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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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.