Occupying a three-mile stretch of North Sea coastline between Murcar Links and Cruden Bay, Trump International Golf Links is the latest American-inspired, high profile course to open in Scotland since the start of the new millennium.
Like Renaissance Club, Castle Stuart and Machrihanish Dunes, ownership of the course lies on the US side of the Atlantic and its proprietor took seven long years to get golfers onto the first tee as he had to overcome a series of objections that were made to siting the fairways within a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
But overcome the protestations of the environmentalists and landowners is exactly what he did and one of the wisest moves that Trump made early on was to promote respected architect Martin Hawtree from “links consultant” to lead designer because his vast experience – particularly in working on Open courses for the R&A – would prove invaluable when it came to routing holes around the dramatic dunes on the Menie Estate.
Apart from the 229-yard par three 13th, all holes are laid out in a north-south direction close to the shoreline and some have criticised this orientation as being somewhat uninspired. However, if the most exciting topography is to be found between the dune systems that run naturally along the coast then why would anyone dream of routing the fairways any other way?
As you might expect at any Trump golf facility, everything here is top spec for a links: bent and fescue grass greens (that are sensibly contoured), fully revetted bunkers (of which there are eighteen on the 18th), at least five tee boxes on every hole (holes 3 and 4 have seven), and an astonishing ten acres of grass pathways to convey golfers from one green to the next tee position – all that and not a cart path in sight.During the official opening ceremony of the course on 10th July 2012 (click here for details), PGA and European Tour officials spoke of Trump International Golf Links as a venue worthy of major professional golf competitions in the future. It will be interesting to see what comes its way in the years ahead.
Trump International Golf Links is the most difficult course to appraise I’ve ever played. The location, condition and facilities are absolutely perfect - you know this is a quality facility the moment you drive on to the property and the anticipation starts to build.
The course routing, hole design and green complexes, would place TIGL easily in the 5.5 - 6.0 ball category but, and it’s a pretty big but, the very best courses have a playability that appeals to all standards of golfer. Let me clarify. The dunes that create the aesthetics of a great links course are there in abundance at TIGL but they’re not in play; they simply frame the holes. The excessive planting of non-indigenous dune grasses has created an environment where any ball that doesn’t land on the relatively tight fairways is instantly lost. I always thought the dunes on links golf courses are supposed to be a hazard not a penalty? The result is a visually stunning but ultimately terrifying experience for all but the very best players. Throw in the ubiquitous 20-30 mph winds and finding your target becomes a lottery at times.
Royal Aberdeen is only 5 miles down the coast and it exemplifies every other major links course I’ve played around the British Isles - the dune complex’s have a rough that gives the average golfer not only a good chance of finding errant shots but also getting back into play and continuing the hole. Ultimately this game is designed to be fun, is it not?
I don’t even want to moan too much about the lengthy treks from green to tee - this is a modern course after all and the designer has no choice but to accommodate the prodigious distances the pro’s hit the ball but it’s almost a mile difference from the back tees to the whites we played, and you have to trudge every yard of it.
In conclusion, this is a course you must play if, like me, you want to test yourself on the very best layouts this game can offer, and you certainly won’t be disappointed by the views this beautiful course offers. Unfortunately it’s 1 venue you probably won’t be rushing back to.
Plenty of people do want to rush back. Fairways are more generous than they initially look.
Trump Aberdeen Occupying a 3 mile stretch of coastline to the North of Aberdeen. We were fortunate in that there was only a 15mph wind complementing the glorious sunshine. Tee after tee provides unbelievable panoramic views of the beachline and glimpses of what awaits. Grass pathways to die for to and from tees and greens, the best I have ever seen. The course laid out on an awesome topography with huge gigantic natural is a real success for architect the Martin Hawtree who's work I love, but this has to be his finest hour. Green complexes huge and undulating provide many options, surfaces and fringes are manicured as the rest of the course to a truly outstanding atandard, a credit to the 80 (not a typo) green staff.The golf course itself follows a classic pattern of two out-and-back loops of nine holes. All 18 holes thread engagingly through the dunes, views of the sea and coastline, plunging there into secluded valleys. There is nothing missing and the layout does not have any weak holes, providing a dramatic and invigorating links. It's hard to pic a favourite but if pushed I would go for the 10th followed closely by the 650 yard 18th a monster. @tomwatson08 nearly had another hole in one at the 16th with his ball pitching at the flag but unfortunately rebounding out, witnessed by a handful of the greens staff. Thank you to Liam for your company, fabulous golf for someone only playing a couple of years keep it up mate look forward to seeing you at Hillside soon.
