Menie Park Lodge,
- +44 (0) 1358 743300
10 miles N of Aberdeen city centre
Welcome, contact in advance
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.
An extraordinary experience. The scale of this place conjures up memories of Disneyland meets links golf.
The raw materials that Mother Nature supplied Martin Hawtree with at Balmedie is some of the very finest links terrain I have ever seen.
I was the recipient of a huge surprise on arrival, my opponent for the week AT suggested that we might pop in to take a look prior to playing Cruden Bay that afternoon.
No sooner had we arrived than the silver tounged devil had negotiated a great 9 hole rate for us to sample the delights of the back nine.
This place is awesome, right up with the very best. You must suspend for one day whatever might keep you away.
Thanks to Cameron and the team for looking after us so well.
This course is as good as it gets. I have traveled the world, and keep coming back to this course, this layout and this challenge from the perfectly manicured paths between holes to the beauty of the fairways and bunkers to the danger of missing the fairway. I am planning my 6th trip across the pond just to play this gem. I also get to play The Old Course and Kingsbarns, but those are secondary to Trump International Golf Links, Scotland! Some get caught up on it being a Trump course and skip it in protest. If that is a choice someone makes, you just chose to miss one of the best courses in the world. Trump knows golf, and he knew what he was doing here. My last round while there I had fog, sunshine, rain and wind and it was one of the most enjoyable rounds of my life. I can't describe the scene once you arrive at hole #18, the strategic mind just puts a big smile on your face. Go out and par that hole and you have something to talk about at the 19th hole. Take the time to play it more than once. I play it a minimum of 3 times when I am there.
Firstly, I don’t really care who owns the course. It’s a golf course and one which for anyone that’s played it I’ve yet to hear of a bad review. I was due to stay and ply twice unfortunately I could only go up for the day. What I can say is that this course has easily slotted into my personal top 5 courses ever played and I’ll explain why, I’ll also note that this will rank even higher in the world as more people play it and maybe when they host a tournament there. Firstly, the customer service is as you would expect with a course like this first class. From arrival to tee off and we even had a sea mist delay for around an hour but all communication kept on incoming. I was actually really surprised to see how small the club house actually is. The locker rooms although well equipped are way too small. This will and has to be addressed in future. It was quiet when we were there but the locker room you can just about swing a golf club in there!! The little gift bag is a class touch and I love it when places give you something back even when it’s a small gesture (not the usual tees and a yardage book!)
The practice facilities are amazing, from the range, to the chipping area to the double greens to practice putting.
So our starter fired us away and off we went. The front 9 are simply beautiful just dwindling through some of the biggest dunes you’ll likely to come across. The 1st is a great opening hole going uphill and the dunes surround you immediately. All the holes are challenging, sloping and make you think. One thing I will say and we all said it, you literally never see another hole walking every hole. It’s like your playing your own course!
The second 9, is really where this course absolutely comes alive and brings it to you. I won’t talk through every hole, why would I, but this is one place you have to go to appreciate what your looking at and your actually playing it. The 14th & 18th tee is something I’ll never forget. You stand on top of the world on 18, and it’s prob one of the best golf holes I have ever played from tee to green.
If you get chance, make sure you go and play here, it’s incredible what’s been created and visually stunning links golf. Kiawah is my all time no.1, but this will now sit comfortably at no.2 in my personal top 10 courses ever played.
One thing I will say is that the greens were very slow for links golf. They looked like they were either waiting to cut them down or didn’t want to.
****Note to Trump Aberdeen**** - you really need to sort out your halfway house system. It’s an absolute disgrace, slow and ruining your experience. Get a phone on 9th tee and speed the process and service up. It’s a disgrace that your made to wait 30 mins for some basic food and drink. And phone on your own mobile. Have a policy where a 10 min stop is mandatory.
Appreciate Donald is not everyone's cup of tea but who cares ....his name is on a truly magnificent modern course....a true links on steroids.
The apparently natural dunes seem unnatural as they are so huge.
It is like a film set.....you wouldn't bat an eyelid if Harry Potter flew down a fairway towards you.
Magnificent variety of tees and shots to play and the tee shot off the 18th is a brutal carry.
Love the old tradition but love the new courses money can build too !!
Firstly, lets not speak about course ownership, design, environmental impact, for very obvious reasons.
