Next year is shaping up to be a memorable one for the North East of Scotland with the region hosting its first-ever European Tour event.
Royal Aberdeen, above, will do the honours, when it stages the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open – the eighth different venue to do so – and some big names have already confirmed their attendance.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson will be back to defend the title he won in such thrilling fashion at Castle Stuart earlier this year, whilst Rory McIlroy has already indicated his intention to peg it up. The former world No.1’s fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, is also expected to feature, along with many other top stars.
As such, the eyes of the world will descend upon the region – and not before time. The North East embodies everything that is great about Scottish golf. There are now over 70 courses within the boundaries of the Aberdeen and Grampian area and every layout offers an exhilarating golfing adventure.
Paul Lawrie, the winner of the Open Championship in 1999, is perhaps the North East’s biggest fan – so much so that he refuses to live elsewhere.
The Aberdeen-born professional now has his own golf facility, the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, just outside Aberdeen, but has a fondness for many of the other courses near his home and advises many visitors to do likewise.
“We have some wonderful links courses in the North East,” says the Ryder Cup hero. “We take pride in our golf here and extend a warm welcome to visiting golfers.”
He’s right, too. Aside from Royal Aberdeen, there are many other famous courses to play, including the much-hyped Trump International Golf Links and Cruden Bay.
Trump’s course, above, weaves through the magnificent Balmedie dunes and, whatever your take on the controversy over its development, you simple cannot deny that, as a golf course, it is right up there with the best in the world. It is an instant classic.
Cruden Bay is equally enjoyable. Designed at the end of the 19th century to coincide with the development of the Great North of Scotland railway, its two courses follow routes plotted out thousands (if not millions) of years ago between the North East landscape’s towering sand dunes.
In keeping with the links theme, Murcar Links is a beautiful exponent of seaside golf. Its championship course has hosted many national amateur and professional events through the years and never fails to impress. It is, indeed, a championship links of some notoriety and in the finest of Scottish traditions. Stonehaven also fits that bill. Situated on the Braes of Cowie, steep cliffs feature on many of the holes, with some of the par-3s played over deep gullies.
Aberdeen’s hinterland is awash with opportunity for golfers.
Heading along the A96 from Lossiemouth to Aberdeen you will soon realise that the North East isn’t just about seaside golf – and the likes of Huntly and Inverurie will show just that. Inland courses are in quick supply in this part of the world and chances are a few holes on the above venues will have you heading for Aberdeen with a spring in your step.
Aberdeen’s hinterland is awash with opportunity for golfers. The area of Deeside is full of intrigue and all levels of player will relish a round at Braemar, in the west, and Royal Deeside, in the east of the area. Don’t depart without dropping by Banchory, Aboyne or Ballater, other top courses in the Deeside area that should be high up on your North East itinerary.
The city itself throws up many a golfing gem. Hazlehead has three layouts, the most famous being the Dr Alister Mackenzie-designed No.1 course. Kings Links should also be called upon for a round while a short drive away you’ll find Newmachar, below, Meldrum House, and Oldmeldrum, to the north-west of Newmachar.
While the A96 splits the region in half and offers the welcoming prospect of adventuring inland, the scenic route will allow you to become embroiled in the delight that is the North East coastline, particularly the Moray Coast, a seemingly never-ending stretch of sand and sea that is dotted with wondrous links.
In this part of the North East, names such as Duff House Royal, Royal Tarlair and the delightful Rosehearty will leave you full of glee and no doubt yearning for more.
If that is, indeed, the case then you’re in the right part of Scotland. Golf is very much a part of daily life in these parts and the locals are known for their golfing knowledge and enthusiasm. Another part of local life is whisky, the region being home to numerous distilleries and whisky tours which never cease to bring a smile to the face of first time visitors.
As previously mentioned, the North East never sits still and many new courses have opened for play to great applause in recent years. Aboyne Loch is ideal for visitors who are simply in the mood for a quick, fun-filled round
Indeed, the North East is proof that Scotland has more to offer the visitor than first meets the eye. This is a region where you will get much more than you bargained for and leave the better off for it!
Is your ‘Best Experience’ in the North East?
Vote in Scotland’s Best Experience – perhaps for a club in the North East – and your name will go into a hat to win one of the following:
• A slot in the pro-am at the Scottish Hydro Challenge in 2014
• A slot in the pro-am at the Ladies Scottish Open in 2014
• Season tickets for four to the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen in 2014
Cast your vote now at www.bunkered.co.uk/bestexperience
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