Played late April 2015, 1 club wind max, 57 F/13 C with a good caddy. Visually dazzling, but demonstrably overrated, as a golf course and an experience. The problem here is that a one-yard miss on an approach shot so often results in a 40-80 yard penalty, with such steep run-offs front and side of many greens (at 1, 4, 12, 13 just off the top of my head). Likewise, if one tries to use a backstop past a flag long on a running shot, the ball often gets stuck in an unseen swale behind a green after it goes up a back-ramp. I also have a thing against hidden swales on elevated greens because you can’t see them from the approach position. So this ends up being American target golf transported to Balmedie. I can’t imagine it in the wind (it was as benign as it comes when I played it), or when it starts getting harder and faster (since I played in spring). Obviously off the tee you must stay away from the hills, but at least those hazards are in front of you, and after the first 6 holes the playing corridors felt wider. There wasn’t a stretch of holes I really loved, though 6 is a very good par 3 and 14 is gorgeous. There’s no denying the beauty – WHAT a piece of ground! – but the pointlessness of the un-strategic pot bunkers on the 600-yard 18th sums up the course: it looks stunning, but has randomly strewn "Scottishness" for no apparent purpose, as if Trump told Hawtree “That fairway doesn’t look Scottish enough – add a dozen pots.” It didn’t help that only the 5800-yard and 7000-yard tees were open (for a fourball with each of us holding a handicap between 4 and 7) so we couldn’t play an ideal distance. Great practice pitching area; no clubhouse yet, but the club welcome was perfunctory anyway, and the temporary food/shop facilities hilariously meager (the clubhouse is supposed to open May 2015). Also, Donald, you might want to fix the misspellings in the Strokesaver. In the end, I would never choose it over Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen, Nairn nor Castle Stuart, especially for the price.
Date: April 29, 2015