Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Balgownie Links), Aberdeen, Scotland

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Balgownie Links) – Review and Rating

As you enter the clubhouse at Royal Aberdeen it feels like you're stepping back in time. A small golf museum greets you right inside the front door.

Royal Aberdeen was founded already in 1780. This makes it the sixth oldest golf club in the world. It was originally situated close to the city of Aberdeen, but in 1888 a new location was found across the River Don and the current links at Balgownie was laid out by the Simpson Brothers of Carnoustie. Over the years the course was lengthened by James Braid, and further improved by Donald Steel and Hawtree.

The classic clubhouse features both a formal dining room (don't forget your jacket and tie) and a more casual lounge. Both feature stunning views of the first hole and the North Sea. When you sit in the lounge you almost get the feeling of being on the first tee, you are that close. If you are usually nervous on the first tee, don't go into the lounge before your game!

The pro shop is set in a separate building just off the first tee. It is well stocked with everything you need, and has very nice rental clubs if you didn't bring your own.

Getting a tee time

Be aware that tee times for visitors are restricted to a few hours per day, generally in the early afternoon. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays also have some late morning tee times available. If you are a 2 ball, showing up on weekdays at 8 AM may get you out on the course.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club Information
Address Links Road,  Bridge of Don, AB23 8AT Aberdeen, , Scotland (View map)
Phone +44(0)1224 702571
Total # of holes18

Classic clubhouse and echoes of history aside, what you probably came here for is the golf course. You won’t be disappointed. The first nine holes have been called the best front nine in the world, and we tend to agree.

The first hole is a downhill par four, heading straight down to the edge of the North Sea. No particular difficulties, except for the aforementioned spectators in the lounge, and a devious pot bunker on the right. Plus a severely sloping green.

Starting with the second, the remaining holes on the front nine run parallel to the North Sea, away from the clubhouse. The holes vary between being sheltered among the dunes and being higher up and exposed to the wind. Some of the holes run in narrow valleys almost reminiscent of half-pipes. Often the ball will be funneled towards the middle of the fairway, but if you are too far off line you’ll find yourself in heavy rough so punishing that it was on this course that the five minute rule for searching for you ball was first invented.

All of the holes on the front nine are great holes, but a few stand out.

Hole number two sets the tone for the front nine, a par five in what is almost a tunnel carved between the high dunes. With normally firm fairways and playing with the prevailing wind, you can achieve fantastic length off the tee if you can keep it on the fairway. But pot bunkers can easily ruin your day, so study the course guide carefully.

Number three is a very long par three from a raised tee. Here you will need to take the wind into account, as this hole can demand almost any club in your bag depending on wind speed and direction.

The next few holes follow in the same vein, following the natural landscape with its dunes and valleys in an absolutely beautiful way. While enjoying the beauty you need to stay sharp to avoid trouble.

The 8th is the signature hole, a short par three that wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the ten (10!) bunkers protecting the green. Add a bit of wind to this, and the challenge is superb.

The 9th is a slight dogleg right par four, uphill and over a burn. It will require more club than you think, and unless you are a very long hitter it might be wise to play it like a par five.

While not as famous as the front nine, the back nine coming back to the clubhouse are not a piece of cake either.  They are a bit shorter than the front, but you most often play into the prevailing wind, so the level of difficulty is about the same, even harder by some accounts. The holes are laid out above the first nine, more exposed to the elements and with magnificent views of the North Sea. The natural landscape is a bit different than the first nine, not as undulated, but still with a few blind tee shots and some hidden valleys.

The last four holes are the best on this side. The 15th is a nice risk and reward par four, dogleg right to a green well defended by three bunkers. On the 16th, the main difficulty is sticking your approach shot, as the green slopes away from you.

The 17th could also be a signature hole. You tee of towards the North Sea on the 175 yard par three, hitting to a multi-tiered green. Needless to say, you need to be on the right tier to score.

The 18th is a worthy finish to this magnificient course. One of the most difficult par fours on the course, it is both long and uphill, and littered with bunkers. If you navigate it properly you should feel proud.

Who should play this course? The course is a true test for the better golfer, but it is really a course for anyone, as long as you adjust your expectations accordingly. Accuracy is more important than length off the tee, as you can get into serious trouble in the rough. Keep it short and straight, and enjoy the magnificent scenery and you should have a wonderful time at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. We did. Highly recommended.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Balgownie Links) Information
Number of holes18
Greenfee, 1 (low) - 5 (high)5
Course AvailabilityLimited tee times available to Public
Course TypeLinks
Year Opened1790



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