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.
Tens of thousands of words have been written about the Trump International course at Balmedie, 12 miles north of Aberdeen, but I can describe this new kid on the golfing block it in just one word…WOW!!
Wow, from the first difficult drive to the last knock kneed putt, the course is quite simply magnificent. I also discovered that none of the many online images do it justice, as nothing comes close to the real thing.
I love the way that the course is designed so you can’t see the following hole. It is like opening 18 spectacular Christmas presents and it reminded me a lot of the back 9 at Hillside, which had a similar effect on me.
Your first task before teeing off is to choose your tee for the day. There are 6 to choose from, (7 on the first), ranging from 7428 to 5215yards. My advice is simple, leave your machismo in the changing room and choose a day which will allow you to enjoy the experience.
We chose to play off the white tees which at 6329 yards, was plenty for us. At this stage I would like to say a special work of thanks to Austin, our starter, who was an absolute star. He was the one who suggested that we played from the whites and his 5 minutes of tips, humour and anecdotes was greatly appreciated and really set the tone for our day. This is the normally the part of any review that I separate the wheat from the chaff. Well I have to rip that script up, because there is no chaff whatsoever at Trump International, just 18 wonderful golf holes.
If I have to single anything out then it would be the par 3’s at 3 and 6, which are unforgettable, and a slight negative would be the bunkering on the home hole, which is a tad excessive. That being said I enjoyed the fact that it was bunker laden in places, as it encourages you to use brains as opposed to brawn and I find that appealing and challenging.
My final bit of advice is not to worry too much about your score. It is Big Boy’s golf and errant shots may be punished.My playing partner and I both have handicap’s in the early teens, but we both scored into 3 figures, which translated into low 20’s in stableford points, but we both agreed that the score didn’t matter it was all about the overall experience, which was simply fantastic.
Martin Hawtree’s task was to create the ‘World’s Greatest Golf Course’. Now, I can’t say for certain if he actually fulfilled the brief, what I can say is he has created a masterpiece, which may just be my new Number 1 course, and one which I feel, is well equipped to host the Open or the Ryder Cup in the coming years.
It’s been some time now since Top 100 correspondent Brian Ward played here, so I took the opportunity yesterday to check out how the course at Trump International was progressing. Much has been said about the layout’s conditioning since it opened so I was keen to find out just how it was shaping up. On arrival at the newly opened clubhouse, the verdant colours of the putting and short game area had me a little worried that the fairways and greens out on the course might be of a similar dark green hue. Thankfully, the strong viridescent tints at this “front of house” facility were never replicated elsewhere and I was able to enjoy truly firm and fast conditions from tee to green on each of the eighteen holes.
Enhancing the traditional links look, the once “striped cut” fairways have now been replaced with traditional “half one way, half the other” mowing lines, which is just a small visual example of what’s being done to provide an authentic links golf experience here.
Having walked parts of the course on the day it was officially opened three years ago, I thought I had a reasonable idea of how it would actually play but I wasn’t fully prepared for things like the wonderful way the elevated tees are benched into the dunes, the generous width on many of the fairways or the frighteningly severe run off areas that exist around many of the greens.
On the front nine, the 3rd is a world class par three which has one of the best seaside locations of any hole that I’ve played anywhere. The short par four 7th is another brilliant hole on the outward half, played to an almost peninsula green that falls away steeply on three sides. There’s another fabulous par three on the more subdued back nine at the 13th, followed immediately by a tough par four that plays along the shoreline towards a raised green that still allows a low, running approach.
It wasn’t all positive right enough. I don’t think the split fairway on either side of a wetland area on hole 10 works well and I also struggled to understand the strategic value of having so many fairway bunkers clustered together on the approaches to both the 4th and 18th holes.
And I’m not wild about having so many greens on a links where the best (sometimes only) means of approach is through the air, as opposed to along the ground.
Nevertheless, these are all design traits that might just provide keen après golf topics of discussion for golfers relaxing back in the cosy confines of the new clubhouse after their round.
Speaking to Steven Wilson, the Links Superintendent, he confirmed that an extensive overseeding program had been initiated some time ago to propagate the correct grasses that will allow Trump International to exhibit its links credentials to the full. Steve assured me that the club management are listening to people that matter, be they experienced staff like himself or visiting professional golfers, in order to have the course looking and playing at its very best.
If the current development program continues as it is now, with the enthusiasm and commitment of staff on the ground like Mr Wilson, then Trump International has every chance of realizing its full potential. Truth be told, the course is not that far off the mark right now...
The tee boxes, the walkways, the fairways, the aprons and the greens all have different grass seed planted. The conditioning was absolutely immaculate and you can tell that attention to detail was at a premium.
Despite its problematic start to get off the ground, the
golf course is without question a magnificent creation which should
not be missed when in the area. In my humble opinion, it is among the
greatest courses in the UK for sure with amazing hospitality.