-12. In 2014, Royal Aberdeen hosted the Scottish Open for the first time, which Justin Rose won by two shots from Swede Kristoffer Broberg. The 123rd edition of the Amateur was staged here in 2018, with South African Jovan Rebula overcoming Ireland’s Robin Dawson 3&2 in the final.

David Raby, reckons that one of the best 18 holes in links golf is the front nine at Royal Aberdeen followed by holes 2-10 at Murcar Links Golf Club.

Royal Aberdeen is a traditional golf club, so remember to take your jacket and tie if you want to use the lounge or the dining room. Make sure you don't spend too much time looking for your ball in the rough though—the five-minute rule was made here back in 1783 (now reduced to three minutes).

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Reviews for Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)

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Description: The Balgownie at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club is a traditional out and back links course running along the shore of the North Sea and it has one of the finest first nine holes in golf. Rating: 9 out of 10 Reviews: 71
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Michael Verity

The Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen. Founded in 1780, the 8th oldest Golf Club on the planet. Exacting, demanding out and back traditional links layout exposed to all the elements and especially last Sunday in 55mph wind gusts! Sublime opening nine holes in amongst the big dunes right by the sea before turning for home on a slightly higher plateau further inland that offers great views of the ocean all the way homeward bound. One of the toughest great tracks you might ever encounter, remember back when the Senior Open was here in 2005 and +15 made the 36 hole cut!

Tremendously fun short par 4’s and great par 3’s were the lasting memory. The 8th is a super short hole, 150 yards to a thin, slither of a green protected by ten pot bunkers! The 17th another startling par 3 that plays out to the perfect ocean backdrop and requires an exquisite approach to secure your par with more bunkers and crazy run-offs defending the green!

The club has hosted the Scottish Open recently and also the Walker Cup was played here in 2011 with GB&I the 14-12 victors over an American side featuring Spieth, Cantlay, English & Henley!

RAGC is a Club steeped in tradition and importance within the game, the 5 minute rule for searching for balls was first introduced here in 1783.

The course borders nearby Murcar Links, in fact you could quite easily jump on and play a few holes there when you get to halfway on the Balgownie. Rumour has it, some Japanese tourists, losing their bearings as they reached the turn, did just that and on reaching the Murcar clubhouse phoned the police to report that their car had been stolen!

@MichaelVerity

@essemvee

January 04, 2022
8 / 10
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Stuart H

A must play for any UK based golfer and following just one round here a top 5 that I've ever played - including the back nine.

Arriving at Royal Aberdeen i'd read the reviews, watched the videos and was excited to play the best front nine in golf - despite a 30mph wind making it a tough day on the links I was not disappointed.

There is enough comment on the front nine elsewhere, it really is excellent. The vistas from the tees on the dunes and strategic bunkering were a joy to behold.

The lesser recognised back nine is a fine challenge of golf with blind tee shots, tricky greens and bunkering that reminded me of Muirfield. The 17th hole is one the best i played in 2021.

Walking in to the pro shop after shaking hands on 18 my first question was about country membership - a delight!

December 03, 2021
8 / 10
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Phil Ree

Royal Aberdeen’s front nine is set on some of the best links-land in the world. I can see why Donald Trump insisted on building his course nearby. Unfortunately the Balgownie is a victim of erosion, so there may have to be some shuffling of the layout. Where groynes were inserted to protect the town from erosion, it’s pushed the problem north to the golf course.

So somewhat like Montrose, go enjoy this layout whilst you can. I wouldn’t say it’s the best nine holes in British golf but it’s not far behind. The back nine is also of very high quality, perhaps not as links-y but just as true a championship test.

Most of the highlights are indeed on the front, the 1st is as picturesque an opening hole as you’ll find, the 8th is a short par 3 with ten bunkers, then on the 9th it’s worth walking to the back tee on the highest dune to enjoy the view and maybe drop a ball.

The back nine is shorter but usually goes back into the wind. The par 3 17th with the sea behind, and tough 18th provide an ideal ending. It’s a quality club and clubhouse too, so an excellent experience as well as course.

