The New York Times ranked Aberdeen and the surrounding region of Aberdeenshire recently as number 24 on the list of places to visit in 2019. Golf was not mentioned specifically. But for lovers of links courses the 165 miles (256 km) stretch of the northeastern coastline is pure heaven.
Located in the northeast of Scotland, Aberdeenshire boasts breathtaking dunes. Some of them said to tower 100 feet (30,5 m) high. The natural beauty, the rich golfing heritage and the variety of courses from internationally heralded championship venues to widely unknown members’ courses elevated this area to one of the scenic golf destinations in the UK.
The links courses at Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links and Cruden Bay are rated among the world’s best. But quite a few hidden gems like Peterhead, Inverallochy, Fraserburgh or Cullen Links also offer traditional links feeling, challenges for low and high handicappers alike, great sea views and very competitive value for money.
Parkland courses in majestic settingInland there are dozens of parkland courses in forests and glens, on great estates and rugged heaths, in castle grounds and tree filled parks. The UK’s highest golf course is at Breamar in the upper reaches of Royal Deeside, where Aberdeenshire meets the Cairngorms National Park.
Nearby there’s a 9-hole course in the grounds of the fQueen’s summer retreat at Balmoral castle. Usually the course reserved for the royals and staff, but now open to fortunate bookers during the months when days are longest.
All together 55 courses are listed on the website of Visit Aberdeen. It is a great selection of playgrounds for all levels of golfing abilities and suitable for every budget.
The beauty of the region inspired some great names in golf course architecture. Like Old Tom Morris (Cruden Bay, Cullen Links), Archie Simpson, James Braid (Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links), Dr. Alister MacKenzie (MacKenzie Championship Course at Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen, Duff House Royal Club) and Dr. Martin Hawtree (Trump International Golf Links) to take advantage of mother nature’s gifts and to lay out or revise courses in this corner of Scotland.
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The fabolous four of Aberdeen
The regions reputation as a great golf destination is based foremost on their great links courses led by the “fab four” of Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links, Cruden Bay and Trump International Golf Links.
The first three are on the bucket list of many lovers of the traditional way the game of golf has been played for centuries. Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links are located next to each other within the city limits of Aberdeen. Royal Aberdeen was founded in 1780 and is the seventh oldest golf club in the world.
If you travel northbound from downtown Aberdeen along the coast you will find many more links courses. After 50 minutes on the A90 you’ll reach Peterhead Golf Club, founded in 1841 and the 18th oldest course in the world.
Park your car on the lot at the bank of River Ugie, cross the bridge to the clubhouse und you’ll see one of the best links courses of Scotland. Set among the dunes the 18 hole Craigewan Links is a classic example of Scottish seaside golf at its best. And golf at its toughest, even though with a length of 6147 Yards (5620 m) it is not long by modern standards.
But keep in mind: Yardage on links courses is irrelevant because of the breeze you have to battle most of the time. A second 18 hole course was established in 1923, however today it exists as 9-hole course appropriately named the «New Course».
Our next stop is at the village of Inverallochy, which is now part of the city of Fraserburgh. With 5436 Yards (4971 m) Inverallochy Golf Club is even shorter. But for most golfers even more fun. You play against the most beautiful backdrop in golf between rolling dunes and along pristine beaches and rugged rock shores.
From each and every hole you haven unobstructed views of the sea. This classic links course (founded in 1888) features six par-3 holes. If you think this course is a push-over try to break the course record of 57, ten under par, 67.
Only a few miles north and better known is Fraserburgh Golf Club founded in 1777 and the 7th oldest club in the world. The 18th hole of the Corbie Hill Course starts with a wide open flat fairway. But from the 2nd hole a wild ride over high dunes starts. Be prepared for an invigorating game around substantial sand dunes and an experience reminiscent of how golf must have been more than a century ago.
Wildly undulating fairways, sandy hills, wonderful views and some truly spectacular holes make Fraserburgh a true links adventure. The view from the 16th hole towards the North Sea and the Moray Firth, as well as the city of Fraserburgh, is alone worth the greenfee of £ 45. The club has another 9 holes, the 2400 Yards (2195 m) of the Rosehill Course.
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«Shoehorned into a small site along the beautiful beach at this crazy par-63 course (4600 Yards – 4206 m) is different than anything I’ve played and worth a visit just for the novelty of it», wrote renowned American golf architect Tom Doak after a round at Cullen Links Golf Club (pictured at top of the article).
Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, the doyen of this guild, came north in 1881 to build this course with criss-crossing fairways, wild elevation changes and tough par 3s. Cullen Links is proud to be one of the 84 true links courses in Scotland.
The Cullen Bay Hotel sits across the road from the 3rd hole giving stunning views of the lower section of the golf course with the 80ft high (24m) lump of red rock known as Boar Crag and the Moray Firth.
After your round of golf you should either stop at the Cullen Bay Hotel or Lily’s Kitchen Café in Cullen to taste one of Scotland traditional dishes, Cullen Skink. The thick soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes, milk and onions was created at the end of the 19th century in Cullen.
The village honors its tradition since 2012 with the «Cullen Skink World Championship» staged at the Cullen Bay Hotel. Ian Watson, part owner of the hotel, won the title three times but was deposed in November 2018 by his namesake Lynne Watson of Lily’s Kitchen Café. But he still won the title for the best Cullen Skink with a twist. Is there a better way to round up a golfing trip than meeting and tasting world champions?
Read more: Visit Aberdeen