|Many Murcar fans say it's as pure a links golf experience as you'll find in the Aberdeen and Grampian area. (Courtesy of murcarlinks.com)|
ABERDEEN, Scotland - Golf may have gotten its start in St. Andrews, but it didn't take long to start marching up the North Sea shoreline.
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club was founded in 1780, 16 years after the Old Course. Nowadays more than 70 golf courses dot the coastal country from Dundee to Aberdeen. With a mix of parkland courses and some of the British Isles' most highly rated links, the region is a top-flight golf destination.
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club: The sixth-oldest golf club in the world is home to Balgownie Links, which features a shore-hugging outward nine considered by many to be the best stretch of links golf in Scotland. Membership is still the best way to get on, but a few hours each day are set aside for public tee times.
The course was renovated in the late '90s but remains a traditional Scottish links, heavily bunkered with undulating fairways and a fine balance of long and short par 4s and tricky par 3s. Although it has only two par 5s, Balgowie plays a difficult 6,850 yards from the back tees.
Murcar Golf Links: Just a chip shot from the more famous Royal Aberdeen, Murcar has been making a name for itself of late with a major renovation that has won raves from the likes of 1999 British Open champion (and Aberdeen native) Paul Lawrie.
Along with a £750,000 clubhouse renovation, Murcar redid the practice range and short-game area and added five new tees and 11 new bunkers to the course proper, among other changes. The improvements helped the club lure the European Challenge Tour for a July 6 event, the tour's first trip to Scotland in 12 years.
Opened in 1909 and upgraded in the '30s by James Braid, Murcar is a traditional links layout kept in near-flawless condition. It's one of the most challenging plays in the Aberdeen area, especially when the wind howling.
Cruden Bay Golf Club: A dramatic links laid out by Old Tom Morris amid stunning views and steeply rolling topography, Cruden Bay has its share of quirks, from blind shots to major elevation changes. Famed designer Pete Dye, no stranger to uniquely difficult tracks, is a fan, calling this track north of Aberdeen "outsized, nonconformist, unpredictable and flamboyant."
Solid parkland plays include Alister MacKenzie's No. 1 at Hazlehead Golf Course just outside Aberdeen, considered the best of the public facility's three tracks, and heavily wooded Meldrum House Golf Club, which counts Lawrie as a member.
The Red House Hotel across the street from Cruden Bay is cozy and affordable, and staff go out of their way to accommodate golfers. The pub serves outstanding meals and, naturally, an assortment of fine ales and whiskies. From your breakfast table you can see the course and the bay beyond.
For a more upscale option right near downtown Aberdeen, the Marcliffe Hotel & Spa is a great five-star alternative in a scenic, retreat setting but just minutes from the heart of the city. It's also easily accessible to the main roads that lead up the coastline to Royal Aberdeen, Murcar and Cruden Bay.
For the most varied options, your best bet is to head to downtown Aberdeen. Best bets include Ardoe House Hotel, which applies a hint of French technique to regional ingredients, and Gerard's, an Aberdeen institution serving top-notch game, seafood and local Angus beef.
October 18, 2006
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Dublin is Ireland's largest and most tourist-friendly city, with marquee attractions from the Book of Kells to the Guinness brewery, But Ireland's best known golf courses are almost all on the west coast, in the northwest or in Northern Ireland. Because of this, many golfers on wish-list trips never set foot in the capital. That's a shame, because a trip to Dublin can combine the charms of all things urban and Irish with exceptional -- and inexpensive -- links and parkland golf.
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