The course just North of Aberdeen is everything I shouldn't like. It is a contrived links, it doesn't look natural at any point. It is the Disney land of golf in the dunes! However, it is excellent, every hole throws up issues that have to be navigated. There are very few days in the NE that allow the course to be playable from the back tees. I would advise you make the most of the teeing options and choose depending on the hole and the wind direction. The course is dramatic and a few holes are truly exceptional. It stays true to links courses with a few short par 4's with real risk and reward debates from the tee. Every time I have played the course has been in excellent condition. I am a particular fan of the 3rd, a really neat par 3, from an elevated tee, with a small gully left of the green and a difficult bunker to the right. The course is a must play, I cannot help but think with a lager membership and a lower green fee this course could become very, very famous! A must play for visitors but a drastic change from it's neighbours, Murcar, Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay.
If Trump International Golf Links Scotland was an intimate relationship, it probably would be a one night stand. A stormy affair with an adult film star perhaps. You might not be in it for the long term and it might cause some embarrassment after playing around. But what an experience!
The analogy stops here for me because while this place is visually stunning all the way around, it doesn’t lack substance and so doesn’t get a Dumb Blonde award from me. The land and routing is great, but I also found variety, depth, and even had several interesting strategic conversations with the course. Okay, now the analogy stops, I promise.
The course has very good par 3’s, variety in the Par 4’s (including a couple of good short ones), and despite what seemed like a monotonous routing, played with a variety of wind directions. There’s lots of raised tees here that really make the most of the land, functioning much like a push-up bra to give instant gratification throughout. A cheap ploy perhaps. There’s added potential here as it’s a young course where they can tweak things in the coming years. Couple this with a naturally maturing/drying course, and it should continue to improve.
A course like this is perhaps a swing vote that could go either way. It gets my endorsement - partly because of how it sets expectations beforehand. You see marketing slogans like “Set in The Great Dunes of Scotland”, and would be forgiven for rolling your eyes. But then the course delivers a pleasant surprise. If I compare this to the other modern links I’ve visited so far in 2018 (The European Cub), Trump International blurs the perceived lines between Golfing kitsch and understated quality more than you might think.
Accept this place for what it is - a one off destination course - and simply enjoy. You can then forgive a few design elements - some of the bunkering seemed superfluous, the par 5 10th I think has a weird second second fairway that would never be an option, and we often seemed to be hitting up into raised greens. Despite this, I thought it was Great (with a capital Great Dunes) and to contradict myself, it’s not just a one-time affair and I’d love to go back.
My golfing companion and I when on a spectacular Links often find ourselves quoting, in the style of the guy who does all the film trailers, "In the GREAT Doons of Scatland/Aahland/Angland" even years afterwards - glad it wasn't just us who found it hilarious !
There are a lot of things that can be said about the owner of this course but one thing is sure to me and that is that he has managed to make some solid courses and add value to the golf world in Scotland with the recent renovation at Turnberry and new build here up north near Aberdeen at Trump International Golf Links.
It would seem this course has been designed with one major goal in mind… to be spectacular and awe inspiring. Most of what I’d heard going into my visit had been positive though little had come through the eyes of critical observers. I don’t feel the need to go through the holes. 2 and 14 have two of the most challenging tee shots from the back tees you will find anywhere. The course has no less than 12 raised tees and 12 raised greens. This demonstrates a central theme revolving around trying to make the course spectacular rather than trying to put the best possible routed golf course in this land. Yes the dunes are massive and that most certainly dictates several aspects of the routing. The main question to the author remains what would top architects have done with the same land, Coore & Crenshaw, Doak, Ebert & Mackenzie, Mike Devries or Bob Harrison to name a few.
That critique aside, yes, Trump International is awe inspiring while standing on the tee of the 2nd hole trying to thread the needle in the wind between a diagonally left to right running native lost ball territory and the parallel running burn that many will struggle to carry. There are several other tough shots that will be faced, the native is deep, prepare yourself mentally to judge the wind correctly and hit straight shots, if you can. Standing on the 14th back tee it hits you that not all golfers are created equally. 250 yds carry to reach the fairway and 50 yds later a steep sloped that if not carried repels the ball back towards the beginning of the fairway. The fairway while having decent width looks like a tiny sliver tucked into the massive dunes and waste deep native. The tee sitting on the top of a massive dune 20-30 yds above does wonders to frame the daunting challenge. Good luck judging the wind on this one. Worst part here is that moving up a couple tees does little to make this hole much easier. I’ve yet to run into a golfer that said #14, yeah piece of cake.
