The idea of casino properties with their own golf courses isn’t something new, but it’s something that’s making more sense with each passing year. This is due effectively to the changing nature of casino entertainment, for which there are a few different reasons and explanations.
One is a younger clientele. One need only look to Las Vegas, the greatest casino tourism hot spot in the world, to find recent articles about visitors’ shifting priorities. Vegas is evolving to suit millennial interests, which typically means lighter emphasis on gaming (just try getting someone under 35 to take real interest in a slot machine), and more of a focus on shops, restaurants, and side entertainment. This sort of evolution is particularly visible in Vegas, but it’s something we’re seeing in casinos around the world, at least to some extent.
Another reason for these changes is the expanding availability of casino game offerings on the internet. Various game providers hosted in countries around the world present every conceivable casino game in digital form, and offer bonuses alongside the games. The games are simpler to access, often cheaper to enjoy, and sometimes innovative or engaging in ways casino floor games can’t match. This too is driving real-world casino visitors to take interest in side offerings; the games just aren’t necessary anymore.
All of these changes lead to a lot of focus on a lot of different things, some of which were mentioned just above: restaurants, shows, shopping opportunities, bars and clubs, alternative video games, interactive museum displays, themed pools…. Casino resorts and towns are by no means short on amusement beyond their gaming floors. One aspect of their enduring appeal that doesn’t get quite as much attention, however, is golf. It’s by no means true that every casino resort has a golf course – but a growing number seem to, and in an era when we’re looking to these destinations more for comprehensive amusement and recreation than just for gaming, the ones with great golf courses are going to stand out more and more.
Given this, we’re taking a brief look at some of North America’s best casino golf courses.
Salish Cliffs – Shelton, Washington
The state of Washington in general is probably underrated when it comes to golf. A famously beautiful state, it’s home to a few particularly nice courses any globetrotting golfer would do well to put on his or her list. Where casino golf courses are concerned though, Salish Cliffs at the Little Creek Casino & Resort (pictured at the top) is the place to go. Ranked for years among America’s best golf courses, it’s a gorgeous place to play, bordered on all sides by the lush green surroundings of the area, with low mountains in the distance.
Eugene – Cranbrook, British Columbia
St. Eugene is an odd sort of place when compared to your average casino attraction. That’s because the casino itself has something of an old-world feel to it – not bright and twinkling and overflowing with attractions, but rather elegant and refined. It almost looks more like an oversized private residence than a casino resort, and is frankly unusual among American casino properties. The golf course itself, meanwhile, was voted one of Canada’s best new courses in 2001, and features a nice blend of low-key rustic appeal and striking surroundings (such as the St. Mary River and Fisher Peak).
Ocean Club Golf Course – Nassau, Bahamas
The Ocean Club Golf Course in the Bahamas isn’t in and of itself a renowned course, like some of the others here. However, its association with the Atlantis Resort & Casino makes it a sort of natural magnet, and its position alongside the captivating, turquoise waters of the Caribbean give it a quality almost unique among North American golf outings. It’s a fun place to play, at least once in your life!
Pete Dye Course – French Lick, Indiana
The French Lick Resort is a relaxing getaway in Indiana, and something of a gaming haven where people might not expect to find legal casinos. Not unlike St. Eugene it has a more authentic, almost historic vibe to it, and does not take after the gaudier modern casinos you can find at more famous gaming hubs. To match this vibe, the Pete Dye Course rolls gently through the surrounding hills and embraces the surrounding nature in a way that’s actually stunning to behold. It’s a subjective matter, but this may ultimately be the prettiest course on this list.
Shadow Creek – Las Vegas, Nevada
If Pete Dye is the prettiest course mentioned here, Shadow Creek is the most famous. It’s not associated with any one casino resort, but is arguably the premier course in the Las Vegas area. It’s somewhat exclusive, but not entirely off limits, and was made all the more famous just last year when it served as the venue for a Thanksgiving week match play contest between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson!
Madeira has experienced a boost in golf numbers during the first four months of 2019, with the two ‘mainland’ courses experiencing almost double-digit growth.
Palheiro Golf (pictured above) has enjoyed 9.4 per cent growth on the same period last year, while Santo da Serrra is not far behind with an increase of 8.4 per cent.
Tourism officials believe the archipelago’s mild climate, which makes Madeira an all-year-round destination, and short-haul journey time from Europe is attracting golfers who might previously have travelled further afield for their golf.
Madeira visitor numbers on the uprise
Visitor numbers to the island are also up overall, but only slightly, whereas the number of golf rounds has increased significantly. Also on the up is Madeira’s overall tourism revenue which showed almost two per cent growth in 2018.
The news is a boost for the archipelago’s tourism industry and its agency Discover Madeira, which has been actively targeting golfers with its marketing.
