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.
A wonderful opening hole plays away towards the North Sea from the elevated clubhouse before the course sweeps northwards and weaves its way out through a narrow pass in the dunes. The perfect links turf and superb putting surfaces cannot be faulted and with a little wiggle around the 8th (a par 3 with a heavily bunkered long narrow green - not dissimilar to the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon) and 9th, the course then turns to return along a plateau heading back south towards home. A few blind shots, some truly superb par-3s and plenty of holes where strategy is more important than brute strength or length, this course is absolutely world-class.
You surely would never tire of playing at Balgownie and I write this despite being absolutely soaked to the skin in a torrential downpour around the turn. This course deserves every accolade it has received and more and is better than plenty of the Open Championship rota courses I have been lucky enough to have played. But don't take my word for it... go there... play it... enjoy it. It is worth it!
Played in September 2002 at their Open. I parred the first and never came close to another for the rest of the round. The wind was in your face for the front nine and scoring was very difficult -- this is a course for big boys, believe me!
Tee shots with 150 yards of carry to fairways that you cannot see -- it can be intimidating, at the very least, though I prefer to call it character building!
Don't get me wrong, the front nine holes are tough, but I didn't come expecting a stroll in the dunes and neither should you when the wind is up.
What surprised me about the back nine was the redevelopment work being done to extend holes, provide new greens and generally upgrade the course -- no resting on laurels here.
The gorse is severe and penal. You really must stay on the fairway and if you do you will love this stern test of golf.
The clubhouse was not as crusty as expected. It oozes character and tradition and is wonderful to sample.
And if you like this course, check out the much underrated Murcar that lies immediately to the north. It's a great track that suffers because it is in the shadow of the Balgownie.
Classic, ancient, historic, natural - a complete joy to play this old beauty. To have three excellent courses: Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Murcar so close together is sheer bliss. I loved pretty much everything about the Balgownie and my only criticism is that the holes from the turn, which play on a plateau, don't have the same undulating ground movement as the outward nine and the closing trio of holes.