I will certainly admit that there are several excellent holes and even more spectacular holes. In fact, not a single boring hole in the routing which might sound counterintuitive to my critical commentary but there is a distinct difference in my points. One of my favorite holes is a short par 4, 7th. This hole does wonders to temp golfers to go for the crazy green with driver. A couple plays, in my mind, will stop this madness. The green is raised about 3 meters all the way around and falls off steeply everywhere. Recovery shots are extremely tough, so much so that almost driving the green with the tee shot in my best estimate renders a 3, a miracle, a 4 extremely tough and a 6 more than likely. I watched two groups go for the green and double seemed to be the best score. The best way to play it, I’d say 5 iron, wedge or 9 iron depending on the wind and make sure you hit the green.
Standing on the back tee of the elevated 650 yds 18th hole with a strong breeze into your face also has some comical aspects to it, a minefield of bunkers to drop your tee shot into. It’s certain they wanted to challenge the best players, perhaps even Trump himself (that’s a joke by the way).
It's a beautiful place and the visual spectacle alone renders it worth a visit. I'd also recommend staying in the Macleod House which must be the best accommodation in the area with a brilliant whiskey room on top of it all. It would be my ideal place to use as home base for a trip to the area.
Although the location and dunes at Trump Links Scotland are dramatic, the course badly misses the mark and has some serious design flaws that make it a less than enjoyable place to play golf. In particular, all but one hole is routed in a north-south direction. I played the course on a day when the wind was blowing across (from the west), meaning all but one hole was in a cross-wind. Playing seventeen holes in a cross-wind is not fun. Golf course architects surely know that the winds in Scotland are changeable? Why would you route so many holes parallel on the sea? It really makes no sense to me. Why route all the holes along the dunes, why not route some back and forth to play through the dunes, like at nearby Cruden Bay? I also found that the rough is far too thick. Any ball that does not hit the fairway is lost. The rough is so thick and overgrown that there is virtually no chance of finding a ball, leading to a less than fun day. It is roughly the equivalent of every fairway and green being surrounding by water, with a resulting small margin of error available to a golfer. The green contouring is also overdone. Based on my experiences playing in the British Isles a key part of the charm is being able to play bump and run shots. Almost all the greens here are elevated and have false fronts and fall away severely on most sides. Unless a shot is perfectly struck it repels off the green, as a result, the effective landing area is about one third the actual size of the green, making it unduly penal. Combine this with the thick rough and the combination becomes toxic. The character of the course is too Americanized and taking away bump and runs shots doesn’t feel right.
On the positive side, the course conditions were fabulous, there are sometimes beautiful views, the grass is lush and the greens (if you can ever get on them) and in good condition and fast. Giving credit where it is due, the holes do have a variety in length. There is a nice combination of short, medium, and long par threes and fours. The staff was amenable and friendly and the clubhouse was surprisingly understated and tasteful.
I predict that serious changes must be made to make the course playable for the recreational golfer including softening the green contours, widening the fairways and thinning the rough.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
How can anyone rate this course as a 2 ball rating, ignore. Most links courses are built on a thin strip of land so are out and back, as Cruden Bay is.
I have to agree with the other response made to this review. 2 balls out of 6 really? This course is fantastic and has to be played. The holes fit perfectly in between the dunes therefore requiring minimum earth removal and it isn't as if the holes are dead straight! I can count at least 8 doglegs par 4s or 5s on the course. The only hole which I thought was average was no.5 with the rest being of pure quality. The course is tough no question but would you really want an easy ride on a track which probably cost about £200 to play. I can't wait to go back :-)
Let’s remember that this is an area of Special Scientific interest, for the dunescape itself and the flora and fauna that are supported therein.
To do anything other than minimal earthworks in this site would have been reputational suicide for both the developer and his esteemed designer.
Mr Trump May be many things, however, I believe him to be a golf lover and by extension a dune junkie (who isn’t
I was fortunate to play Trump at the weekend and what a course it is. From the moment we drove down the private road to the course we knew we were in for a treat. The clubhouse is surrounded by gigantic dunes. The staff on hand were extremely helpful.