A spokesman for Discover Madeira said:
— This is good news for the tourism sector on Madeira and is something we will be looking to build upon in 2019. We are particularly encouraged by the number of new visitors coming to the archipelago to play golf on our three excellent courses.
The par-72, 6,656-yard (6,086m) course at Palheiro Golf , designed by Cabell B. Robinson, is situated within the magnificent Palheiro Estate, which is more than 200 years old. At nearly 1,640ft above sea level, the location enjoys dramatic views of Madeira’s mountainous skyline and the ocean: As well as over the island’s capital, Funchal, nestling below, just 10 minutes away.
The original course at Santo da Serra Santo da Serra, dating from 1937, was redesigned in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones Snr., who created a new and spectacular 27-hole complex. The third and fourth holes of the Machico course are regarded as the signature holes, sitting atop cliffs more than 2,200ft above sea level, providing views of the bay of Machico, where Portuguese navigators first landed in 1419.
The 27-hole, Severiano Ballesteros-designed Porto Santo Golf is a short plane hop away. The par-72, 7,036-yard (6,434m) course, which opened in 2004, comprises two distinct nines. The southern route, a US-style layout, is dotted with lakes, requiring a long and precise game; while the northern route is atop fantastic cliffs, near the stunning beach of the same name.
Madeira, also known as ‘the islands of eternal spring’, has a population of only 260,000. On the same latitude as Morocco, the Atlantic archipelago has a sub-tropical climate, a rich volcanic soil and a unique eco-system. It is one of the only places on the planet where banana trees grow next to vineyards.
In 1999 the archipelago was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and five areas have been declared nature reserves. The Madeira Nature Reserve covers a substantial two-thirds of the main island, where development is prohibited.
Laguna Golf Lăng Cô has become the first fully operational course in the world to be elevated into a new elite category by its designer, Sir Nick Faldo.
The British six-time major winner and prolific course architect, sees Laguna Golf Lăng Cô as his flagship layout in Asia. Opened in 2013, the course makes full use of the property’s location sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains, with play incorporating rice paddies, jungle and coastal holes.
The track, named a Sir Nick Faldo Signature course, has earned widespread acclaim said Adam Calver, Director of Golf at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô:
— Being elevated in status like this really speaks volumes of our ongoing commitment to realising Sir Nick’s vision.
Numerous improvements to the Laguna Golf layout
Calver and his team have made numerous improvements to the layout. New tees have been added , providing alternative challenges for golfers. Trees have been cleared on the coastal holes, opening up views of the beach and the East Sea.
Also eye-catching has been the introduction and reintroduction of rice paddies on the course, with four hectares of rice fields right in the middle of the course tended to by a family of water buffalo who act as “bio-mowers”.
Sir Nick commented on the improvements that’s taken place on the course:
— From the first time I came here when it was still jungle almost 10 years ago, I’ve always considered it a unique place. “We knew the course was going to be different and special because you play through different environments. You go through the rice fields to the jungle. Then we’ve got beach and river and rocks. It really is a special course, with a memorability factor that is sure to keep golfers interested.
Laguna Golf Lăng Cô is part of Laguna Lăng Cô, one of the most far-reaching integrated resorts in Southeast Asia. The 280-hectare community marks the first project in Vietnam for Banyan Tree Group. It is framed by jungle clad mountains and a three-kilometers beach running alongside the East Sea.
Ask any golfer about their favourite shoe and they will likely have some pretty strong opinions about whether it should be spiked or spikeless. The choice between the two often divides the golfing community; many traditionalists still opt for their high abrasion cleats, while the innovators might now opt for spikeless technology. Others may even go for both, wearing one or the other depending on the conditions.
Spikes are designed to help golfers get traction on the course during their swing. If you’re standing on wet grass and trying to twist your body while staying still, you’re going to struggle. Spikes, like any other sporting cleats, are there to give you better traction. Traditional spikes are made of hard wearing TPU plastic, hence only making them suitable for the golf course.
Newer types of golf shoe have been designed so you can wear your golf shoes anywhere. This kind of versatility is hard to beat when you are looking for value for money.
The rise of golfing fashion has pushed forward the spikeless golf shoe and elevated it to the level of any other sneaker. People will queue up outside stored on the arrival of a hotly anticipated golf shoe, just like the latest must-have or limited edition sneakers.
Reasons to try spikeless shoes
For the purists who prefer their spikes, there are plenty of reasons to try out the latest generation of spikeless shoes. Allow us to share with you one of the latest golf shoes from PUMA – which might just convince you to give them a try.
Go spikeless for stability
If you wear spikes because you love stability and the feeling the earth beneath your feet, then you will likely respond well to the PUMA Ignite NXT SOLELACE. It’s a very modern looking shoe, primarily because the laces are integrated into the midsole and the sole. The entire upper is made from a futuristic mesh that envelops the foot and offers 360-degree support.
