Olde Scotland Has Some New To Show You!
By Peter Hellman – Classic GOLF Tours
People ask me why I travel to Scotland so often. Other than for the obvious reason that it's fun, Scotland is ever changing and to keep up I need to return from time to time to see what's new. People also say that Scotland is about tradition and not what is new. It is true that the courses we dream about have remained much the same for centuries. But, believe it or not, new courses are rising out of and between the dunes and some of them may someday become part of a golfer's dream and included in the Scottish tradition.
On my last trip, I played several of my old favorites (Turnberry Ailsa, Machrihanish Old, Royal Dornoch, Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen) and three fairly new courses (Machrihanish Dunes, Castle Stuart and Trump International) that may someday be part of the tradition that defines Scottish golf. Here is a bit of what I experienced:
Machrihanish Dunes: Machrihanish Dunes is certainly out of the way - located at the far end of the Mull of Kintyre - but that is no reason not to visit. To get there you have three options. First you can drive. It takes about four and a half hours from Turnberry, but the scenery is stunning and the sense of remoteness increases with each mile. You could also fly from Glasgow or take the new car ferry service from Ardrossan (north of Troon) to Cabletown. Rough seas or bad flying weather could make the drive the only option, but if you are willing to spend the time to get there, you will find three good courses to play. The newest of these is Machrihanish Dunes (the other two: Machrihanish Old and Dunaverty). As the first new course built here in over 100 years, Machrihanish Dunes is making a statement. An American owner with deep pockets and ambitious plans has already made the course worthy of play. Most holes are challenging (some say too much so) and with a wind off the North Atlantic, the course can be downright punishing. Accommodations nearby are excellent and include the Ugadala Hotel and cottages. There is even a single malt whisky distillery (Spring Bank) nearby where tasters are welcome.
Castle Stuart: This course gets its name from the nearby castle, which is operated as a small hotel. Though located on the grounds of the golf club, the castle is privately owned. It is my understanding, however, that the golf club is negotiating to purchase the castle to add to their now limited on-site accommodations. The course is located between the towns of Inverness and Nairn - both have plentiful accommodations. Castle Stuart recently hosted the Scottish Open and if you watched any of the Open on TV, you will understand why golfers love it. It plays out on two levels along the Moray Firth. The first three holes run west along the firth (bay). These fairways slope towards the water and your drives should hug the left side. The drivable (not for me) 3rd hole (a par 4) is one of my favorites. The well protected green reminded me of an infinity pool; it was impossible to tell where the green ended and the bay began. This optical illusion and the beauty of the hole, made concentrating on my shots difficult. The 4th hole, an upward sloping par 3 with a view of the Castle behind the green, starts your climb to the upper level of the course where the views are even better. You continue on this level to the 9th hole and the modern club house. The 10th hole takes you down to the lower level once again. The 11th (a par 3) is another one of my favorites. A generous green is in view from the elevated tee. Sounds simple? It is not! Swirling winds off the bay, little space to bail out left or right and the bay dead ahead, make for a challenging shot. Some of the Scottish Open players would have coveted my birdie.
Trump International: Wherever "The Donald" goes or whatever "The Donald" does, there is bound to be controversy. His Scottish invasion is no exception. Some Scots, golf writers and players have panned his newest course perhaps due to his aggressive methods and grand plans. But in my mind, he has built a spectacular golf course. Located just north of Aberdeen, and touching the southern edge of the Murcar Golf Links, Trump International occupies an immense tract of coastal land with the highest dunes I have ever seen. The course weaves its way snake like among the dunes finishing at well designed and protected greens. The club house is temporary and accommodations are limited on site. American players will appreciate the golf range, which aren't often found on Scottish courses. With Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen nearby, Trump International makes Aberdeenshire a good addition to ones golf itinerary. I have one compliant about Trump International - it needs to mature. It should be better next year as fairways grasses take hold. I also have a suggestion that might help the image of both the course and "The Donald"..... change the name of it to one that promotes the course and not Mr. Trump.....hmmmm.