The key courses
Big, bold and hard to ignore… of course it is. This modern masterpiece is maturing into its surroundings so it will naturally get better as time passes and grasses take deeper root.
It is a course that does not lack for the X Factor, routed through enormous dunes alien to the rest of Scotland and more likely to be seen in Ireland or on the back nine at Hillside in Southport.
Views from the elevated tees are predictably breathtaking but also means the North Sea breezes are a real factor in the experience.
The club was originally titled ‘The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen’ and was founded in 1780, so there are only five more senior in the world.
Over a century later the club began playing on land at Balgownie, the name the course is often given to this day.
The front nine has few peers in British golf, with a trio of wonderful holes to begin with: a downhill par 4 from in front of the clubhouse to a raised, sloping green with a beach backdrop; a superb par 5 between dunes; and the first of a fine collection of par 3s.
The back nine isn’t as explosive but is still solid stuff.
Created by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company and designed by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson, revisions have been made by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler.
This illustrious quartet have all played a part in presenting this crazy, brilliant links to an increasingly appreciative golf world.
Packed full of unforgettable holes, it is the favourite course in the whole of Scotland for some.
Along with North Berwick, Machrihanish and Prestwick, I view it as an essential experience for anyone who claims they enjoy the craziness of links courses.
Expect fast-running crumpled fairways, gorgeous turf and plenty of cracking holes. Expect sporty par 4s, blind shots, reachable par 5s and pot bunkers.
Expect a little less exciting experience just after the turn but still comfortably a Scottish Top 100 course.
A James Braid design at a club that is steeped in history, it offers rippling links fairways and pure-running greens and is another Scottish Top 100 fixture.
Here’s another… Newburgh dates back to 1888. In contrast, though, it is the front nine that warms you up on land further away from the coast for the classic seaside stuff you’ve really come for. Another Scottish Top 100 course.
Where to stay
Aikenshill House near Foveran is a former farmhouse that offers spacious rooms, hearty breakfasts and dinner if requested.
Ferryhill House Hotel on Bon Accord Street will put you up and feed you royally with pub grub – not least the vintage ‘cullen skink’.
There are two first-class play-and-stay bases. Four-star Meldrum House oozes class and staying at this luxury venue gains you access to the parkland course.
And at Trump Links you can stay in sumptuous MacLeod House, with some high-end but good-value deals available.
What to do
For sports fans you have Aberdeen FC in the heart of the city, the club at which Sir Alex Ferguson made his name. So something of a pilgrimage for Manchester United fans.
The Maritime Museum explores the history behind the city’s sea-faring past – from its fishing heritage to its oil industry.
Plants from all over the world feature at spectacular Duthie Gardens, whichhave been recently refurbished and apart from the external gardens there is also an award-winning enclosed winter garden.