Instead of spikes, each sole has 100 hexagonal lugs which offer incredible traction while remaining as flexible as a high-end running shoe. This is just one of the features that ensure your feet will stay supported and comfortable right up to the last hole.
Golfers are clearly prioritising comfort over anything else, and a shoe that constantly reminds you of its presence is only going to put you off your game. They say that you only notice your feet when they hurt, and this should be the case when you’re wearing your golf shoes. You should aim for a shoe that is barely noticeable, even after a whole day on your feet.
Modern Spiked Golf Shoes
If you continue to wear spiked golf shoes because you love the tradition and style, then the Rickie Fowler-designed PUMA Pro-Adapt will surely tick all of the right boxes for you. Fowler actually had a hand in designing and developing these shoes and has been seen sporting them throughout recent tours. It offers a leather upper with a one-year waterproof warranty, which is sure to be popular with golfers living in rainier climes. The leather is buttery soft right out of the box, so you don’t have to contend with shoes that give your blisters for months on end.
From a technical perspective, this shoe has everything. From the 9 Tornado Cleat System sole to the Ignite cushioning which offers the perfect level of support that distributes your weight. These shoes are also available in a range of colours, so you won’t be stuck for options.
Whether you like the traditional look of a leather golf shoe, or you’re willing to be bold and brave and try something more innovative, these are just two options that are most definitely hard to beat for the 2019 season.
A total of 13 European Opens, the Irish Open 2016 and the Ryder Cup in 2006 established The K Club as a premiere golf destination around the world.
Ireland’s First AA 5 Red Star Hotel is nestled where the River Liffey flows at its most restful ebb. The K Club has pioneered 5 star service in Ireland from the very moment it opened its doors in 1991 under the original name The Kildare Hotel and Golf Club.
Over the past 30 years its reputation has been firmly established by hosting international professional golf tournaments, located only 30 minutes from downtown Dublin. Which in turn made the abbreviated name official: The K Club.
The Hotel was built as a country manor be celebrated winemaker Hugh Barton in the early 1800s. The magnificent family home he had built was inspired by the classic architecture of a French Chateau and was completed in 1831. Today it’s boasting 134 rooms and suites. surrounded by two golf courses, the Ryder Cup Course and the Smurfit Course.
Both courses are designed by legendary American golfer Arnold Palmer, and are the beating heart of The K Club. Since German two time Masters champion Bernhard Langer holed out from 60 feet to win the 1995 Smurfit Kappa European Open The K Club staged one of the flagship tournaments of the European Open until 2007.
Till 2003 Europe’s top professional golfers gathered on the North Course, now called the Ryder Cup Course. From 2004 onward the European Open was played on the South Course, now called the Smurfit Course named after the owner of The K Club, Dr. Michael Smurfit.
If ever a golf course reflected the personality of its architect, it is surely the Arnold Palmer designed course, where the European Team led by Welshman Ian Woosnam defeated Team U.S.A. 18 ½ : 9 ½ in the 2006 Ryder Cup.
The course is widely acknowledged as the country’s most challenging inland layout, with most unprepared for the ensuing drama.
The K Club watery grave
The Smurfit Course (tee 16 pictured above), opened in 2003, and has been described as the greatest inland Golf Course in Ireland. The philosophy in developing the course was to ensure that a comparison with the existing Ryder Cup Course would be difficult, and that the golfers experience would be completely different.
When this brief was given to Palmer Course Design Company, they came up with a concept for the Smurfit Course as an inland links. The course has dune type mounding throughout, which assists in making the course into a true Championship Golf Course with many vantage points for spectators.
Also 14 acres (6 ha) of water have been worked into the design making the final six holes a watery grave for many a golfer. The Course is entirely different from the Ryder Cup Course located just across the River Liffey.
Even though golf is the main attraction of the K Club but offers many other activities and country sports like horseback riding, fishing, archery, clay target shooting, falconry and kayaking. Close to the Smurfit Clubhouse tennis courts are available for guests.
Ayrshire’s coastline boasts some of the best and most spectacular links courses in the world as well as some truly hidden gems.
This traditional golf destination on Scotland’s west coast can claim that modern major golf was born here. The very first Open Championship was staged at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860, known in the rest of the world as British Open.
Two courses in Ayrshire, Royal Troon and Turnberry are still on the rota of the most prestigious golf championship in the world. Along the coastline, from Irvine Bogside in the north to Turnberry further south a selection of classical links courses welcomes golfers with Scottish hospitality.
Ayrshire courses have jointly created six golf passes
Some of Ayrshire’s finest courses have joined together to create six different passes which offer entry into golf heaven at very good prices.
More importantly these passes will cater for any budget, from five-star luxury on famous British Open venues to exploring some of the lesser known championship tracks.
If you are staying in Ayrshire for more than a couple of rounds of golf there are several great value golf packages. By picking up one of the areas’s six golf passes there are some significant discounts on green fees.
