Royal Aberdeen

Royal Aberdeen

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

Royal Aberdeen sits approximately 125 miles north of Edinburgh and 100 miles west of Inverness on the east coast of Scotland. The Balgownie Course is the championship course and one of the truest linksland layouts in the game while the Silverburn Course is a very attractive short 18-hole course with nine par 3s. 
In recent years Royal Aberdeen, which claims to be the sixth oldest golf club in the world, has hosted the 2005 Senior British Open (won by Tom Watson), the 2011 Walker Cup, the 2014 Scottish Open and the 2018 Amateur Championship.
The narrow piece of land on which the course is laid out is barely broad enough for two fairways in places and the 9th green is located as far away from the clubhouse as is possible without setting foot on neighbouring Murcar, itself a links of some repute. Witness the famous story of visitors to Royal Aberdeen who went out to play and returned to the clubhouse only to find their car had been stolen. In fact, they had taken a wrong turn halfway round and wound up on the wrong course.
Quite how the respective clubhouses could be confused is a different question, but that shouldn’t be allowed to spoil a wonderful anecdote. And since Archie Simpson also had a say in the design of Murcar the change in courses might not have been immediately noticeable.
The architects’ work was later augmented by a third Simpson, Tom, JH Taylor and James Braid, who, failing to see how the routing could be improved, satisfied himself with merely adding further bunkers and length to the existing course. Since then little has changed – until a few years ago.
Anxious for the links to retain the same challenge to the modern player as it did to its predecessors a century ago, the club employed the services of Donald Steel to make such adjustments as he feels necessary on an ongoing basis. It is a bold step for such a traditional club to take. Steel’s first acts were to build a par 5 on a back nine that previously did not have one, and construct a new green to strengthen the 13th.
From the back tees, the course now stretches beyond 6,900 yards. In other words, it has been restored to the sort of challenge it was always intended to be. Behind the soft upholstery at the back of the main bar is the 1st tee where an over-enthusiastic or careless practice swing looks as though it could threaten the bay windows.
So no matter what your opening drive is like or however embarrassing its result, do not under any account mutter a curse – those enjoying a spot of lunch behind might be listening to every word. Balgownie is principally famous for the strength of its front nine and starts to a round do not come any more inspiring than this downhill par four, played towards the North Sea.
As befits a club where heritage and tradition rank higher than it does at most, their work bears all the hallmarks of classic Scottish links golf. Stride up the steps towards the clubhouse, for example, and you enter a world of dark oak and polished brass. In the vestibule you can admire one of the original uniforms of The Society of Aberdeen Golfers, a red coat that still looks smart enough to wear today, if a little awkward to play in.

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A Brief History of Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

Not many courses can make an authentic claim to be where golf began but Royal Aberdeen is one such special place. Historians have long contested the true origins of the Royal & Ancient game. It is known that activities involving clubs and balls were played in France and the Low Countries as early as the 16th Century. To the best of our knowledge it was via ships from these lands that the game was first introduced to the port of Aberdeen.
At what point these pastimes became golf as we know it is the crux of the debate, but it is far from fanciful to suggest it developed in its earliest forms right here in the Granite City. The earliest mention dates back to 1565, when it was classified as an ‘unlawful amusement’ in the Aberdeen Register.
Some two centuries later, and similar to their peers in Edinburgh at Muirfield, a formal club was formed: The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen. This was in 1780, a date that makes it officially the sixth oldest club in the world.
It was 35 years after that before The Aberdeen Golf Club came into existence, playing on the public links, and 1888 when they moved to the present site, north of the city at Balgownie. King Edward VII conferred the royal status early in the 20th Century.
Archie Simpson and his brother Robert, from Carnoustie, were commissioned to design the course and, just as Archie’s influence can be seen at nearby Nairn and Cruden Bay – to name but two – the local pros made the most of the quite exceptional piece of land available.
As befits a club where heritage and tradition rank higher than it does at most – the clubhouse when approached from the front entrance exudes a similar sense of gravitas to the R&A’s headquarters at St Andrews – their work bears all the hallmarks of classic Scottish links golf.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club Review | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The Front Nine

If it is possible to forget the looming presence of the clubhouse behind, there is a wonderful sense of liberation about driving towards the open fairway below, in the knowledge a great golfing adventure is about to unfold. From the 2nd tee, every hole in the front nine apart from the short 8th plays due north along the line of the coast.
The principal features are fairways following the lines of valleys and elevated, isolated tees built into the hills that flank the beach. Although not especially tight, the bunkers are cunningly situated: Desirable landing areas are narrow and subtle angles are often created, as at the par-five 2nd where a pair of bunkers some 50 yards short of the flag make you think twice before hitting a wood towards the green.
It’s hard to find a highlight on the front nine, such is the consistent excellence.  If for no other reason than it’s the shortest hole on the course, the 8th, where 10 bunkers must be avoided, sticks in the memory. Of the par fours, perhaps the 9th is the pick. Travelling first downhill then up, and gradually turning to the right, this is a hole where every yard must be earned, the green protected at the front by an ominously deep bunker.

The Back Nine

If the inward half pales by comparison, not least because it is further away from the sea, it’s still difficult to pinpoint a weak moment. As it plays into the prevailing wind, it’s generally the more difficult side to score on and Steel’s work on the 12th and 13th fits seamlessly into the course as a whole.
In all the appreciation of the front nine, the strength of Balgownie’s finish can be overlooked. On these last three holes the fairways once more become corridors and the land again pitches and falls.
In between par 4s of 417 and 440 yards comes a short hole played down towards the sea where the target is a green on three levels. The tee shot is difficult enough, but unless it finds not only the putting surface but the right tier, the second is even harder.
It doesn’t get any easier over the final hole, either, but on a course with such rich history, consolation can be taken that you certainly won’t be the first to have struggled home. In one way or another, your golfing ancestors have been engaged in similar ‘unlawful amusements’ round here for the best part of 500 years.

Why is it called Royal Aberdeen?

In 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen changed its name to the Aberdeen Golf Club and in 1903 the accolade of Royal favour was conferred on the club by His Majesty King Edward VII. 

How much is a green fee at Royal Aberdeen?

During the summer months, a green fee at Royal Aberdeen will cost £245. If you fancy playing two rounds between May and August, you can partake in the 36-Hole Challenge. That will set you back £410.

Royal Aberdeen also has caddies for hire, at a cost of £55. Club hire is £45 for a round, with a ride on buggy costing £80. Trolleys can be either £16 or £8 depending on whether they are electric or not.

Where is Royal Aberdeen located?

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club is situated on the east coast of Scotland, with Murcar Links to the north and the King's Links to the south. It is just three miles from the city centre of Aberdeen.

Visit Royal Aberdeen's website here.
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