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

  • On A92 N of Aberdeen City Centre

  • Contact in advance – restricted at weekends


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Royal Aberdeen

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.

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.
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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: 9.3 out of 10 Reviews: 56
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Hans E. Johnsen
All the reviews praising this course is true. I have played it ten times and a weekend combining this course and Cruden Bay is marvellous. Royal Aberdeen is on my top 3 list world wide and will stay there !
June 12, 2011
10 / 10
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D Banks
I was playing a few east coast links courses over a 2 week period.Royal Aberdeen is a course in a fantastic setting and is a great test for the inter mediate golfer like myself. Had a great time at Royal Aberdeen and will play the course everytime I visit the area. Stonehaven is a smaller course near here and I thought it was excellent wee course.Montrose was poor and will give this a miss in future. Carnoustie is as usual one of the best. Downfield, not links but still a good course in a fine setting.
February 12, 2011
8 / 10
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Dave
February 14, 2011
Totally agree. I have played this course many times over the past 5 years and it just gets better and better. The summer condition is outstanding and it also offers very good playing conditions in the winter months. They have the Walker Cup this year in September and i am sure it will blow the yanks away with its stunning natural beauty at that time of year. Played last week and they are sanding fairways and approaches already to further improve the playing conditions. Brilliant
dan
March 13, 2011
I may be pedantic here, but I have to wonder what course would get a six balls review ? I can't think of a course that better deserves the Full Monty rating, easily the most exciting front nine I have played.
Martin Jordan
I have been very lucky to have played over 90 (and counting) of the top 100 courses in the Scottish chart and I rate Royal Aberdeen Balgownie in my top 5. I played Balgownie and Carnoustie on the same day so comparisons were inevitable and contrary to chart positions I preferred the former and, if truth be told, by a considerable marRoyal Aberdeen (Balgownie) - Photo by MPPJgin. The front 9 is quite simply, in my opinion the best outward 9 in the land. Tight drives to rambling and rolling fairways, immaculate putting surfaces, and bunkers aplenty with danger never far away, it just takes your breath away. The inward half is beast to the front 9's beauty and into the prevailing wind it is as stern a test of golf as you will ever get. I am not ashamed to say that it left me a broken man with a wedgey thrown in for good measure, almost causing me to weep (well it had been a long day and I am just about to qualify for the pipe and slippers tour so cut me some slack!). Starting with the carry into the wind at the 10th to your last putt on 18 it just doesn’t let up (although I didn’t like the 17th but I am being picky). I always feel that if a course leaves a lasting impression on you even though you have played badly then it must have something about it and believe me Balgownie has something about it and then some! So hats off to Royal Aberdeen, my favourite Scottish course of the year by a country mile (The European at Co Wicklow being my overall favourite) and in my opinion better than half of the top ten in our chart. I must have written over 200 words here (mostly drivel as usual) but I could have easily cut it down to a single word, AWESOME!!!!!! MPPJ
September 21, 2010
10 / 10
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Derek Haswell
Previous reviewers have done a great job of describing the quality and challenge of the Balgownie Links so I would like to focus on one issue - why on earth isn't it on the Open rota? I've never made it across the border yet (not with my clubs, anyway) but I've played Muirfield, Turnberry, Carnoustie and The Old Course and for me the Balgownie course at RAGC is better than all of them. Each of the courses listed are in my top 10 or 12 but having played Balgownie yesterday it immediately joins Royal Dornoch at the very top of my personal hit parade. The reason is simple - quality hole, after quality hole, after quality hole. From the first tee to the final green there is nothing but unremitting quality here, and I don't feel you can say that about those other great courses.The greatest service I can do my fellow contributors is to tell them about RAGC's open competition that I played in yesterday. Applications open on the RAGC website around March and you have to get your application and cheque (£35 yesterday) in quickly - good luck. If that doesn't work you'll have to do it the more expensive way but if links golf is in your blood then you will have to do it! Finally, my opening questioning wasn't rhetorical - can someone please explain why the Open doesn't come to RAGC? Cheers! Derek, Edinburgh, September 2010.
September 20, 2010
10 / 10
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Anthony Daniels
September 21, 2010
Derek, I've not played RAGC, but I'd guess that the main reason why it is not considered for the Open rota is because it's not long enough. Looking at the card of the course I'd say it's probably 300+ yards short of what would be required. I don't whether they have the space to lengthen it if necessary and, if so, would that mean the R&A would consider it? I think a new course being added to the rota would be fantastic though and would really generate a lot of interest in both the Open and the course.
Derek
September 27, 2010
Anthony, thank you for your response. You may well be right with your explanation but for RAGC never to host the Open due to a lack of yardage would be a real shame. They could really pull in the rough and take the driver out of the game -that would add on some notional yards and brass-off the players! It has occurred to me the reason may be more to do with economics than anything else ie the Carnoustie opens are relatively unsuccessful from an attendance point of view. The R and A may fear worse at RAGC.We may never watch the Open there but i hope you get a chance to play RAGC some day.
Anthony Daniels
May 01, 2011
Derek, I am just planning my visit to RAGC now. A bit of a tour of Scotland next May incorporating Turnberry (already booked), Carnoustie (already booked) and two or three others incorporating RAGC along the way. Looking forward to it already.
steve guzik
Most people will already know that Royal Aberdeen is a must play, - but incase you dont, read on.