Ayrshire Links Experience
Ayrshire Links Experience includes Dundonald Links, Barassie Links and the Irvine Golf Club have teamed up to offer you golf at three of the best links courses in Ayrshire.
The courses are 15 minutes from each other, and visitors will be guaranteeda fantastic golf experience. Dundonald hosted the Scottish Open of the European Tour and European Ladies Tour (LET) a couple of times.
This master piece of American golf architect Kyle Philips is already on the bucket list of many golf connoisseurs.
Irvine Golf Club in Bogside was designed by five-time Open champion James Braid w, and is set in a seaside location whilst the romantic peaks of Arran present a stunning backdrop to the landscape.
The Irvine Golf Club was established in 1887, and is regularly used by the R&A as a Final Open Qualifying Course.
Barassie, located on the outskirts of Troon has twentyseven holes to test the golfer. Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club offers everything golfers would expect from a Scottish seaside golf course, challenging fairways and greens as well as a friendly, welcoming membership.
The Ayrshire Open Qualifier Card
The Ayrhire Open Qualifier Card provides four past Open Championship final qualifying courses at Barassie, Irvine Bogside, Prestwick St. Nicholas (pictured at the top) and Dundonald Link.
Testing holes, warm welcomes and good old Scottish hospitality combined to make this three (or four) round golf card delivering savings of up to 30 percent on four courses that were used for past Open qualifying.
Gailes Golf Experience
For the Gailes Golf Experience the neighboring championship courses of Dundonald Links, Gailes Links and Western Gailes have joined to deliver three rounds of golf on some of the best traditional links courses in Scotland in a single package.
Visitors can be sure that they will enjoy the undulating fairways, tight lies, slick greens and West Coast scenery. Western Gailes, established in 1897, lies on a narrow strip of land between the railway line and the sea and is a great test of most of the shots in your bag.
Gailes Links has hosted major championship tournaments through the years and was designed by legendary golf architect Willie Park Jr. of Musselburgh. It was opened in 1892 by Glasgow Golf Club, the 9th oldest golf club in the world.
Its West Coast setting and fabulous condition makes it ideal for summer and winter golf in Scotland. It is a world class links course which attracts players from every corner of the globe.
New Links of Ayrshire
To create the New Links of Ayrshire three of Scotland’s most prestigious venues have combined forces to offer the only package that includes guaranteed times on three of Ayrshire’s finest links courses.
The Turnberry hotel is an iconic and revered destination, a landmark in Ayrshire and in world golf for over 110 years.
With a long and illustrious history, it first opened its doors in 1906. Over the last century, Turnberry has hosted a range of prestigious golf tournaments including Open Championships, Senior Open Championships, Amateur Championships and, most recently, the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Golf South Ayrshire
Golf South Ayrshire has a variety of different golf passes to suit a golfers budget and preferred golfing experience over 8 of the finest municipal courses (Darley, Lochgreen, Fullarton, Dalmilling, Givan, Seafield, Belleisle and Maybole) in Scotland for only £ 190.
Open Links of Ayrshire
Open Links of Ayrshire is the only package that includes guaranteed times on all of Ayrshire’s Open Links courses.
With this unique package, enjoy a two night stay in the exquisite surroundings of Turnberry’s iconic hotel and play all three Championship courses with breakfast both mornings and dinner for one evening.
Founded in 1851, Prestwick Golf Club introduced the world to the Open Championship by hosting the inaugural tournament in 1860. Prestwick had the distinct honor of hosting the first twelve Opens, with a further twelve over the years, cementing this club in true golfing history. Steeped in history
Royal Troon has hosted the Open Championship on nine occasions, Prestwick had the distinct honor of hosting the first 12 Opens, with a further 12 over the years, cementing this club in true golfing history.
Royal Troon has hosted the Open Championship on nine occasions, Its most recent was in 2016, where it created its on duel in the sun between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson.
The Ailsa course, which has been the proud host of the Open four times and was the setting for the famous Watson and Nicklaus ‘Duel in the Sun’ in 1977.
The Argentario Golf Resort & Spa, one of the most highly-regarded golf destinations in Tuscany, Italy, has opened a stylish new Club House in time for the 2019 golf season.
The new structure is home to the Pro Shop, Golf Secretary’s office and the Club House Restaurant & Bar, which boasts an extensive wooden terrace with views over the golf course. Including the surrounding hills and the Orbetello Lagoon, often awash with flamingos, and the Gulf of Talamone in the distance
The cutting-edge design of the Club House reflects the dramatic architecture of the nearby resort hotel. That is characterized by its light-filled atrium reception, its sleek communal spaces and the chic furnishing. The entrance to the Club has been created by the installation of a decked walkway and gazebo created using natural materials.
