Beyond St. Andrews: Aberdeenshire and Scotland's northeast coast

By Travel ArticlesMay 16, 2012, 6:59 pm

Golfers the world over know St. Andrews is where the game began. Consequently, a pilgrimage to golf's homeland is high on the wish list of all those who care about golf's history and traditions.

There's much more to Scotland than simply St Andrews, however, and hundreds of fabulous golfing delights are located outside the Kingdom of Fife. Some are renowned throughout the world, while others are comparatively unknown. But because of the democratic nature of golf in Scotland, nearly all welcome visitors.

With that in mind, let's take a look at golf in Aberdeenshire.

Situated on the eastern half of Scotland, well to the north of Edinburgh about half-way to the extreme northern tip of Scotland, Aberdeenshire gets progressively more mountainous the further inland you go. Although famous for its historic links golf courses that border the North Sea, there are some fine inland challenges, especially along the banks of the beautiful River Dee.

Ballater Golf Club

One of the loveliest of these is beautiful Ballater Golf Club. Just down the road from the Queen's favorite residence, Balmoral Castle, the course is primarily heathland with touches of parkland. With the river and leaping salmon on one side and the heather-covered mountains all around, you can't fail but enjoy this exceptionally scenic course that dates back to 1892.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

Following the River Dee for about 40 miles as it swiftly flows downstream and you arrive in the port of Aberdeen. A city that received a massive boost in the 1960s when oil was discovered in the North Sea, it is now the established hub of the offshore oil industry. Just on its northern edge is Royal Aberdeen, which was founded in 1780 and is the sixth-oldest golf club in the world.

Originally designed by Archie and Robert Simpson of Carnoustie and later re-bunkered and lengthened by James Braid, Royal Aberdeen's Balgownie Course runs out and back along the North Sea coast in the time-honored way. With its revetted bunkers, towering dunes, coastal plateaus, rolling fairways, tight greens and constant breezes, it provides a delicious taste of traditional links golf at its brilliant best.

Murcar Golf Links

Next door to Royal Aberdeen is Murcar Links, another outstanding course that was originally designed by Archie Simpson and later improved by James Braid. Possibly slightly overshadowed by its famous neighbor, Murcar is less well known and has not really received the accolades and recognition it undoubtedly deserves.

It has everything you would hope to find in a top quality links course, including wonderfully springy turf and an exceptionally wide variety of holes. And the greens are both supremely quick and extraordinarily true. Maybe these qualities have helped produce a remarkably talented membership because no fewer than 100 members have a 5 handicap of less and the highest handicap in the 12-man club side is 1.

Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie is a regular visitor and formally opened the new clubhouse in 2006. Although you might lose a ball or three, you certainly won't regret playing this spectacular course and you might enjoy it even more if you book a caddie in advance.

Trump International Golf Links

Just a few miles north along the coast near the previously sleepy town of Balmedie, a new course is nearing completion that has created an even bigger stir in the area than the discovery of oil did all those years ago. Scheduled to open in July, there can be few golfers on the planet unaware of the ballyhoo and controversy that has surrounded the much-heralded new Trump course, Trump International Golf Links.

According to both eyewitnesses and the photos, it very much looks as though all the fuss and hype are justified. With a sensationally promising stretch of land with which to work, all the indications are that Trump and his team have produced something truly outstanding.

Cruden Bay Golf Club

Carry on north along the coast and after 18 or so miles you will arrive at one of the most glorious golf courses in Scotland, if not the world. On arrival at Cruden Bay Golf Club, before doing anything else, simply walk into the clubhouse and gaze through the picture windows out over the dune-filled course to the North Sea beyond and soak in the magnificence of it all.

Although most of the original greens designed by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson at the end of the 19th century have survived, Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler changed much of the routing in 1926. Like many others, it has also been stretched over the years. Originally 5,290 yards, it now measures 6,287 yards of the regular tees and 6,615 yards off the championship tees.

A favorite of Tom Watson, Cruden Bay is paradise and possibly the most perfect of the splendid courses to be enjoyed in Aberdeenshire.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”