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: 72
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Fergal O'Leary
The most underrated golf course in the United Kingdom. Globally known for the strongest front nine holes, and holds its own against almost anywhere. Royal Abderdeen (Balgownie) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerThe front nine typically plays down-wind with the prevailing breeze. With the tight small landing areas, playing down-wind certainly doesn’t always prove to be an advantage, especially when you want the ball to slam on the breaks. As you play away from the clubhouse to the melody of helicopters carrying Oil Tanker crew, you can’t find fault with the way each hole is crafted in such a natural setting. There isn’t room for error off the tee at Royal Aberdeen and the pot-bunkers can ruin a scorecard in a hurry. I can’t wait to see how the European Tour players play the course ahead of the Open Championship. I couldn’t think of a better and tougher layout to prepare the best players in the world for a Major Championship.
June 18, 2014
8 / 10
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Philip Runkel
Played Royal Aberdeen on May 1, 2014.Played on a cool, blustery but sunny day and had a great time! First, the pro shop staff was great and I could have easily spent hours there chatting with them. The clubhouse is beautiful and has plenty of charm from a bygone era and the staff was great. We teed off at 11:30 and they provided a wonderful soup and a variety of sandwiches for after our round, which was most welcome! The course itself is superb! As everyone says, the front 9 is beautiful and a wild, fun ride through the dunes. The first hole is magnificent and it just keeps going. On this day, the winds were not the prevailing ones -- we had the wind in our face on the front and at our backs on the back nine. That probably helped in some respects, as the back seemed longer and very challenging. This is not a complaint, just a statement -- unlike some courses, Royal Dornoch, for example, Royal Aberdeen, in my opinion, can pose more difficulty/unpleasantness for mid to high handicappers who are not very long off the tee, as there are rough/waste areas to clear on several holes. Again, not a complaint but just pointing out a difference. One member of our threesome had trouble with this all day, others did not. As a mid-handicapper, I found this course great fun, very challenging and hugely enjoyable. The greens were in excellent condition and more firm and faster than those that we played in the St. Andrews/Carnoustie area. I highly recommend a stop at Royal Aberdeen, both for the course and the clubhouse/pro shop experience!13 Index
May 09, 2014
10 / 10
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Hendrik Hilgert
Played Royal Aberdeen in Mid May and was absolutely thrilled. I cannot recall a better opening hole than No. 1 in Royal Aberdeen and I can perfectly see why many people say that the first 9 of Royal Aberdeen are second to none: Great holes meandering through the dunes with very undulating and challenging fairways and outstanding green complexes. The rough is penalising but you will be able to find and advance tee shots that did not find the tight fairways. To me also the back 9 are great holes although the scenery is less dramatic given the more inland position. Played Dornoch, Nairn, Castle Stuart, Cruden Bay and Trump as part of the same trip and Royal Aberdeen came second, just a touch behind Dornoch and ahead of the rest. Do not miss a drink and a sandwich in the bar after your round as you will be able to enjoy a phantastic view, overlooking the first hole and the sea behind.
June 08, 2013
10 / 10
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Javier Pintos
I am a guy who leaves the tastiest part of the dish for the last. Well, this happened with my trip to Scotland although I didn't choose it that way, as was invited by Ronnie Macaskill when I was already in Inverness. And yes, I have to say that the fron 9 at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club are the best holes in links course I have played and really wish to play them many more times. That day I played 7am Castle Stuart alone and received the invite just when I finished playing and was about to drive to Royal Dornoch, so I radically changed my plans. I took the 100 miles dirve and arrived to the course around 1pm for an interview with Ronnie and lunch, Royal Aberdeen Golf Course - Photo by reviewershot my first shot at 2pm with at least 40km/h of wind across from left to right in hole number 1, hitting a great driver that ended far away in the right rough. As my friend Iain Marr told me a couple of days before, the first 9 at Aberdeen are ridiculously good and he was right!! Those 9 holes are the finest, toughest and more fair test in golf I have ever played, even over Cypress Point, Pebble, Carnoustie, St Andrews, Ailsa, Valderrama, Winged Foot, National Links of America and Royal Dornoch, they are brutal and at the same time nice, well kept (very tight fairways and real fast true greens) and with a very creative design taking into account the piece of land helps a lot. On those first 9 I hit 4 GIR, 2 of them with the spoon in a par 3 and in a par 4! I have to say par 3 3rd, par 4 4th, and par 4 9th are so difficult that if missing you can post astronomic numbers in the scorecard. Then the back 9 are not as breathtaking as the front 9 but many holes are really nice and the last three combine beauty, design and landscape towards the sea giving your golf round one of the finest finals that you can play. Then a long visit to the Club House where you can find a lot of stuff that remind you of the big history of this Golf CLub: the old days, the first tournaments, the Past Presidents and Captains Boards, the old trophys, a picture of member Richie Ramsay who won the US Amateur and a replica of that Trophy. And also a picture of the final hole during the 2011 Walker Cup won by GB&I: I can't imagine the set up of the course might have been for that event, I would love to see the movie and how they managed to get throught this fantastic golf challenge. My final words are: you cannot feel done as a golfer before playing Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. And you can combine it with Trump International and Cruden Bay which are very close to this one. Click to read my full story: 13 Courses in 13 Days.
July 16, 2012
10 / 10
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Patrick McGarey
I played on a rather cold, windy Spring day in 2012, with intermittent rain. The greens had been sanded rather heavily the day before (?) and therefore did not allow for normal putting conditions. Having said this, the course is certainly a classic, must-play layout, with one strong hole after another. Nice variety and no holes that I recall as being weak. Bunkering is excellent and provides the expected difficult risk-reward decisions on approach shots and off the tee. The course played a bit long due to the weather, and scoring conditions are no doubt somewhat better under dryer and warmer weather conditions. This provides a perfect excuse for a return engagement, as does the excellent hospitality provided by the pro shop and clubhouse! An easy drive on the close outskirts north of Aberdeen.
April 15, 2012
8 / 10
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Chris Jones
We played this course yesterday afternoon, and whilst there were no 'stand out' holes, the layout was solid with no weak holes whatsoever. The initial tough start (inc. 235 yard par 3), rarely gets easier, but it remains completely enjoyable. The greens were phenomenal (obviously due to the Wlaker Cup being played here 2 weeks ago), however the green staff really need a pat on the back. Overall, a great days golf, and the greens are the best i've played on all year.
September 23, 2011
8 / 10
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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 11, 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.