Argentario Golf Resort by Andrea Fogli
Inside the Club House furnishings chosen by Milan-based interior designer, Andrea Fogli, have produced a stylish, yet cosy interior. The traditional decor of historic Anglo-Saxon golf clubs with soft leather chairs and deer antler candelabra are combined with modern, contemporary features for a comfortable and practical environment.
The addition of the Club House will enhance the overall experience of playing the par 71, 6,218 metre golf course. It meanders its way through the Tuscan terrain, cork-oak woods and ancient olive groves. After the round restorative drinks and healthy dishes that are simple, yet creative, are served in the Restaurant which is overseen by local chef Emiliano Lombardelli.
Emiliano began working in the world of fine dining in 1988, gaining invaluable experience alongside chef and gastronomist, Alvaro Claudi, on the island of Elba. And then alongside the chef, Giuseppe Sestito, at the Mirabelle Restaurant in nearby Rome.
Situated in the foothills of the beautiful Mijas Mountains with lovely views of the Andalusian countryside, La Cala resort offers a rural retreat with 54 golf holes just 20 minutes from Marbella and only 30 minutes from Malaga airport.
A recently completed renovation of the resort’s America course (the 17th hole pictured above) has elevated conditioning, playability and aesthetics to new levels. Plus the arrival of a superb new GPS buggy fleet.
La Cala consists of three championship courses: Campo America, Campo Asia and Campo Europa. Each with plenty of challenges, and slot seamlessly into a natural, undulating backdrop of trees and flowers, rich with birds and wildlife.
The courses are designed by renowned golf course architect Cabell Robinson. An additional 6-hole, par-3 course and top golf academy complete the La Cala golf offering.
The premier and most requested layout at La Cala
Campo America was the second of La Cala’s three courses to open in 1991, two years after the Asia course and 14 years before the Europa course. Although all three serve up spectacular mountain vistas and views down to the coast, it is America that provides perhaps the most exhilarating golfing ride. With many golfers going home marvelling at the vision and daring of those who first thought of setting out a course over such a dramatic mountainous landscape.
The Campo America-course sets out from an elevated tee that allows you to open your shoulders as you launch one away to the valley floor below. The first three holes on that valley floor have more of a traditional, Spanish parkland feel. You then climb to higher ground.
The back nine plays in amongst the villas, that are in both contemporary and classic Andalusian style.
It is a course where the par 3s and the par 5s stand out. The first par 3 is the 4th hole, where the green is cut into a slope some 200 yards away. It has been extensively remodelled to improve its playability as part of the renovation programme on the course in 2018. Which, among many other things, has seen all bunkers refurbished to enhance the aesthetics.
Another hole that underwent a major remodelling, is the long dogleg par-5 15th. Here a ravine on the left side up towards the green has been partially filled in. Which allows greater flexibility in strategy for those looking to lay up.
The course finishes with another truly memorable par 5, which turns left before plunging down towards the green. If a perfect drawing drive reaches the crest on the dogleg, there is a chance of the ball rolling another 150 yards down the hill. And thereby potentially leaving a mere short iron in for the second shot.
The La Cala renovation programme goes on
The fruit of the renovation programme is a course whose already heady reputation is now set to be enhanced yet further. Plans are in place for similar renovation projects on both the Asia and Europa courses in 2019 and 2020. Also a brand-new fleet of GPS buggies are set to hit Campo America’s fairways to elevate its status as La Cala’s premier golf offering.
Sean Corte-Real, Director of La Cala Resort, says the resort is immensely proud of all three championship courses:
— But Campo America is the most requested course among our visitors. So we took the decision last year to raise the bar further, investing heavily in our course renovation project, and also placing a significant order for a state-of-the-art new buggy fleet.
La Cala resort accommodation includes a newly renovated 107-bedroom hotel and a selection of on-site properties for sale and rental in apartments from 2-bedroom to larger as well as 5-bedroom villas that are spread throughout the estate.
There is also a top notch spa and a selection of restaurants and bars on the premises. Further leisure opportunities include a FIFA-standard football pitch, running circuit, gym, tennis and squash courts.
The New York Times ranked Aberdeen and the surrounding region of Aberdeenshire recently as number 24 on the list of places to visit in 2019. Golf was not mentioned specifically. But for lovers of links courses the 165 miles (256 km) stretch of the northeastern coastline is pure heaven.
Located in the northeast of Scotland, Aberdeenshire boasts breathtaking dunes. Some of them said to tower 100 feet (30,5 m) high. The natural beauty, the rich golfing heritage and the variety of courses from internationally heralded championship venues to widely unknown members’ courses elevated this area to one of the scenic golf destinations in the UK.
The links courses at Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links and Cruden Bay are rated among the world’s best. But quite a few hidden gems like Peterhead, Inverallochy, Fraserburgh or Cullen Links also offer traditional links feeling, challenges for low and high handicappers alike, great sea views and very competitive value for money.
