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.
Last “new” course added to my list in this trip but not least … what a BEAST!!! Of the new courses I added this one was maybe the only I had information, images and details after having sent over 200 customers after it was opened back in 2012. That year I was there just 2 weeks before it opened and could not play and took too long to come back but it was well worth the wait. And even better when with my 2 friends we enjoyed a nice lunch at Royal Aberdeen and a mandatory visit to the club Proshop!
We could have asked for a better afternoon: some wind to make if challenging, not that cold, sunny from 1 to 18 and a very nice walk to do with your clubs on your shoulder. I have read many controversial reviews on this as being too dramatic, too penal (hell yes!!), too big and tough as well but this is my statement: Scotland has already got some great old classic courses and if you are going to build a new one it has to be special and have a trademark to make some noise. Kingsbarns has its beauty and perfection, Castle Stuart has it Mackenzie style greens blended with old links style in modern bunkering, Castle Course has its dramatic sloped greens and Dumbarnie has the dunes, the risk/reward and the views … well Trump Aberdeen has all of it in one course!
Challenging to the limit like Oakmont or Carnoustie, beautiful as the nicest in the world, well kept as Augusta National, and a great risk reward equation make Trump Aberdeen one of those course I love to play. But one wise advice is to select the correct set of tees as if you go too long you can have a very rough round if your driver decides not to work. It was a miracle not to lose one ball in these conditions but at the end I found it fun to battle the round from the very beginning without ball striking helping. It was a great putting day in smooth excellent greens, sloped and creative and with pin positions where a narrow miss could lead to disaster. One great thing in the Course Design is that not always the furthest back tee was the highest and that many changes were about angles and potential carriers, so whether you made the crazy call of going off the black or the clever to do the white, you would always have 4-5 nice tee shots from the highest point of each hole.
The huge dunes, the sea and the Eolic water park complete the perfect combo and I would say not one hole was not spectacular off the tee. It will be unfair not to highlight them all but will go to the best shots to hit.
My personal best:
2nd from the high spot short to the stream.
4th is a brutal par 5, sent it to swim and made the Van de Velde photo, but finally took a wise drop and penalty shot.
6th might have been the most afraid I was on a tee box in a while, it is amazing but nowhere to miss. I take that bogey!!!
Can a 280yds par 4 be great? Of course, put a small green angled to the tee box, elevated from the fairway and a tough lay up shot as well and you have it.
10th is another good one. We are used to be able to reach par 5s in two and they are 3 shooters! Blind tee shot in between the gorse, demanding lay up if you want to get it close and a very good uphill approach shot to an immense great green. And when you turn back to the fairway the picture is pure greatness.
Par 4 14th … narrow angled fairway and elevated tee box to an elevated green angled in the opposite direction … I´ll take it!!
18th an absolute monster downhill into the wind, 3 shots for everyone and some penalty on the left side. With the Club House and the Big Saltire flag on the end, a grand finale for an absolute blast of a Golf Course.
You might hate it due to challenge, but you will love it as a beautiful golf course and a new idea of modern golf courses. Give it to me every day, it is a fantastic round of golf and maybe the perfect course for Match Play with friends where bogeys or even worse will likely win some holes.
Lucky to call this place home !!
An unbelievable experience from when you first turn into the Golf course until you leave.
The best practice facilities in the region with a driving range from which you can hit balls from either end, World Class short game area and a huge practice putting green.
The course itself is phenomenal. Every hole could be the signature hole here. It’s very well manicured and in fantastic condition all year round with some of the best greens around.
From the tee, It can look quite daunting and tight, but once you are down on the fairway, you will realise that the fairways are actually quite generous, however if you find the rough, you will have a hard time finding your ball.
My favourite holes would be the 7th and the 14th.
The 7th is a 240 yard par 4, a 20 handicapper could make an eagle, and a plus handicapper could walk off with a triple bogey. It’s a fantastic hole.
The 14th is the most impressive hole visually. You get goosebumps as you climb the hill to the back tees before the view reveals itself. You won’t play a better hole in my opinion.
Hopefully this place can start getting the recognition it deserves in years to come as the course is set up for Championship golf. I would love to see what a pro would shoot in testing conditions.