September 30, 2021
8 / 10
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Paul Crane

As I was driving into Royal Aberdeen my Sat Nav said "take a left and you have arrived at your destination". I thought that can't be right as it was just off the high street but lo and behold there it was.

Having arrived at the course, I went into the pro-shop and was greeted warmly and provided with a short tour of the facilities and recommended to get a drink in the bar. A good start. Heading to the practice facilities, it was slightly disappointing not to have a range, however the net would suffice, especially considering the chipping area was so good.

Out onto the course and what a stunning, stunning course. The views over the beach were phenomenal and the holes caused a challenge on every shot - get that course-guide out! As an out and back course, the wind will dictate the playability of the course - I went out in 13points and back in 22!

I thoroughly enjoyed playing at Royal Aberdeen, the course was fantastic and second only to the views on the front nine in particular.

September 06, 2021
9 / 10
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Gus GURNEY

A true example of a real quality Golf Course. The view from the first tee is good but it doesn't reveal the true extent of what is to come. From the 2nd Tee and on to the 9th the course meanders it's way through some truly fabulous links terrain. The front 9 is regarded by most as one of the best you will play and this then makes you think that the back 9 will not be as good, They are right - it isn't! but it's still pretty damn good and would be highly praised if it were anywhere else. There are still some good holes with the par 3 17th and the par 4 18th the standout holes on the back 9.

The course itself was in fantastic condition and despite the ongoing dry spell the tees, fairways and greens were all superb (the benefits of an extensive irrigation system being in place).

The old Clubhouse provides the visitor with a pictorial insight into the rich history of the Golf Club and it's well worth finding the time to look through some of these.

July 21, 2021
8 / 10
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Mike Brooks

RA is a classic links course, almost in the 9 out, 9 in style. As others have noted the front 9 is very strong whilst the back 9 is weaker. I particularly liked the par 3 8th with the green surrounded by 10 bunkers.

The back 9 is far less memorable. Indeed I am writing this a month after playing the course and I struggle to remember most of the back 9. This was despite having arguably my best round of the year (76 off a handicap of 8 in windy conditions) which usually commits a round to the memory banks!

Overall I enjoyed the course and it is definitely in my GB&I top 100, albeit likely in the lower half of this list. It surprised me (and my playing partners) that it is ranked in the top 20 on this site as there are quite a number of lower-ranked courses that I personally would favour. Well worth playing to make your own mind up if you get the chance.

June 19, 2021
7 / 10
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Greg Watson

Traditional course and club did not disappoint, great layout and although the greens were not as true and fast as anticipated really enjoyable. The holes that run along the sea with huge dunes separating are with doubt for me spectacular and definately can see that some modern links and redesigns are certainly based on the course here. Excellent catering in the clubhouse too which made for an exceptional day

June 13, 2021
9 / 10
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BB
June 14, 2021

A 4 ball rating for Royal Aberdeen - does the scale still go up to 6? You have high standards Greg (especially considering the James Braid connection)!

Warren
June 15, 2021

Greg, I noticed you gave Luffness New 5 1/2 and Kilspindie 5 balls. I'm assuming 4 balls is a typo for Royal Aberdeeen?

Greg Watson
June 16, 2021

In response to the review comments can I please point out that the 4 ball rating is a typo and I can't correct it, I scored it 5.5

Hope this helps

Top 100 Admin
June 16, 2021

Rating typo now corrected.

Doug Roberts

I have had the pleasure of playing 9 of the top 10 in Scotland, and plans are in place to play the missing links. Royal Aberdeen is a wonderful course and a joy to play. Conditions are stellar. I'm proud to say in my 2 times around I haven't found a gorse bush. They seem to be so prevalent. I have a return scheduled this summer and I try to abide by the If in the area, Ya gotta play here. It's a special place.

January 22, 2021
9 / 10
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Phil Reid

Absolutely fantastic course enjoyed following a welcome to match. Everyone incredibly helpful and welcoming. I was fortunate with the weather I got in late November, but I’ll definitely return in the summertime.

December 06, 2020
8 / 10
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James Reader

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.

August 24, 2020
9 / 10
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