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What others say

Royal Aberdeen Balgownie Links

This review, like a few others, could be over and dun with in only three words--JUST PLAY IT! But what the heck, you booted up this site for a review, not a command, so here goes. JUST PLAY IT!

Okay, okay, enough of that but I'm so enthusiastic about Royal Aberdeen golf course that I'm eager for anyone who loves golf--especially Scottish links golf--to experience this outstanding test...truly a royal treat.

Rambunctious rough on Royal Aberdeen

Few golf courses have impressed me more than Royal Aberdeen. This is links golf at its absolutely finest. I played it the first time on a sunny day in July, 2005, the week before the Senior Open Championship was to be played here. The golf course was in perfect shape, showing off its curves and rough in the most seductive way. A crisp wind was blowing--just enough to let me know how mean-spirited the golf course could get if I dared think I could better it. The Seniors found out the first day of play when the wind was blowing off the North Sea. Only a few of over one hundred golfers even broke par and all praised the golf course as being fair and an outstanding test of golfing skills.

Humps, bumps and hollows of Royal Aberdeen
Typical of the humps, bumps, and hollows of a classic links layout. There's never a guarantee that any drive will leave you with a level second shot.

Royal Aberdeen is a classic out and back layout with the outward nine (perhaps the finest front nine in all of golf) heading in a northerly direction with the North Sea constantly on your right. The inward nine return in a southerly direction. However, the holes are not oriented exactly north and south. Rather they are predominantly north and south but patterened at slightly varying angles so as to put the wind in a somewhat different position for each hole. Two of the par threes are oriented perpendicular to the general direction of the other holes to give yet another angle to the wind.

Royal Aberdeen 17 tee
The huge sand hills and sheltered valleys on Royal Aberdeen make it different than many links golf courses. In fact, it's loaded with elevation changes, with many raised tees giving a beautiful view of what's in store.

I had the joy and the advantage of playing Royal Aberdeen with a good friend, a member, who as a wee lad had caddied for this club. But even his descriptions of what lay ahead on the first fairway did not prepare me for the impact it makes. (In fact, Mary-Alice was planning to walk along with us for a few holes, but when she got closer to the first hole and saw the fantastic links lying before us she decided to walk the entire course.)

Your fun starts with a beautiful downhill opening hole of 409 yards with a fantastic view of the North Sea. The only challenge is that it's about ten feet in front of a large clubhouse window with whoever is having a drink watching your performance. Just shake off the first tee jitters and give it a whack. The fairway is wide and it's all downhill, so the ball will go further than you think. Your second shot will be the challenge because there is a monster hollow in the fairway about 75 yards in front of the elevated green

Royal Aberdeen 1st tee
View from the 1st tee. The wide fairway helps with those first-tee jitters. Looks easy but see below for what's over the horizon.

Royal Aberdeen 1st fairway
As you see, the dip in front of the 1st green is substantial as are the humps. And when the pin is tucked behind the bunker as it is here, you need all your skills for a birdie. (That's me on the right, with our friend Dave Harris of Bonnie Wee Golf.)

The second hole is the longest on the golf course at 554 yards from the medal tees with gorse, broom and heather on your left and the relentless North Sea on your right. This is followed by a long par 3. As the photo below shows, at 223 yards it's a monster of a par 3.

Royal Aberdeen 3rd tee
If the view from this tee doesn't get your golfing heart stirring, better check your pulse to make sure you're alive! At 223 yards, hope the wind is behind you on this par 3 third hole. Depending on which way it's blowing the average amateur golfer will hit anything from driver to 8 iron.

Royal Aberdeen 5th tee
A gentle fade over the bridge is the line on this 326 yard 5th hole. It's rated the fourth easiest but, as you can see, an accurate tee shot is still demanded.

Royal Aberdeen, with Richard in the bunker
Needless to say, it's a good idea to keep out of Royal Aberdeen's bunkers. They are penal and you often have to play out backwards just to get out. (Guess who's in there.)

One of the challenges in playing Royal Aberdeen is choosing which club to use. With all the humps and hollows short of the green, you have to decide whether to fly it onto the green and make it stop or run it up trying to judge the speed. In addition, because the fairway grass is cut so short, you also have the choice of putting from way, way off the green.

Royal Aberdeen 6th fairway
These twin bunkers are smack in the middle of the fairway on this par 5 sixth hole. Note how the contours of the fairway funnel the ball toward them. They are 295 from the medal tees but, if the wind is behind you and the ground is its usual hard surface, they are very reachable.

Royal Aberdeen 17th green
The 17th measures 180 yards with the wind usually blowing in sideways from the side off the North Sea. There are 5 bunkers lying in wait to catch any errant shots and yet this is rated the easiest hole on the golf course! Jeez-Louise, what's a hole have to look like to get some respect?

You won't find a finer example of Scottish links golf than Royal Aberdeen

So what's the verdict on Royal Aberdeen? As I said in the first sentence of this review--PLAY IT! You really won't find a finer example of links golf a' la Scotland. This is part of the coast where the game of golf was born. The Aberdeen Register, in 1565, lists golf one of the "unlawful amusements" (whatever that meant). So as far back as 73 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, they were playing golf here. I urge you to take part in an "unlawful amusement" and give this golf course a try. I guarantee you'll love it.

Royal Aberdeen bunker Royal Aberdeen 6th green
One of the many hilly fairways of Royal Aberdeen Royal Aberdeen is waiting for you !!!

Golf Nook Scotland rating - EAGLE

www.royalaberdeen.com


For What to Do All Day please see Aberdeen & Grampian Highlands