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.
Having spent the autumn visiting some of Central Scotland's delightful nine-hole courses I decided to take on a couple of the 'big beasts' and so, after the Jubilee I headed north to Royal Aberdeen. The weather gods were on my side and as I stood on the first tee just outside the venerable clubhouse I drank in what might be the finest opening view in golf on a glorious early spring morning. There is really little I can add to all the previous reviews : this is a magnificent links with the front nine a succession of wonderful (and extremely difficult) holes. Apart from the blind drive at the 10th and a couple of less memorable holes on the higher ground (these reminded me a bit of Brora) this is pure golfing heaven. Special mention must go the the 14th with the dyke protecting the green (shades of North Berwick) along with the lovely par 3 17th and the brute of a closing hole. Add to that the sensational front nine (and the blue sky) and Royal Aberdeen meets all the criteria for the top ranking.
Played for a second time in September 2016, the course was in great condition and more than a test with a light breeze. Certainly found plotting the way down holes difficult, but that is links golf.
For me at £165 per round overpriced and a poor refund policy as one person out of 18 could not make it, no refund unlike Murcar and Trump.
Final moan I play 70% of my golf in shorts, which means that you don't need waterproof bottoms, Royal Aberdeen don't allow them because they cannot decide on their sock policy, give them a clue allow socks and most golfers will try and look as good as they can on the course therefore no need for a policy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The first hole heads straight towards the North Sea. The fairway is reasonably wide but shot making becomes a little more daunting when you see the huge expanses of forest-like gorse, especially on the right hand side, and thick rough all the way down the left side.
The 3rd is a wonderful par three of 248 yards from the back tees but as it is usually played into the wind and there is no fairway whatsoever, this can be quite a demanding tee shot. The 8th is only 147 yards in length but requires a perfectly executed iron as there are ten bunkers surrounding the green.
Be careful at the 9th because you could easily find yourself crossing over onto the neighbouring course, Murcar. The 12th and 14th are reminiscent of courses like North Berwick (West). The 12th green is guarded by a ridge which runs at 45 degrees and the green is perched on a plateau. The 14th has a burn at around 240 yards and then an earth wall angled across the approach to the green.
The 18th can be a difficult finish at 440 yards uphill and with a green protected by five bunkers. To have any chance on being on for two it is essential that you hit a good drive that avoids the three fairway bunkers. Anywhere right will be in the long grass or gorse.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course that he played and featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.