So in summary, very often courses do not quite live up to the hype, but Trump Aberdeen has been undersold in all the press and reviews in my opinion. I have now played over 500 courses including over 200 highly rated in many rankings and this now goes to No1. Expensive green fee but worth it for any golfer wanting a special experience. The pictures do not do the course justice, highlight roll on my stories have more of each hole.
Visually, the most impressive course I’ve ever played. It is absolutely incredible. Is the 14th the best hole in golf?
My only minor criticism would be that I felt the 1st and the 4th were quite similar. 15 is probably the dullest hole on the course. And 18, whilst a bit of a novelty, is far, far, far too long.
Apart from that though I absolutely loved it and think it is a bit underrated when I look at some other courses in the top 10
Immaculate course and breathtaking views from many holes. Nothing traditional or spiritual about a trip here so it stands in stark contrast to the other great courses in the UK&I and even to Trump Turnberry. To me it is like Kingsbarns in that it is a high service, visually impressive place to play but doesn't possess the feel and intangibles that typically international visitors seek from their golfing experience in Scotland. For people in the region or spending a couple of days in Aberdeen, its indeed a very good experience that wont disappoint but its hard to justify a journey to this corner of the world to play this one.
At the outset I should state that my opinion of Trump International is in no way affected by controversies surrounding its owner or the acrimonious building process. Possibly because as a single golfer I was paired with a gentleman who insisted on playing off tees that made the holes longer than my comfort zone and whose errant driving meant that we spent a great deal of time searching (usually in vain) for golf balls, I was slightly underwhelmed by my round here. There are some grand holes and some that are visually stunning but, like the previous reviewer, I felt something was lacking here. Put another way, my golfing soul was not engaged. On one purely basic level there are far too many bunkers and the rough was overly penal. This was not a particularly enjoyable round of golf. It certainly was not fun as the great courses should be. So, Trump International is clearly a very good course but is it in my top 10 in Scotland? No. Would I come back? Probably not.
Trump Aberdeen is a tricky one, as it is so different to all other courses in Scotland. Before you start it is worth ignoring the name on gate and all of the controversy that comes with it.
The course is wonderful to play, with fantastic conditions and some really great holes. Holes 5, 6 and 7 are great, and are built more away from the water and huge dunes. 12-16 is also a really strong stretch of holes, with 14 perhaps offering the best looking golf hole I've ever seen.
The problem with the course I think is there are a lot of forgetful holes. Every hole more-or-less you are going North or South and through huge dunes, which makes it quite hard to get your brings, as a lot of the holes do look the same. 1, 3, 8, 9, 11 and 17 are nice holes when you play them, can be a bit forgetful afterwards.
Another problem with the course is that everything is so dramatic, that it just doesn't seem natural. Every feature is ramped up to 11, and it's a bit too much at times.
I wouldn't put it in the world top 100 personally. If you want fantastic service and a course that photographs well, then it's the perfect place for you. If you're looking for somewhere more understated and subtle, I'd suggest playing the brilliant Royal Aberdeen down the road.
Many courses rely on drama to be memorable and certainly to boost their ranking. For example, if Ballybunion did not have the drama from hole 7 onwards, it would not be so exalted and ranked so highly (ie holes 1 to 6 are ok but not great). Trump International Scotland is advertised to be amongst the "Great Dunes" so is going to be dramatic. As you say, maybe you can have too much of it. I agree, Royal Aberdeen is brilliant.
Totally understand why some people love it. I just didn't feel the drama was natural, like it is at Ballybunion. That being said I would still play at Trump tomorrow if given the chance!
Find it hard to believe that a number of holes are deemed forgetful. The 15th is often mentioned as being a poor hole but the design of the green makes it a totally different hole depending on pin location and also the chosen tee box
Donald Trump originally promoted his course in Aberdeen as 'the greatest course in the world', and we were keen to see it for ourselves. It was 19 degrees and intermittently sunny with light winds as we headed onto the links in early July. Perfect weather for golf!
This is a magnificent site for golf, located in massive dunes known as The Great Dunes of Scotland right on the Aberdeen coast, and close to both Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links. Dr Martin Hawtree, known for renovating courses for The Open Championship, designed the course.
