• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Smart linking

The creation of the Trump International Links may have been deeply controversial but it's started a golfing boom in the north east.

Bookings at Meldrum House, for instance, are up four-fold as golfers visit the area to play three or four courses. Hopes are high, too, that Royal Aberdeen's selection as the host for next year's Scottish Open Championship will boost the region's reputation.

The benefit to the Granite City cannot be overstated. In both Edinburgh and Glasgow, occupation is generally higher at the weekends than in mid-week, both cities having a very strong leisure market. By contrast, the oil industry means Aberdeen's midweek corporate market is exceptionally strong.

Yet on a trip that encompassed visits to the well-appointed Thistle Altens, stylish Malmaison and sumptuous Marcliffe Hotel, the message was that there is vast spare capacity at weekends in Aberdeen which means countless bargains.

The completion of Trump International followed so quickly by Royal Aberdeen's emergence into the spotlight cannot fail to increase interest.

Admittedly, in the case of the latter, there is what some of us consider the rather unsavoury aspect of it being among those courses which refuses to permit female members.

However, taken purely on its golfing merits, the front nine in particular is worthy of comparison with any of Scotland's great links.

The course opens with a dramatic and fairly unusual fashion with a drive directly towards the North Sea, while what is arguably its best hole also comes unexpectedly early, the par-five second wending its way through the dunes majestically and setting the tone for what is to come on that wondrous outward half.

As well as the quality of the lay-out, designed, built and developed by a series of great architects including J H Taylor and James Braid, the experience benefits from the maturity of the fairways, greens and even rough which make it feel as if it has always been part of the landscape, with a single relatively recent exception.

In light of the fuss regarding the possibility of a wind farm out to sea damaging the outlook from the Trump course, the sudden appearance of one large turbine alongside the 14th tee at Royal Aberdeen was locally reported to have generated at least as much fury as power.

Admittedly it was a relatively calm day when we played but its presence in no way detracted from the enjoyment of the Balgownie course, any more than the odd pylon does at other courses.

It is difficult to imagine any number of turbines out at sea will be able to spoil what has been created by Martin Hawtree at Trump International.

Given the typically Trumpesque remit of building "the best golf course in the world", Hawtree knows as well as anyone that too much subjectivity is involved for any venue to be able, credibly, to make such a claim.

When considering whether to pay the substantial green fees, prospective visitors must also keep in mind that right now its condition cannot help but be very different from that of old links such as its coastal neighbours Royal Aberdeen, Murcar and Cruden Bay.

The rough is so severe that the advice is to consider any ball that veers even slightly off line to be lost and early experience fully justified that. The greens, though remarkably true, are inevitably still much, much slower than those on the more established links courses.

The odd joke is made about where the architect, who has apparently worked closely with the owner, might have got his inspiration for the batches of marram grass, since in some places they look much like a dodgy hair transplant, though they will, in time, add to the aesthetics.

All of which is to pick holes when what really needs to be said is that the renowned designer has achieved something quite staggering. The vast, towering dunes mean that hole after hole the outlook from the tee is utterly inspiring and real empathy with the land gives it that same feel Royal Aberdeen has of fitting in perfectly. It is genuinely difficult to pick out highlights because there are so many and the only thing that seemed slightly incongruous was the minefield of bunkers on the final hole, 17 in all.

A minor criticism, one that I suspect may be addressed before the professional circus turns up, which it surely will with the Scottish Open likely to be attracted sooner rather than later.

Such predictions are now the norm rather than in any way controversial which, in these parts, makes a nice change.

Contextual targeting label: 
The Royals

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

203564