Parkland courses in majestic settingInland there are dozens of parkland courses in forests and glens, on great estates and rugged heaths, in castle grounds and tree filled parks. The UK’s highest golf course is at Breamar in the upper reaches of Royal Deeside, where Aberdeenshire meets the Cairngorms National Park.
Nearby there’s a 9-hole course in the grounds of the fQueen’s summer retreat at Balmoral castle. Usually the course reserved for the royals and staff, but now open to fortunate bookers during the months when days are longest.
All together 55 courses are listed on the website of Visit Aberdeen. It is a great selection of playgrounds for all levels of golfing abilities and suitable for every budget.
The beauty of the region inspired some great names in golf course architecture. Like Old Tom Morris (Cruden Bay, Cullen Links), Archie Simpson, James Braid (Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links), Dr. Alister MacKenzie (MacKenzie Championship Course at Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen, Duff House Royal Club) and Dr. Martin Hawtree (Trump International Golf Links) to take advantage of mother nature’s gifts and to lay out or revise courses in this corner of Scotland.
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TRUE BEAUTY: Aboyne Golf Club west of Aberdeen city is an example of the true beauty of the area’s parkland courses.
The fabolous four of Aberdeen
The regions reputation as a great golf destination is based foremost on their great links courses led by the “fab four” of Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links, Cruden Bay and Trump International Golf Links.
The first three are on the bucket list of many lovers of the traditional way the game of golf has been played for centuries. Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links are located next to each other within the city limits of Aberdeen. Royal Aberdeen was founded in 1780 and is the seventh oldest golf club in the world.
If you travel northbound from downtown Aberdeen along the coast you will find many more links courses. After 50 minutes on the A90 you’ll reach Peterhead Golf Club, founded in 1841 and the 18th oldest course in the world.
Park your car on the lot at the bank of River Ugie, cross the bridge to the clubhouse und you’ll see one of the best links courses of Scotland. Set among the dunes the 18 hole Craigewan Links is a classic example of Scottish seaside golf at its best. And golf at its toughest, even though with a length of 6147 Yards (5620 m) it is not long by modern standards.
But keep in mind: Yardage on links courses is irrelevant because of the breeze you have to battle most of the time. A second 18 hole course was established in 1923, however today it exists as 9-hole course appropriately named the «New Course».
Our next stop is at the village of Inverallochy, which is now part of the city of Fraserburgh. With 5436 Yards (4971 m) Inverallochy Golf Club is even shorter. But for most golfers even more fun. You play against the most beautiful backdrop in golf between rolling dunes and along pristine beaches and rugged rock shores.
From each and every hole you haven unobstructed views of the sea. This classic links course (founded in 1888) features six par-3 holes. If you think this course is a push-over try to break the course record of 57, ten under par, 67.
Only a few miles north and better known is Fraserburgh Golf Club founded in 1777 and the 7th oldest club in the world. The 18th hole of the Corbie Hill Course starts with a wide open flat fairway. But from the 2nd hole a wild ride over high dunes starts. Be prepared for an invigorating game around substantial sand dunes and an experience reminiscent of how golf must have been more than a century ago.
Wildly undulating fairways, sandy hills, wonderful views and some truly spectacular holes make Fraserburgh a true links adventure. The view from the 16th hole towards the North Sea and the Moray Firth, as well as the city of Fraserburgh, is alone worth the greenfee of £ 45. The club has another 9 holes, the 2400 Yards (2195 m) of the Rosehill Course.
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FOUNDED IN 1777: Fraserburgh Golf Club is the 7th oldest club in the world.
«Shoehorned into a small site along the beautiful beach at this crazy par-63 course (4600 Yards – 4206 m) is different than anything I’ve played and worth a visit just for the novelty of it», wrote renowned American golf architect Tom Doak after a round at Cullen Links Golf Club (pictured at top of the article).
Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, the doyen of this guild, came north in 1881 to build this course with criss-crossing fairways, wild elevation changes and tough par 3s. Cullen Links is proud to be one of the 84 true links courses in Scotland.
The Cullen Bay Hotel sits across the road from the 3rd hole giving stunning views of the lower section of the golf course with the 80ft high (24m) lump of red rock known as Boar Crag and the Moray Firth.
After your round of golf you should either stop at the Cullen Bay Hotel or Lily’s Kitchen Café in Cullen to taste one of Scotland traditional dishes, Cullen Skink. The thick soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes, milk and onions was created at the end of the 19th century in Cullen.
The village honors its tradition since 2012 with the «Cullen Skink World Championship» staged at the Cullen Bay Hotel. Ian Watson, part owner of the hotel, won the title three times but was deposed in November 2018 by his namesake Lynne Watson of Lily’s Kitchen Café. But he still won the title for the best Cullen Skink with a twist. Is there a better way to round up a golfing trip than meeting and tasting world champions?