Trump international for me was golfing perfection, to date its the best course I’ve played. Although I’m due to play Ailsa next month so who knows maybe that will change. Trump international was just stunning and everything about the place was top notch, the practice facilities were pristine as was the course. If I could play this course everyday for the rest of my life I would be a very happy man.
Played September 2021. Forget the name of the course. Remember the welcome and the challenge.
I was greeted with friendly faces when I arrived at the course. I'd grabbed a reasonable twilight deal a few days beforehand. At the pro shop I was given a welcome pack and course guide and then set off on my way.
After a quick practice I hit the first tee, and I had the course to myself.
Luckily I bought my driving game just when I needed it. Carrying the ball 180+ and straight will definitely help your enjoyment at this course, as that's what's required to hit the fairway on almost every hole. The rough frames the holes beautifully, but miss the fairway and it might be a little less pretty. Incredibly my only lost ball was on the par 3 16th, somewhat aided by the fact that I was last out on the course and had plenty of time to search in the tall grass when offline.
Parts of the course run close to the shore, and the first real glimpse of the sea is on the lovely par 3 3rd. Other stand out holes include the par 3 6th with the green set in some dunes, the dogleg par 5 10th where the green is hidden behind some large dunes, the par 4 14th which offers a glorious coastal view from the back tee, and the 650 yard par 5 18th, which again affords incredible sea views (I amazingly lipped out a short birdie putt here).
With all of the holes well framed, its easy to see what is required for each shot.
Playing here might not feel as natural as at many Scottish links courses, and it isn't. And clearly it doesn't have the same history as many of it's peers. The strength of this course is probably as a testing Championship set up for the pros from the tips, though it doesn't seem likely it will see any such play in the near future.
It may be a little tough here if you're not on your game, however the course does offer an array of tees to cater for many, though perhaps not quite for all. But is it worth playing, even if just the once, the answer has to be yes from me.
This is a truly stunning looking golf course but in my opinion is set up too tough for the average golfer. We played it in 25 to 30 mph winds and being frank every shot was terrifying !
The prevailing wind I believe means the majority of the holes have a side wind and bearing in mind if you stray more than a few yards off the fairway your ball is lost in 3 feet of hay, this does not represent what enjoyable golf is about to me.
The layout and scenery are definitely worth a visit and to make such a stunning course is a real achievement , but be sure to keep an eye on the wind conditions and if its a windy day prepare yourself for a beating from the course and take plenty of balls.
This is a golf course. Well obviously, but this is an outstandingly good golf course and I'd love to see how it would rank (and be in Open rota consideration?!) if it wasn't named and owned by Mr Trump.
A very expensive round, but at all phases you are treated like royalty. I checked in and was greeted by name, they were clearly expecting me, and provided with course guide, tees, ball marker (quite standard for the quality of course granted). I was guided to the practice facilities - a grass driving range with a barrel of balls (complimentary of course) before heading over to the short game area which prewarned me of what was to come. Multiple monster greens with large tiers and subtle breaks, false fronts, run-offs, humps and swales - your short game was going to be tested!
Having introduced myself to the starter, he asked whether I'd like to tee off 15 mins early in order to go out in front of a 4-ball which was exceptionally considerate. He guided me to the correct tee box (of which there are 5 to choose from!), gave some helpful advice for the round, advised me to go and hit a ball from the back tees on 14 & 18 (the highest points on the course with stunning views and daunting carries to even make the fairway) and as a 1-ball on a Saturday morning, offered me to play two balls if I wanted, however one ball was enough for me.
The first hole really prepares you for the test of whats to come. From the tee, the fairway looks scant and you have to rely on the course guide to find it (a familiar theme), although the fairways are wider once you get to them. To the sides of the fairways are enormous dunes, Martin Hawtree has done an outstanding job routing the course between these and if your ball finds them, it's time to hit another. You aren't finding it. By the time you work your way up to the green, you are greeted with what you saw on the practice grounds, a large green complex with lots of run off zones. Thankfully my wedge hit the green, although slightly pulled leaving a putt down a tier so inevitably walked off with a 3 putt bogey.
Without going into a hole by hole description, the remainder of the front nine travels in and out of the dunes spectacularly and each provides a very different challenge to what has gone before. What I did find however was that this was a very fair course - it rewarded good shots and only punished the poor shots.