For lovers of links golf there can be few greater courses. I rate is as the best course in Scotland (or Britain for that matter) not to have held an Open championship (it has of course staged the Senior Open championship). I believe it pips Royal Dornoch to this title. The course starts with an intimidating but visually epic tee shot. It is a great hole hitting from just infront of the clubhouse windows, downhill and out towards the sea. The shot into the green requires a club extra to avoid the deep valley in front of the green. This green is as close as you get to the sea and you really feel the presence of it as you attempt to putt on this wonderfully contoured green. Then starts what is commonly regarded as the best front 9 in links golf. You go out through the dunes from eleveted tees through narrow fairways and wonderful green complexes. I use the word complexes because each green is a piece of art in itself, wonderfully contoured and very fast and true running. The ability to hit to the 'right part of the green' is definitely a requirement here or 3 putts will be the result.

When the front 9 climaxes with holes 8 & 9 you very well might think you are in golfing heaven. The 8th is a fantastic par 3 with severe bunkering making it the hardest (although by some way the shortest) par 3 on the course. The 9th may very well be the best hole on the course - a long sweeping par 4, uphill and the neaer to the hole green you aim from the tee, the further your carry has to be to get to the fairway. Unfortunately the 10th is the only bad hole on the course, although it does become a good hole once the ugly blind tee shot is out of the way. Then commences a back 9 which is diffferent in feel to the front 9 but containing no less quality. Brutally long and with relentlessly difficult greens, it eases up a bit for 15 and 16 before the great finishing holes.

The 17th par 3 back towards the sea is a longer version of the signature 8th and then the last is a 450yard monster of a par 4 which you can see all in front of you and is a deservingly quality hole to finish the round. In conclusion, a real tough test of golf through length, superb bankering and green complexes the likes of which the pro's have to deal with on tour. The condition is always excellent first class and if you are like me in that you appreciate traditional links more then the recently created ones of Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart (which are excellent courses in their own way), then you may agree that Royal Aberdeen is only bettered by Carnoustie, and even that is a VERY close call.
September 20, 2010
10 / 10
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Marty Brown
Wonderful classic links. Played it on a beautiful links kind of day, sunshine and a gentle breeze. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience from the warm welcome in the pro shop to the jovial steward later in the day. You must respect these old traditional clubs and their old style values such as jacket t& tie in certain parts of the clubhouse; I do and always look forward to visiting next time. The course itself is one of the best. For Tom Watson to speak so well of the place is testimony to that. Great first hole, but nearly all of the holes are. Front 9 gets great reviews, it is one of the best and possibly up their with Royal County Down, all be it does not quite have the back drop of the Mountains like RCD. While Scotland is blessed with top courses and destinations I would take a closer look at Aberdeen. Play Royal Aberdeen along with Murcar & Cruden Bay, in my opinion and having ticked off many of the high-ranking courses as good as 3 courses you get so close together.
September 02, 2010
10 / 10
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dittohr
We were playing this week at Royal Aberdeen and we found the course in really exceptional good condition. Narrow fairways, fast greens, very good design. Very nice views from the first tee. It´s a real links experience!! Royal Aberdeen should be in the Top 5 of UK.
August 26, 2010
10 / 10
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Jim McCann
American author James Finegan describes the outward half of the Royal Aberdeen course thus: “We play this front nine at Balgownie in seclusion. We also play it in awe and something close to rapture. Every hole is an unalloyed delight.”

Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie) - Photo by Jim McCannI don’t use the quote out of laziness on my part to come up with something original - I just cannot find a better way to describe the feeling when playing the opening nine holes that run along the shoreline; complete and utter golfing nirvana. Such is the strength and quality of holes here, I thought the par four 7th was the only hole to give any degree of respite - a very brief breather - until the tee box of the par five 12th was reached. It was just unrelenting; magnificent links golf, with hardly time to pause for breath after putting out before tackling the next hole. I reached the turn with my playing partner in two hours and it felt like we’d been playing 30 minutes max.

