Scotland’s North East region, centred round bustling Aberdeen, is often overlooked by visiting golfers. Big mistake!
The area is home to some truly stunning links including Royal Aberdeen, Trump International Golf Links and unique, brilliant Cruden Bay – one of Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the world.
Par 70, 6,609 yards
The course: Cruden Bay is great fun on a grand scale; towering sand hills, cavernous bunkers and dramatic plateau greens abound. Shooting a good score relies on getting the right feel for the bumps, hollows and blind shots which must be negotiated, while the raised putting surfaces put a particular emphasis on the short game. The huge dunes come into play often; tees are perched on the top of some, greens are hidden behind others. No golfer ever forgets playing Cruden Bay – it’s an 18 hole rollercoaster.
Signature hole: The 6th is a stunning par 5. A good drive leaves the enticing prospect of a long approach over sandy wastes and a burn to a raised green.
What makes it special? A yardage book is no help to you here – trust your game and use your instinct to make a good score.
Trump International Golf Links, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire
Par 72, 7,428 yards
The course: This modern championship track,designed by Dr. Martin Hawtree, follows a classic pattern of two out-and-back nine hole loops. All 18 holes thread their way through mighty dunes. Add drives from elevated tees, heavily contoured greens with a profusion of run-offs, rivetted bunkers and lush green fairways lined with heavy fescues – the course is aesthetically stunning. Select your tees carefully in line with your game and the weather as the wrong choice would do nothing for your soul!
Signature hole: The 445-yard par-4 fourteenth is breathtaking. The elevated tee offers a mesmeric vista of the hole as it cuts through the Great Dunes of Scotland with the North Sea and the dramatic coastline to the right and a fairway below plunging into a secluded valley.
What makes it special? Donald Trump, owner and 45th President of the United States, named it the world’s greatest golf course. Would the President lie to you? Play it and decide for yourself!
Par 71, 6,885 yards
The course: For many years one of Scotland’s under-appreciated gems, Royal Aberdeen’s profile has risen in recent years thanks to successfully hosting events such as the 2005 Seniors British Open (won by Tom Watson), the 2011 Walker Cup and the 2014 Scottish Open (won by Justin Rose). The opening nine holes, stretching away from the clubhouse into a vast network of sand dunes, are unforgettable. The back nine is less spectacular but just as challenging thanks to penal bunker complexes.
Signature hole: The short 8th plays to a green wedged between sand dunes and protected by no fewer than 10 bunkers.
What makes it special? Royal Aberdeen’s stunning outward nine is as good a sequence of links holes as any to be found on the British Isles.
Murcar Links, Aberdeen
Par 71, 6,516 yards
The course: As with neighbouring Royal Aberdeen, the links at Murcar has recently enjoyed a return to prominence, thanks to hosting events on the men’s European Tour. The layout is notable for incorporating several changes of direction which presents particular problems when the wind blows – as it often does in this part of Scotland. The front nine includes a memorable stretch of holes through beach-side dunes, while the back nine includes several sharp changes in elevation, adding to the difficulty.
Signature hole: The 16th is a medium length par 3 to a raised green which is usually played into the prevailing wind. A snaking burn, acres of gorse and deep pot bunkers cause the danger.
What makes it special? An elegant links through undulating dunes, Murcar boasts a multitude of risk/reward shots.