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.
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.
Simply the best course I have ever played in UK. Every hole is outstanding. Practise facilities, staff, greens etc etc. A challenging course for all handicap standards.
This course is jaw dropping. It’s tough and intimating off the tee but I was lucky enough to find many bumps and humps that kicked my ball back onto the fairway. It’s condition is up there with Turnberry and my other favourite course Valderrama. Valderrama is perfect everywhere you look and so is Trump Aberdeen.
Special mention to the chipping area, Phil Mickleson said it’s the best he’s seen in the world. We spent 3 hours having chipping duals on there and only left because we were hungry. The clubhouse has great food and friendly staff.
Leave politics for politicians and go and enjoy one of the best courses in the world.
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 !