Dating back to the formation of the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen in 1780 Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in the world. A sense of golf legacy is felt everywhere you go on the property. For the first hundred years golf was just played on ground within the town but in 1887 the land just north of the estuary of River Don at Balgownie was leased and the Simpson Brothers helped bring this historic links to life. Willie Park Sr. and Tom Simpson later took their part at shaping these links.
The first nine holes are considered by some among the very best in Scotland as they wind through the full rapture of links features-towering dunes, rolling fairways, gorse, heather, and tightly textured seaside turf. You cannot help but be caught up in the course’s beguiling solitude and seclusion. As you often see from courses of this era Royal Aberdeen is the classic out and back links arrangement.
The second nine is shorter and runs along the high plateau overlooking the front nine. You are likely to see an opposite direction in the wind influence over the inward nine. Some say this side lacks many of the features that make the front so memorable but there is an array of blind tee shots, hidden troughs, and very difficult putting surfaces to keep the challenge fresh.
What I enjoy about this place is that the links design gives the greens keeper the latitude to make the course playable each day as the wind changes. The greens are sufficiently long to allow for back pins down wind and front pins when the gale is in your face. Plenty of options to use the ground as your friend on approach shots. Take careful note that often the fronting green side bunkers are not at the green but well short of the putting surface to accommodate this option to feed approach shots onto the green.
The greens have lots of undulations which again provide the creative player with ways to carefully maneuver pitch shots to snuggle up to the hole. The game inside of fifty yards at Royal Aberdeen may provide some of the most lasting memories of the day.
As mentioned tradition is on display in troves throughout the clubhouse. You will see documents that show the first interclub tournaments held in the late 1800’s with guys from St. Andrews, Dornoch, Prestwick, and others. Those away games must have been a hoot. In 1783 the folks at Royal Aberdeen were responsible for establishing a five minute time limit on search for a lost ball. The Royal and Ancient adopted this practice shortly thereafter. Other concepts Royal Aberdeen introduced include that the winner of a hole is entitled to the “honor” of playing first on the next hole and that the ball furthest from the hole is played first.
There are elaborate uniforms of the membership, endless pieces of competitive memorabilia, and wonderful pictures of the recognizable champions who have played and won in competitions contested on these links. Make sure to lunch in the grill room that overlooks the first tee it provides one of the great panoramic views of links golf in Scotland.
The golf shop is a kitchy little building just below the first tee. Nooks and crannies full of stuff you will be temped to buy. As is often the case in Scotland, no practice area is evident. Hit some putts on the practice green and just soak in the gestalt of this place to prepare to play. If you are a discerning player this is a links experience you will never forget. Don’t say you were not warned……..the devil is in the details so make sure to read the hole-by-hole descriptives below.
Architect: Robert and Archie Simpson (1890)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 71 6861 74.3 145
White 71 6497 72.7 142
Yellow 71 6214 71.3 140
(Click here to review the complete Royal Aberdeen hole-by-hole descriptions)
For more pictures click to review Northern Scotland-Day 6b: Royal Aberdeen Golf Club