The Golfer's Guide to Aberdeenshire

Published 02/12/2013 06:35:00

Into the Rough speaks to four local experts to show you around a region with everything from hidden gems to superstar links

Firstly, what are the region's best value courses?

Dennis: The likes of Banchory and Aboyne represent excellent value for money and what they do is lay on high teas or meals to accompany you round, making it an even better value package.
Joel: Kemnay is right up there - a quality parkland course you can play for about £30 and it's as good as you'd pay £70-80 for elsewhere. Another one would be Craibstone Golf Centre which closed down last year but is now back in business. It is very welcoming and has a strong layout.
Ryan: The municipal courses here all provide excellent value, specifically Hazlehead which has two strong 18-hole parkland layouts plus a nine-holer.

Where would you recommend for a serious test of golf?

John: Royal Aberdeen is definitely the test. Nothing compares. Off the white tees when the wind is blowing, it's as tough as it gets. Cruden Bay can be pretty challenging, too, but at Royal Aberdeen you've got to know where you're putting the ball off the tee and if you're not in the right place, it's difficult to find the green.
Dennis: Cruden Bay is an excellent links. Sure, it's quirky in areas but overall it's a nice and challenging links. Also, Murcar is a super course and for me it's a toss up between that and Cruden Bay for the next best after Royal Aberdeen.
Joel: Royal Aberdeen, though I haven't played the new Trump International course yet. But Royal Aberdeen is much tighter than any other course in the area though that doesn't destroy the enjoyment factor.

Where will golfers find the best conditioning, including quality tees and greens?

John: Again, Royal Aberdeen sticks out as it's way above average.
Joel: Meldrum House is always a fantastic course to play and though in the higher price bracket is an outstanding alternative to the great links. Deeside GC , located  at the Bridge of Dee end of town, is a high-end private club and is also very good. You've got to put Royal Aberdeen in there as well - the green staff do a fantastic job.
Ryan: All the links courses are superb and we're very fortunate that because we're so close to the coast we can generally play them throughout the year, which is very unusual for this part of the world.

It isn't all about the top links then?

Dennis: There are quite a few good inland courses as well. You can go to Deeside while Ballater is a great layout and usually in good condition as well as being long enough to be challenging.

Any 'fun' courses in the region?

Dennis: Aboyne and Banchory are a couple of shorter courses which are fun for mid-high handicappers, but challenging enough for better players.
John: Ellon is a nice little course on the way to Cruden Bay. It's not too tough and pretty reasonably priced. I would also suggest the shorter of the two courses at Newmachar.
Joel: The nine-holer at Auchenblae fits the bill with six par 3s ranging from 150-240 yards.
Ryan: Deesude and Peterculter are very nice and Ellon provides an easy but very enjoyable round

What about hidden gems?

Dennis: Ballater must be considered: it's a great place to play, as is Portlethen, a nice layout and quite a long course.
John: Balnagask is a nice wee course and Stonehaven is meant to be great.
Joel: Not many people from outside the area will have heard of Kemnay, but I can assure you, you won't be disappointed.
Ryan: Newmachaar will be unknown to most readers but it's very good and Stonehaven is also worth experiencing.

Best for clubhouse and facilities?

Dennis: Banchory has a really nice clubhouse overlooking the course and the food is good and reasonably priced. Deeside GC, slightly more upmarket, has a lovely clubhouse overlooking Dee Valley and the food is excellent, though a bit more expensive. Newmachar boasts two courses, a nice clubhouse and huge driving range.
John: You'll find one of the great courses at Cruden Bay - the views are second to none.
Joel: Murcar has a nice spacious clubhouse, is very welcoming to visitors with friendly staff and servers good food. Meldrum House has a lovely clubhouse plus fantastic practice facilities and I hear the food at Trump International is very good. But Cruden Bay probably has the best clubhouse of all, it's absolutely fantastic.

Any super signature holes?

John: At Royal Aberdeen you've got the par-3 8th where up to 10 bunkers guard the green while the 18th is one of the best finishing holes around. Another candidate would be Cruden Bay's par-3 4th which looks up to Slains Castle.
Joel: Yes, Royal Aberdeen's 8th with its slither of a green plus the short par-4 15ths on Deeside's Old Course, involving a tight tee short between trees before a shot over a burn guarding a small green.
Ryan: Royal Tarlair has a cracking par-3 signature hole (13th) where you fire the ball out to sea with the green right on the edge of the cliffs. The first par 3 at Cruden Bay is also spectacular.

Stay-and-play recommendations?

Dennis: It's best to head for the city centre where accommodation ranges from B&Bs to luxury hotels and you can still get to most courses fairly comfortably.
John: The city hotels are very busy in midweek and charge top prices. The place to stay in Aberdeen is the five-star Marcliffe Hotel, whose owner is a member at Royal Aberdeen so golfers are well looked after there.
Joel: Meldrum House is a lovely hotel with a splendid parkland course and great practice facilities.
Ryan: There's plenty of accommodation but I wouldn't call it affordable as it's al;l driven by the local oil industry. It is expensive here.

What about the cheap and cheerful venues?

Dennis: Municipal course Hazlehead definitely falls into this category. It's a fantastic layout though not in as good condition as it used to be - 25 years ago it was probably one of the best inland courses in this area. The local authority doesn't seem to be spending a lot of money on it, but it has got loads of potential.

Finally, the region's best course?

Dennis: Royal Aberdeen is the best in terms of layout and year-round condition. There are a lot of really good courses around but most people would consider Royal Aberdeen the number one.
Joel: Royal Aberdeen followed by Meldrum House . Hard to compare as Meldrum is a parkland course, but both are courses I love.
Ryan: Royal Aberdeen, though Trump's spectacular new course is coming on and is likely to be a challenger when it comes of age.


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