The only down side to playing between the dunes ridges on the way out is that the inward half, by comparison, can never live up to what has gone before as the fairways occupy less aesthetically pleasing higher ground on the way back to the clubhouse. Don’t for a minute think that the back nine is in any way prosaic however, far from it. The 10th is as tough as old boots; played into the prevailing wind with an uphill blind drive - OOB on the right - and approach to a green perched above a wee burn that runs through a gully in front of the putting surface. Stroke index 8 on the scorecard gives an indication of the test still to come (“what, there’s three more difficult holes yet to play?”) so you better have made your score on the way out as pars and birdies will be few and far between from the 10th onwards. Forced carries intimidate the tee shot at many of the holes here, as do the fearsome looking fairway and greenside bunkers, enforcing my firmly held belief that most of the top courses can subtly psyche out anyone who is not up for a tough mental four hour test when they stand on the 1st tee.

Aberdeen has gorse, rough and severe sand traps aplenty so for all its beauty on the front nine, it can be a beast on the back nine so be prepared for what lies in store! In the clubhouse, the walls on the way to the gents locker room are well worth examining to see the James Braid original hand written drawings of recommended changes to the course in the 1920’s. And one of the two members who played behind us popped into the visitors changing room when our round was over to ask how our game had gone so no signs of an uncaring membership towards us - and the dozen or so American visitors in the bar seemed more than pleased with the hospitality rendered on their day out too. Not many courses in the UK or Ireland (around a dozen) have staged the prestigious Walker Cup since it began back in 1922. Aberdeen will join that exclusive roster in 2011 and if you check out the identity of the other courses it will share that honour with, you will see why it deserves to be comfortably ranked within the top 25 courses of GB & I. Jim McCann
June 17, 2010
10 / 10
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colin hancock
Wonderful course. Played a couple of rounds in wind and increasingly- heavy rain, but even without these I reckon it's one of the toughest links around. The first is relatively straightforward, but the lovely second reminds you that accuracy is everything, its slim fairway snaking through the dunes: a few feet off and you're lucky if you find your ball. Quite a lot of the front 9 makes the same demands...really excellent holes. Although turning into the wind toughens up the back nine, there are one or two more generous fairways: that said you'd need a couple of very good hits to reach the 18th green with much more than a gentle breeze against. And as for the greens, just outstanding...can't remember any better. Very friendly pro and bar staff...altogether great way to spend a day. Not cheap, mind, so perhaps worth including next-door (and very good) Murcar on any tour.
October 15, 2009
10 / 10
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Mike
January 02, 2010
Agree with all previous comments about this course. This place is awesome from the traditional clubhouse to the very friendly staff in the clubhouse and pro shop. Once you get onto the golf course you cant help but be impressed. The course is in magnificant condition from 1st tee to 18th green. I played it in late October 09 on a sunny calm day. The links terrain is something else and offers a different challenge on every hole. The condition of the course was amazing for this time of year and the greens were as good as anything i played on all summer. I have played a lot of links courses this year including some of the open venues and this stands beside all of them. The Walker Cup in 2011 will be the icing on the cake for this superb golf course.
David Davis
Played this amazing course two days ago in a nice wind. From the warm greeting right down to the gorgeous clubhouse everything about this experience is superb with one minor exception which I'll mention at the end. The course was in the best shape of all the courses we played with the greens being simply superb. On a windy day like we had, probably 2-3 club wind there is one daunting tee shot after another from the backs on the front 9. Bring lots of balls because if you get out position on this course punishment is severe. This might give an idea as to it's difficulty in the wind, during their 4 round club stroke play championships this year the winner a + 4 handicap ended 3 over par, the closest runner up was 37 shots behind and half of the field was scratch or better with the worst handicap being a 2 (that's an average score of 81 per round). My advice, bring your A game, order a senior caddy and go out expecting to appreciate what an amazing course and tough challenge it is. - Last tip: Avoid the hamburger (which they claim is great) at all costs - taste like Haggis...one of the most frightening experiences of my life. So bring a pack lunch or play it safe and have fish and chips.
September 18, 2009
10 / 10
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John
September 23, 2009
I must apologise for what you actually received was not a Steak Burger as advertised but indeed was one of the Spicy Beef Mince Burgers that The Clubhouse Manager had made for himself that night. I could not understand where the said burger went and this now answers the question. I am sorry that you did not like my creation but taste my Bellhaven as it is the best around! Will stick to making the Thai Curry next time.John