By the time I got to 14, my mind was already blown away and I'd fallen in love with the course, however walking up to the back tees and I've never seen a view like it. A massively elevated tee, looking down at a narrow fairway, probably 250 yards away and with views over the whole estate. This would make quite a spectacle for the professional game.
The weakness of Trump is probably holes 15,16&17, and 18 is definitely a love/hate hole. A long par 5 with 18 bunkers on it. It certainly isn't my favourite hole, but I'd enjoyed the course so much I could forgive the slightly forced nature.
Trump International really is a fantastic course on the most beautiful plot of land. It is definitely a lot less subtle than the outstanding Royal Aberdeen up the road and definitely does feel a bit American in places (green complexes and the general grandeur), however if you can forgive it for this (and you should), you will find yourself with a round you will never forget.
Forget the name. It’s just a spectacular golf course. Simply majestic.
The fairways are immaculate, the greens have numerous breaks (although slower than I expected), the rough kills anything off track and it doesn’t often give you an easy miss from the tee. Tricky, fabulous, millionaire golf. Get a caddy!!!
An experience I would recommend to everybody who wants to be involved in a true championship golfing experience.
One important point, make sure you choose the right tees to play from! We played in a pro am late in June and fortunately the organisers decided we would play the whites (still around 6500 yards). I suspect the fact we really enjoyed the was partially down to this factor. Apart from the first green being closed for play the course was absolutely immaculate. The layout can be intimidating from the tee with the narrow looking fairways lined with long grass which was mostly unplayable from. In fact it's actually more generous from the tee than it first appears. The dunes which the course is rooted around often gave the impression that you are the only people playing, true millionaires golf! Our group really enjoyed the par 3's all of which were tough and demanded extremely accurate tee shots. The 17th and 18th are a tough pair of finishing holes with both playing into the breeze the day we played. The view from the back tee on 18 is well worth the effort to climb too, I would love to see a professional tour event played at this course albeit with the name attached I doubt we will see it.
The short game practice area is fantastic and well worth your time to use as the course asks a lot of questions around the greens. While the staff were excellent and friendly the club house was a bit of a disappointment as you have no views of the course just scrubland. A real golfers course.
Stunning course. Underrated by many due to the name and (lack of) age. No weak holes, amazing views, perfect turf, interesting greens and run offs, distinct character.
Anyone who rates this course anything other than at least a 5 must have a strange view on what golf is. This place is stunning. On several of the holes we were left speechless by the views and how the holes were laid out in such an extraordinary way. Even the holes without the jaw dropping tee boxes were outstanding, there is not a duff hole on this course. The back 9 is probably the best 9 holes I’ve ever played (beats royal County Down in my opinion). It’s starts with the 10th which from the tee box looks fairly unassuming but as the hole progresses into the dunes it becomes extraordinary. Make the trip up to the black tees for the 11th and you’ll be treated to a great view of the back 9. We played both the white tees and black tees on this hole and I think it’s a better hole and not significantly harder off the blacks due to the elevation. The 12th and 13th give you par opportunities (the black tee on the 13th makes this a brute of a hole so be warned!) then you come to the 14th....wow. You MUST have a go from the black tees, again the elevation will help, not hinder. 15 and 16 are a welcome relief from the dunes and provide scoring opportunities before the very tough 17th. I’m not sure how to describe the 18th, any of the tee boxes make it a brute and you have to think you’re way up the fairway but if you’re long and straight par is possible and surely one of the best holes in golf. The front 9 is also stunning (the 3rd is a great par 3). To give this some balance this is why I didn’t score it a 6.....no course marshal, At times it was slow and it amazed me how many hackers were out there thinking they could play the course, it is very easy to lose balls on every hole so unless you’re a sub 18 handicapper and playing well it can make for a very long day, a marshal would help speed things along and avoid people lining up a putt for a 10! The tee boxes are also a bit confusing as there are so many of them. Better signage would help, as would a hole map on every tee box. The practice facilities were great as was the very unassuming club house. Friendly staff and nice food not stupidly priced. I’d love to play this course with a tour pro, how anyone could break par here off the black tees would be a great watch. I’ve played many great courses (wentworth, County Down, sunningdale, birkdale, Swinley, Loch Lomond, Queenwood etc) but none of them left me speechless like this place.