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.
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.
The Balgownie Links 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. 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.
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 but no less enjoyable.