It is said that there is a meaning to everything. And it’s easy to believe that the forces that once created Ireland might have a meaning in it: This country should be created for golf!
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland certainly live up to their worldwide reputation as a piece of land created for golf. Here are many world-class golf courses, in one of the world’s most spectacular interactions between sea, mountains and 50 shades of green. Influenced by an infinite variety of changes between wind, sun and rain.
Despite well-known parkland courses, Ireland is primarily a paradise for link golf enthusiasts with 58 of the world’s 246 true links courses. Well spread across a rather small island, of just 84,000 square kilometers.
The fact that the links are scattered all around the coastal island, helps you to quickly learn that a golfing trip in Ireland takes place in a country created for golf. But maybe not so much for car travelling.
The British travel journalist Andrew Marshall once wrote that finding your way to these courses is part of the charm of playing golf in Ireland. Well, charm and charm … The largely north-south main roads have a network of exits to roads heading at, or along, the coastal strip. Most often, these roads are narrow, winding and very often without a shoulder.
The speed limit is rarely lower than 80 kilometers per hour, often 100, even through farm yards and random clusters of scattered buildings. But if you are comfortable driving no matter the surroundings, just get yourself into the rental car and set off from Dublin’s international airport.
A slow start
Traveling from our home town in Scandinavia, the Republic’s capital Dublin is the natural gateway, with direct flights from a number of cities. Also Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast offers international flights from several parts of Europe
We were underway to explore parts of the northwest and north coast. To where it takes about 4 hours by car from Dublin Airport. Flight departure from Oslo at 7.45 in the morning, and before that an hour and a half journey to the airport, required a very early start this cool morning.
The wise thing wss therefore to choose to stay the first night not too far away from Dublin airport. Preferably in a place with golf, and so close that it will be possible to squeeze in 18 holes already the day of arrival. The choice fell on the venue for the 2018 World Amateur Championship, Carton House, less than half an hour into the countryside by car, and with two solid championship courses.
The two courses are named Montgomerie and O’Meara, respectively, by their designers Colin Montgomerie and Mark O’Meara. The latter is the oldest of the courses.
After all, we were on a links expedition, and chose the Montgomerie course, which is defined as an «inland links». A term that in quite a good way explains what this is about.
It looks like a links course, and with a rough that is just as unfriendly as we expect in links golf. The bunkers also help to make the experience a tough test. But playing here does not feel like being on a links: The greens are slower, giving more bite to the approach shots, and the ball is rolling shorter on the fairways here than at the coast.
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TWO GOOD COURSES: At Carton House in Dublin you can play the Q’Meara course and the Montgomerie course. Photo: The Migrant Golfer
Going four hours north
The next day, we drive northwards on roads that alternate from highway to country road to cattle-path-like structures. Here and there we pass some sheep who are watching us from behind the fence. Elsewhere, some pedestrians appear. And still away, rally imitators are moving in the opposite direction, so we have to drive the as far out on the side of the road as possible.
When the road surface somewhere in County Donegal changes from asphalt to gravel, we wonder for a while whether the car’s GPS has gone bananas. Until Sheephaven Bay suddenly appears in view, northwest of the gentle hillside the road is located in.
The family-owned Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort is, with its first-class hotel, two links courses and prime ftraining facilities, Ireland’s largest and oldest golf resort with 125 years on it’s back. Old Tom Morris Links was designed by Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews in 1893. The layout that has been the resort’s main course since 2003, Sandy Hills Links, was laid out by Pat Ruddy. Famous for The European Club as well as a number of others among Ireland’s best golf courses.
Sandy Hill is no course for those who are hitting wild and wide with the driver. Most often, the largest club is not the right choice from tee. Sandy Hill Links is narrow and hilly where the holes wind up the top of the hills, around them or down the sides. The green areas are very demanding. Downhill putts usually roll off the green and 25 meters down the hill in front of it. Approach shots that land on the green rarely stop there, not even on greens with elevated backdrops.
We still get through this morning exercise. However, with a not very flattering scorecard.
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ROSAPENNA:Ireland’s oldest and largest golf resort gives you the option of Sandy Hills Links (pictured) and Old Tom Morris Links. Photo: The Migrant Golfer
After a quick lunch, 18 holes on Old Tom Morris Links is on the schedule. A course that is a totally different experience. The first nine is laid out in and between the dunes, and without great physical stress on fairways that are mostly leveled.
The second nine have the holes 10 to 13 along the beach. Then hole 14 makes you feel it alone is almost worth the entire trip. It is a par-3 that faces away from the beach and towards the dunes from an elevated tee. The green lies on the side of the sand dune, and the tee-shot is terrifying with plenty of rough and a bunker in play.
The par-4 hole that follows is the last in the six-hole sequence, which is best remembered afterwards.
