By Jamie Hore, Travel Designer & Golf Specialist
We will take you to Scotland’s northeast, to Aberdeenshire to be more specific to look at some of the best golf clubs in Scotland.
The North East of Scotland embodies much of what Scotland is famous for – abounding scenery, historical castles, whisky trails, and an amazing array of golf courses. From traditional seaside links that boast a fearsome test to more inland, subtler tests, Aberdeenshire has every type of challenge you can think of. Many of the golf courses are more than 100 years old and give you a vintage taste of Scottish golf. Speaking of vintage tastes, the area is littered with Whisky Distilleries which offer a great post-golf activity when you’re on tour here, such as Glen Garioch. Whether you want to play golf in the morning and do whisky tasting in the evening or leave an entire day to whisky tasting, Aberdeenshire is arguably the best option for whisky tasting during your golf tour.
Depending on what lists you look at Aberdeenshire has two of Scotland’s top 10 golf courses – Royal Aberdeen & Trump International Golf Links. Meanwhile Cruden Bay sits just outside of the top 10, meaning that the area has 3 out of the top 15 courses in Scotland. Furthermore, there are another 6 golf courses in the Top 100 that can add to your golf tour of Aberdeenshire.
Jamie’s Favorite – Trump International Golf Links Scotland
Situated just north of the city of Aberdeen you will find Trump International Golf Links – Scotland. The course was designed by Martin Hawtree, who has vast experience with setting up golf courses for the Open Championship. Hawtree was tasked with designing a course worthy to host an Open Championship, and design one he did. 17 of the 18 holes run North/South along the coast, some say that this type of golf course design lacks imagination but why would you give up all of that amazing dune-land when it is available to you.
The first highlight is the par 3 third hole, the tee boxes are sheltered and scattered amongst the dunes with the green backing onto the beachfront framed by the North Sea. Holes 13 and 14 are special, the par 3 thirteenth is the only hole that goes west to east. Playing downhill into green in a valley, framed by dunes and the North Sea it whets the appetite for what is to come on 14. As you walk from the 13th green to the 14th through the dunes you are met by the sound of crashing waves and a view of the North Sea. For me, the 14th hole is the signature hole at Trump International Golf Links Scotland. Teeing off from atop a dune, the big thing that catches your eye is the North Sea to the right, the fairway is is framed by dunes right and left giving you no room for error
The critique from some is that the golf course is too hard, and I can see that. It certainly is a difficult golf course but you have to remember it was designed to host championships. There are a variety of tee options there and don’t be afraid of playing one tee forward than where you usually would, I am almost certain you will enjoy your day more.
Hidden Gem – Murcar Links
My hidden gem for golf in Aberdeenshire is Murcar Links. Some might ask why Murcar Links is a hidden gem for me when it is constantly in the top 40 golf courses in Scotland, but to be honest I hadn’t heard a whole lot about it until recently.
Situated between Trump International Golf Links and Aberdeen, and right next door to Royal Aberdeen, the course is over 110 years old now. The length of the course would make you think that this would be a relatively easy test, but it is far from that. It is set on a classic stretch of links land with big sand dunes, crumpled fairways, heather, and burns. Sometimes the fairways are cruelly tight and the ball has a habit of bouncing and rolling off them into the rough, which in places can be very thick. This is a course about controlling your misses and not about overpowering the golf course. You really get some stunning views from the raised tee boxes and the greens are either raised tabletops or set amongst the dunes.
The two highlights are the 7th holes and the 16th hole. The 7th hole is called ‘Serpentine’ the reason being you have to navigate a weaving burn, a ravine to the right, and thick rough to the left with your tee shot, but somewhere there is a fairway. The 16th hole is a par 3 where you tee off over a ravine and a burn, with gorse bushes to the right of the green and framed by the North Sea behind.
A Course for the Bucket List – Cruden Bay Golf Club
It feels like every time I have to make a pick for my bucket list it is always going to be a very difficult decision. On this occasion, I was trying to pick between Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay. And at the end of the day I have decided to go with Cruden Bay, but to be honest I want to add both of them to it.
Situated further north than all of the other courses mentioned today, to me there is a mystique to Cruden Bay. From the pictures and videos, I have seen the dunes here are dramatic and, maybe because I am Irish, I love links golf courses framed by massive dunes and in Scotland, they are a lot rarer than across the water in Ireland. So with that in mind, I want to see Scotland’s version of links golf amongst massive dunes and compare it up to those in Ireland.
And with that Cruden Bay joins my bucket list of golf courses to play.
Jamie’s Bucket List (so far):