The course is attractive visually, and hopes were high as we played the par five 1st hole, and then the par four 2nd hole. The former had a burn across the fairway to challenge the tee shot. They were both nice holes.
The par three 3rd hole raised the excitement levels somewhat with a delightful green setting and beach and ocean as the backdrop. This was surely one of a number of seaside holes and vistas.. But no, sadly that was our last experience with the sea....
The par 5, fourth hole looked good but was way too busy in front of the green, leaving no obvious path to the putting surface when choosing to avoid a cluster of pot bunkers, a water hazard, and steep side slope. Still it looked good!
I thought all of the par 3's were good holes, and the sixth was no exception, with green tucked into a valley of dunes. It was also another particularly photogenic hole.
I particularly like short two shot holes where you are presented with a number of viable options when deciding how to play from the tee, and the driveable seventh hole became an instant favourite. The green had a deep dip not unlike a moat protecting the front of the green! Strong longer fours at 8 & 9 closed the nine.
After quite a walk to the 10th tee via the clubhouse, the par 5 tenth moves toward the really big dunes, and then the 3rd shot plays though a gap in those dunes. The green setting is special, surrounded by dunes, but the green complex itself underwhelms. But, the hole looks really good....
Other holes of note include:
- the par 4 fourteenth hole which plays from the mandatory elevated tee down through a deep valley behind the primary dune, and parallel to the beach, and - the par 5 eighteenth hole with another elevated tee looking down at 'the black holes of doom', our name for the plethora of revetted pot bunkers dotting the landscape.
I mentioned that this is a spectacular site for a golf course, with dramatic dunes right on the sea. It is a great site, and visually the course does not disappoint. The course itself is of championship quality, or will be when the fairway turf matures, and the greens are not so horribly slow. But this is not a great course in my opinion, although it is a very good one.
None of the issues I record as drawbacks are fatal on their own, but collectively they downgrade my overall impressions of the merits of the Trump course. I have heard from others that too many tees are elevated, and the bunkers are all the same. I agree. The course is by the sea, but only rarely has any reference or views thereof.
Although the course is framed by massive dunes, there is little interaction between dunes and playing areas- rather the dunes appear to merely frame the holes...
Nearly all links courses have real rumple running through the fairways, but Trump looks like the sand was graded relatively flat between the dunes giving the impression the course itself could be anywhere in the world but for the surrounding dunescape. The sameness of the bunkering, and the relative evenness of the fairways gave a sterile, soulless feel to the course.
This was reinforced by the strangely subdued clubhouse which, although centrally located, had no views of course, sea or anything in particular.
So while Trump International may not be 'the greatest course in the world', it is certainly a very good one and among the top 15 in Scotland in my opinion.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Once we heard of Trump's plans we visited Balmedie on a Scottish golf trip to see what the fuss was all about. What a location ! We were very excited to see what would result, and the result is a mixed bag. It's undeniably impressive, but misses the fun factor of new courses like Castle Stuart and Spey Valley. Having the largest putting green in Europe, plus taking you on an odyssey through The Great Dunes Of Scotland (TM), is obviously a positive but one can't help but feel that it could have been the best new course in Scotland.
One thing Donald Trump (or his children) does very well is golf. Every golf course I have played that he is involved in has been a gem and Trump International Scotland is no different. It is superb.
Putting bragging and ego aside, the dunes are probably the biggest/tallest I have ever played on several of the holes. Certainly on 14 I have not seen any larger. There are large dunes from the very beginning much like Royal Aberdeen, Ballybunion Old, or several of the holes on the back nine at Tralee or Trump International Ireland (Doonbeg).
I loved the golf course from the first tee shot all the way in. Yes, the routing is primarily out and back for both nines, but that is the routing that took the best advantage of the landscape/terrain. There is not a hole design that I would change and for me, that is a high compliment.
My only slight criticism is that on the beginning holes there is no relief if you miss the fairway by only a yard as the grass is very high. However, the fairways are wide enough to hit so it does take a poor shot to miss them. But if the wind is up, the fairways shrink a lot and so the tall grass comes immediately into play.
It has a very good mixture of long and short holes, straight holes and doglegs.
Normally I don't like beginning on a par five but this is such a good hole that I thought it was great. I liked how the green was raised and set against the side of the hill.
