Image by Kevin Murray.
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To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
The Royal Aberdeen, Balgownie Links are the sixth oldest course in the world, and the club has also made its own unique contribution to the game of golf. It was here that the five minute lost ball rule was first introduced. So should you suffer the misfortune of dumping one in the gorse and failing to retrieve it to a penalty, at least there’s a consolation of sorts in knowing that you did so at the rules spiritual home!
|Yardage||Championship course 6910 yds|
|GB & Ireland Ranking||17th in GB & Ireland|
|Handicap Restrictions||24 for both men and women|
Royal Aberdeen, Balgownie Links
The Course itself
As you might expect from a course of this age, Royal Aberdeen follows the traditional nine out, and nine back lay-out, and is actually one of Scotland’s more spectacular links courses due in no small part to the dunes that get progressively larger the further north they run
It’s normally the outward nine that most players salivate over on the Royal Aberdeen, Balgownie Links. The first hole is a straight drive to one of the more deceitful greens that slopes off towards you with the beach behind. After having accomplished this you now embark on a wunderlust to the turn.
The second is a par 5 played along an undulating fairway over hillocks, and through protected valleys. Tempting though it might be to let rip, don’t be deceived. The chances are that a spiteful wind will be in play the moment you allow the ball to have its head and break the cover afforded by the dunes.
The third is the hardest of the par three’s by SI, due in no small part to its length, but the most difficult hole awaits you next at the fourth. The secret here is the tee shot. You simply have to achieve length, but playing from an elevated tee requires you to ride the wind.
The fifth is extremely well defended by bunkers and performs a little bit like a spiders web inviting you to get too close. Don’t be seduced. The sensible strategy is to hang off a bit and try to enter the green from a bit further back where there is nothing like the trouble to catch length seekers.
The sixth is a short par five played into a sunken valley. The key is the second shot played into a narrowing bottleneck. Thread the needle and a birdie awaits. Beware however, the putting surface is patrolled by sandy sentinels waiting to bury you.
The seventh is another seductive siren that shows you enough of her charms to tempt you into following her. It’s a dog leg that tantalises you with a glimpse of fairway, and dares you to go after it with your tongue hanging out. The more you get suckered into doing so, the harder the following shot can become though. It’s only when you survey the second that you realise what you’ve done. Staring back at you is potentially a horrible angle onto a well defended narrow green. All that yardage saved might not seem worth it all of a sudden.
The eighth is the courses signature hole, and like so many in Scotland, is another charismatic par three. This one relies on a phalanx of small deep pot bunkers (9 in total) to ring the perimeter and snap out at you like a many headed hydra. The only solution is to get straight to the heart and hit the target first up.
The ninth is an arching par 4, which requires that you fly the burn, whilst a bunker waits to gather up those who are tempted to cut the corner at 290yds. Gorse and thick rough are also in play down the left. As always there is a solution. Just hit a perfect uphill second. Easy game golf isn’t it?
The outward nine are played adjacent to the sea. As you turn around for the return run, the nature of the course completely changes. The inward leg is played on a higher elevation. As you might expect the wind is very much more in play and coming from the opposite direction now. The only consolation is that you’re unlikely to have to read it’s fickle moods, as you’re deprived of the cover that the dunes might have afforded you to weave into your strategy. Instead it’s just a full-on battle!; no subtle shadow boxing or deft feints to slip the worst of it are available. Grit your teeth, and battle your way back home.
A new twist was leant to the thirteenth in the 2014 Scottish Open when Rory McIlroy drove the par four 436yd green, catching out the camera crew who were positioned on a length more consistent with humanoids, and the group in front, who suddenly found an errant ball rolling onto the putting surface from nowhere
The back nine starts to come alive from 14 onwards. This is a heinous opponent. A dry ditch bisects the fairway on 230yds and will grateful accept any errant bouncing balls that don’t accord it due respect. It places a premium on the tee shot, but you’re still required to execute another one, which is played over an old dyke and into a narrow well guarded green.
The fifteenth involves another blind tee-shot; a one time staple of the traditional links courses, which have perhaps been sadly eroded in response to modern demands made by tournament professionals. We’re not so sure that at least one shouldn’t be made compulsory! The harbour-side lighthouse is on the natural line and provides something of an aesthetically pleasing and nautical pointer in the landscape to guide you in. Isn’t that what a lighthouse is for?
The 4-3-4 finish is one of the toughest in Scotland. The sixteenth plays to the top of the hill and permits those who gain the heights a strategic advantage of being able to direct their fire onto the target below. Otherwise we’re afraid its a peep over the top, a quick walk back to your ball, and a blind lob of faith!
The seventeenth is a par 3 that is again very well defended and designed to punish the errant and reward the accurate. It’s a three-tiered affair though, so even finding the surface is only qualified sanctuary. Reward only comes with the correct level.
With a favourable wind you could catch a decent downslope bounce on the closing eighteenth, but more often than not you’re going to be fencing with gorse instead if you get drawn into honouring the par 4 assignation and over stretching for length. When played into the wind, this hole is probably the hardest on the course.
All players should hold a current handicap certificate and a letter of introduction from an accredited golf club which must be available for inspection. Failure to do so may, regrettably, result in the facility of the course being refused. The Royal Aberdeen, Balgownie Links is a challenging course and so handicaps for both ladies and gentlemen should be no higher than 24.
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving Range Available||Yes|
|Rental Carts Available||No|
|Caddies||Yes, but can be limited|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|