More from Pat Ruddy
Next day we visit at Ballyliffin Golf Club, also with two golf courses. As in Rosapenna, the courses are completely different. Pat Ruddy, in collaboration with Tom Craddock, is behind the main track, Glashedy Links. While the six-fold major winner Nick Faldo took care of the upgrade of the Old Links.
The Glashedy course, which held the 2018 Irish Open, is a modern links course in the sense that the fairways have smooth surfaces, and considerable work has been done on designing and building the green areas and peat-clad bunkers.
The Old Links has a very different character. Nick Faldo retained most of the humps and bumps in the fairways during the upgrade work a couple of decades ago. And has made Old Links a real roll and bounce experience, he said:
— I wanted it that way. In links golf it is often much about Bump and run. When I had the opportunity to let Old Links keep their characteristic humps and bumps, I grabbed the occasion.
The two different courses make Ballyliffin, just like Rosapenna, a unique golfing experience with courses you can play several days in a row. Glashedy Links play wise reminds a lot of Pat Ruddy’s masterpiece The European, south of Dublin. The fairways are perfect and the big, murderous greens can be devastating for any scorecard.
No matter which of the two courses you play, you always have panoramic views of the open landscape with a characteristic mountain in the background. You also see the coastline just beyond the course, and smell the sea.
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MOUNTAIN, OCEASN AND COUNTRY SIDE: Ballyliffin has two gems: Old Links (pictured) and Glashedy Links. Photo: Ballyliffin
A course that oozes history and traditions
The 25 kilometers from the Rosapenna hotel north-east to the Portsalon Golf Club the next morning turned out to be a road even narrower and even more crooked. The road twisted up and down the corners, around farmhouses and large trees where we had to take things in slow motion.
The club from 1891 was one of the founders of the Golfing Union of Ireland, the world’s oldest golf association. The course was originally designed by Charles Thompson from Portrush in Northern Ireland. After a rather strange opening hole, Portsalon turned out to be one of the week’s greatest surprises and best experiences.
The layout has evolved over the decades, and again with Pat Ruddy responsible for the most significant and recent improvements, carried out in 2000. The course extends along the impressive Ballymastocker beach before turning after hole 9. And then takes us back to the clubhouse on the inside of the first nine holes. All the time with the Knockalla Mountains as a wonderful backdrop.
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PORTSALON: Ar rhe 2nd hole, the more you cur across the beach on your tee shot, the easier the approach to the green. Photo: The Miigrant Golfer
A Royal finale
Wisely enough, we save the highlight for our last day. After driving out from the parking lot of Rosapenna for the last time, we follow Garmin’s recommended road east to the UK and Northern Ireland. We insert Royal Portrush Golf Club (the 15th hole, former 13th, pictured at the top) into the GPS, telling us it’s 126 kilometers and two hours drive away.
We are not sure of exactly where we cross the border between the two countries. We think it was in a forest, quite close to a small town. How we discovered it had happened? The speed limits on changed from kilometers per hour to miles per hour. And the road number from N13 to A2.
The town of Portrush is called Port Rois in Irish. Which means «promontory port». It is a popular resort near situated close to the area’s largest tourist attraction, Giant’s Causeway.. The town offers pleasant accommodations and restaurants and features three well-known sandy beaches: West Strand, East Strand and White Rocks.
The club has rebuilt the course before the big tournament. The holes 17 and 18 have been removed, and replaced by new holes, which are number 7 and 8 and are built on the club’s second course, the Valley Course. In addition, a number of new bunkers and six new tee tees have been built, which have extended the championship layout by 130 yards to 7317 yards.
Playing here is a wonderful experience, but a rather expensive treat. Green fees are 205 pounds. That is reduced to 120 pounds in April and October.
After 18 holes, when the darkness is about to sink, we pack the golf clubs in the car and roll further east the 6 miles to the little town of Bushmills. Known for the whiskey of the same name, and for one of the best pub hotels we’ve ever stayed at: Hotel Bushmills Inn.
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ROYAL PORTTUSH. The town in the background, the green and fairway of hole 5 at the lower part of the picture. Photo: Royal Portrush.
A fly in the ointment
We started the article by pointing out that some of the charm of a golf vacation on the Irish island is to be found on all the narrow, twisting roads along the rugged coast. Just be careful with who you team up with at the rental car desks in the airport.
We ended up at Enterprise Car Hire, which operates car hire from Dublin Airport. It turned out to be a company with poor routines and a lack of management of the paperwork.
Enterprise made a mistake when handing over our car. An error we first became aware of over a month after returning home. In the subsequent contact, we were served a story about our rental car and our rental relationship, which was without root in reality.
In mails and phone calls we could fortunately give documentation that what Enterprise claimed was wrong. And believed that the case therebye was out of the world. However, one month later, another email arrived. This time with an attachment with a claim from Enterprise for several hundreds euros. We contacted our credit card company,..