I liked the view from the second tee to this gentle dogleg left and the strategy involved with the tee shot and the burn. There is another good green on this hole.
The third hole with the view of the water is a nice downhill par 3 offering a chance to save par if you miss the green with your tee shot.
The fourth hole with the burn to the right down nearly all of the fairway forces you left off the tee. For your second shot, you need to navigate 11 bunkers, on this par five. For the long hitter there are only two bunkers that are greenside. It is a fun green to play into.
The fifth hole is a breather hole if you can avoid the fairway bunker near the middle of the fairway. It has a lovely view of the hole from the tee to this slightly raised green. Don't go long over the green due to the grass behind.
The sixth hole, the second par three, is one of the weaker holes on the front....unless the wind is in your face. The pin can be partially hidden if back left and the bunker front right is very punitive.
Then comes the weakest hole, the very short par 4 7th hole. It is definitely a birdie opportunity as you go down, then up to the green. While there is a large swale right front of the green, it really should not come into play.
This easy hole is followed by perhaps the best hole on the golf course, the wonderful eighth hole, a long par four that has enormous penalty for missing to the right. There are no greenside bunkers, thankfully, because if you take the safer line to the left off the tee, you are left with a blind shot into the green. This hole is just about perfect.
The ninth hole is another superb long par 4 and has a very good green complex. It is a very long green with swales and 3 bunkers also to protect it.
It has been a wonderful front nine and the back nine is just as good, if not better.
Ten for me is the weakest hole on the golf course. This par five offers a wide fairway for your first shot, and a large bailout area to the right for your second which is the angle you want to play anyway into this green that is hidden to the left behind a mound. However, the green might be the most difficult on the golf course with its four tiers. A two putt is not certain due to the undulations on the green.
The eleventh is a wonderful par four dogleg right with another very good green complex, with 3 bunkers in front defending the green. You have to be left off the tee to have a look at the green.
12 feels very much the same as 11 in terms of another dogleg right but the tee shot and green complexes are very different. For me, 11 has the better green but 12 is more fun to play into.
13 is a par three that ranges in left from 120 to 230 yards. Pick the tee that best suits you depending on the wind. I have played each tee and enjoyed the hole from any of them. It is another very good green, slightly raised so if you miss it, you will have some elevation to judge for your chip.
14 is one of the most memorable holes you will ever play as the tee is high up and all you seem to see is a narrow fairway surrounded by large dunes and a hole that looks 600 yards long but actually from the back tee is only about 450. You get a nice view of the coastline from here. Walk to the back tee for the view even if you play forward.
15 for me is the second weakest hole on the back nine, but it is still a good hole. There are more bunkers to consider on your tee shot than on any other hole on the course. I also found this green to be different than the other holes because it is placed to present a narrower view for your second shot.
16 continues the tradition of this course for a par 3 to either play very short or long, with tees ranging from 110-195 yards. There are dunes all around this hole and bunkers everywhere except the right side. It is a very cleverly designed golf hole. If no one is behind us, we walk back to the tee to play it a second time.
17 kicks in hard. It is a long par 4 with trouble all down the left to a green that is more difficult than it appears even if there is only one bunker.
Then you arrive for another splendid view on the par five finishing hole. It is long....650 yards all the way back and 586 for the "member" tee. With the elevation it plays slightly shorter if the wind is not against you. There is danger everywhere on this golf hole, water left off the tee, and 18 bunkers to navigate throughout the hole. It is a terrific green complex due to all of those bunkers that begin about 80 yards in front of the green. The green seems to have sections to it so if you don't arrive on the right level, you are staring at a difficult putt.
I strongly recommend playing here. It is one of the best golf courses I have ever played.
The service and driving range are fabulous. The food is very good. It is pricey inside the pro shop.
I don't think this course can hold a tournament with large crowds. I don't know where the people would walk given how quickly the dunes begin next to some of the fairways. That is a pity given the quality of the golf course.
I stayed in the main house with the fountain in front. It was fantastic.
Heard a lot about this course being excellent - can fully confirm it. Unique layout in gigantic dunes, all holes are tuly unique. Very well maintained course, pathways better than fairways on many other courses. Also a very challenging setup with narrow fairways and - of course - lot of wind. Not one but a few signature holes. Go to black tees for a great view on 14 and 18.
A true links experience and maybe one of the most spectacular courses in Scotland.