We had about 30 minutes to kill before we went out so we hit some complimentary balls and did some putting on the amazing putting green. The pitching area looked amazing although unfortunately we did not get chance to enjoy that. We were greeted by the starter who at our request took some photos and was more than helpful with information.
Then the fun really began :-)
I play off scratch and didn't care that I was 7 over after 4!!!!! And what a first 4 holes they were especially the short 3rd played to the edge of the sea. No. 5 was ok then 6 was a lovely short par 3. 7, 8 and 9 followed - all excellent holes.
A beer was enjoyed after 9 then we set again on the back 9. No. 10 what an approach shot towards the biggest dunes you will ever see. Further great holes followed especially no.14 a long par with an elevated do or die tee shot. No.18 was also a highlight elevated tee 650 yards into the prevailing wind!
What a course.
What I will say is i am of the opinion anyone could have done a good job of designing the course as the dunes are just there for you to play around with.
There aren't many courses in the world where you can pitch up and pay a green fee to play such a prestigious course - We can't wait to go back - oh I shot 84 off scratch and did I care? Not one bit!!!
I think you can also just pitch up and pay a green fee at all 19 other courses in the U.K. and Ireland ranked above this one
In response to the BB comment my own comment was aimed at the top Private American courses (save for Pebble Beach) where you can't even get in to the grounds let alone get on the course
I was already a little suspicious that Trump himself had written this review, and now that the reviewer suggests "the US" and "the World" are interchangeable terms, I'm even more certain
...but in all seriousness, you make a good point Nick about the accessibility of top golf in the U.K. compared to he US.
Americans seem to have their cake and eat it - i.e. restrict access to their own top tracks but have open access to those elsewhere. As you mention, Pebble is an exception there but as it has little competition for public play at the top end, they can charge $500 a round.
Respect to the UK & Ireland Golf culture then - your soul would clearly go to Golf heaven (if it wasn't already here on earth).
I wouldn't mind this dichotomy too much, but it does seem to put the prices up here to cater for the American Golf tourist and their higher expectations of conditioning and service, and increased willingness to spend on a world class green fee. Tom Doak said an Old Course green fee was £15 in 1982. That's just £53 indexed to 2017 prices (whereas an Old Course green fee this summer is around £170). Add to this specific developments like Kingsbarns and Trump International that must be aimed at this US traffic - they are simply very expensive for the average U.K. punter. It's a shame.
Well there was no way we were going to pay the £185 green fee (each) as we couldn't afford it and were lucky enough to find a voucher for 2 people at the cost of only £80 (each). You make some good points BB and we just need to find some more vouchers!!!!
I played International on Friday and Saturday as part of a very good package which included dinner bed and breakfast at the McLeod. To be frank, I wasn’t really expecting too much, given Mr Trumps reputation over recent months, but the weather was dry, so that was a good start.
The phrase “blown away” is often overused these days, but I found a course which was absolutely unique, and one of those rare occasions when you find something totally different from what you expect.
I played Carnoustie the following day, and having played Royal Dornoch last year, I thought I knew what a first class links course was, but this pushes the boundaries.
If you take Carnoustie, as magnificent a course as it is, and imagine that all the dunes on that course are between 5 and 10 times higher, then you will be getting close to Trump International, and it is astonishing that this course is only 5 years old.
I’m not going to go over every hole, as personally I think it’s better to experience a course as you find it, although if you play it, and the wind is not too strong, use the black tees on 14 and 18 – I don’t think you will get views like that, of either the course, the hole, or the surrounding countryside and beach, anywhere in the UK.
Given that the course is reasonably busy (although with the layout you almost never see anyone else), it was in fabulous condition. The greens were true, and while they were a little on the slow side, I imagine in late October in Aberdeen, that’s to be expected, so I wouldn’t criticise that.
The staff on both the golf and catering side were really, really good, and a special mention to Bob, the caddy master who was wonderful.
If I tell you that both myself and my playing partner scored around 15 shots better at Carnoustie (similar weather), that gives you an idea of how difficult the course is. But rather strangely, they were two of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I’ve ever had.
Perhaps this is a golf course too far for the purists, who revere the openness of many of the top links courses, but for me this is right up there. It may not be the greatest course in the world, but I would be hard pressed to put it below 3rd in the UK. It may never get the Open, but I do hope it picks up perhaps the Scottish Open soon, as it will provide amazing viewing facilities for spectators.
Forget about ownership and just enjoy it.