Golfers playing and reviewing Trump International Golf Course make it clear that they are not interested in its problematic start mainly concerning a “Site of Scientific interest.”. Neither are they concerned about its sometimes controversial owner. They are only interested in the golf course and a large majority praise it. Typical remarks are “Stunning course, magnificent, very special, outstanding, no weak holes.” Also, “No. 1 on my list of courses played.” and “true championship golfing experience.” There are some criticisms such as the penal rough, being overly dramatic and nothing traditional about it. There is no doubt that the course was built to cater for major tournaments such as the Scottish Open and others. It is a modern championship course on an excellent stretch of links land. Everything is first class from the grass walkways to the short game practice area. This area is really special and Phil Mickelson is quoted as saying that it was the best he had ever seen.
Trump International have received approval to build a second course which will be name the McCloud Course after Donald Trump’s mother.
Trump International Golf Links (7428 yards, Par 72)
The golf course is on heather covered dune land just 15 minutes by car from Aberdeen’s city centre and 25 minutes from Aberdeen Airport. It is nothing short of spectacular and seems destined to host high profile golf tournaments before too long. Set amongst what Trump has renamed ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland’ it follows a classic pattern of two out-and-back loops of nine holes that return to the attractive clubhouse at the halfway stage. Dr Martin Hawtree, who is an acknowledged master of links golf course architecture, oversaw the development of the championship golf course. The land chosen was amongst dramatic sand dunes, the same kind of towering dunes that lend such character to the nearby courses of Cruden Bay, Murcar Links and Royal Aberdeen. The golf course sits close to the shoreline of the North Sea and offers traditional links features including challenging revetted bunkers. There are eighteen such bunkers on the 18th hole, which also has the distinction of being the longest par five in Scotland. All 18 holes thread their way engagingly through the dunes, rising for views of the sea and coastline and then plunging into secluded valleys. The golf course lacks for nothing with the framework of the landscape exceptional. There is nothing missing and the layout contains no weak holes.
The course is challenging but there are multiple tee-options to choose from which could bring it down to a mere 5,845 yards, so it is more than playable for most. The enormous dunes provide the framework for most holes on the front-nine. There are elevated tees at almost every hole while severely contoured raised greens have several run-offs. Allowing for the windy climate the fairways are wider than they look and quite flat. Miss the fairway though and the rough is penal. From the tee the layout is quite fair. However, the greens require a precise approach being well guarded by bunkers. Each hole on the outward loop is good, the routing is big and bold with outstanding views. The bunkers are placed to challenge the stronger player and not unduly punish the weaker golfer. All bunkers are turf-revetted in traditional style to combat wind erosion and sand-blow. Greens are sited in natural cliffs and valleys and are presented in relation to their setting.
The back nine gets better requiring excellent strategic play. With many drives from high on the dunes there are several stunning views. The standout hole for its vista is the 14th, with its stupendous panoramic view through the Great Dunes of Scotland with the North Sea, the spectacular coastline and a fairway way below requiring a drive that plunges into a secluded valley. However, it is not a golf course for those looking for a links golf experience where your ball is for the most part played along the ground. It is a modern course where the best professionals can be tested and other golfers can adjust to the course by playing from an appropriate tee. The off course facilities are all to a high standard. The practice facilities are superb with the chipping and pitching green quite outstanding. Maintained to the highest standards, and a supreme test of golf regardless of how strong the wind is blowing off the North Sea, Trump International Golf Links is a magnificent addition to Scottish golf’s already star-studded portfolio. What you have is an especially fine modern-day championship links course that can only get better with time.
Hole by Hole Notes
Hole 1- 541 yards, par 5, index 11 - The first hole is fairly straightforward along a valley until you approach the green. Cross bunkers guard the best area to lay up for the approach shot. Do you go for the green or lay-up? The green is raised on a ledge set into an imposing dune that provides the back drop to the green.
Hole 2 - 443 yards, par 4, index 7 - From the tee the fairway is a gentle dogleg left. The Menie Burn crosses the hole. Long hitters could clear the burn shortening the approach. The green complex has some deep hollows around the green making a missed green more challenging.
Hole 3 - 205 yards, par 3, index 13 - In a delightful setting this demanding par three requires a precise tee shot. The green is very close to the sea and is shielded by the surrounding dunes.
Hole 4 - 563 yards, par 5 - A great, long par five that is index 1. The Blairton Burn is in play for the length of the hole and keeps you left off the tee. For your second shot you are faced with eleven bunkers. The dramatic green with a bold contoured putting surface is high in a gap in the dunes.
Hole 5 - 386 yards, par 4, index 9 - From this elevated tee avoid the bunker near the middle of the fairway. On the left of the hole a large field of heather creates the feel of heathland. Do not go long to the green due to grass behind the hole.
Hole 6 - 183 yards, par 3, index 15 - The shortest, but a magical hole played across a valley to a partially sighted green. It is set amongst the dunes with a large bunker front right. The green is tucked into a valley of dunes, guarded by a yawning drop to the burn on the right and a significant dune on the left
Hole 7 - 281 yards, par 4, index 17 - This is a very short par four that will attract long hitters. However, there is a cunning green complex with a bank short of the small green. It is hiding deep swales and hollows around the green, ready for any misplaced shots.
Hole 8 - 500 yards, par 4, index 3 - The longest par 4 on the course. The safe line is down the left but then you have a blind shot to the green. Fortunately the green has no bunkers but the surrounding contours, which intersect the greens surface make it testing.
Hole 9 - 476 yards, par 5, index 5 - From the tee the line is narrow to a landing area opening up slightly on the right-hand-side. The green is long and narrow with swales and is guarded by three bunkers only some of which are visible from the fairway.
Hole 10 - 573 yards, par 5, index 12 - From the tee set amongst heather the fairway is wide. For your second there is a large bail out area on the right. The green sits in an amphitheatre hidden by a mound in the surrounding dunes. It is a four tier green where two putts can be tricky.
Hole 11 - 470 yards, par 4, index 6 - The highest elevated tee on the course with the drive towards a dogleg right. The approach shot has to be precise. There are deep bunkers to the front and left and a steep run-off on the right.
Hole 12 - 435 yards, par 4, index 16 - From the elevated tee the fairway doglegs right. With a wind the tee shot becomes intimidating even though the fairway is very substantial. The approach to the green is played across a small ravine and the bordering dunes can make distance judgement quite demanding.
Hole 13 - 229 yards, par 3, index 8 - A fantastic hole across a valley. Club selection is significant depending on the wind. The green is slightly elevated, miss the green and the recovery can be difficult.
Hole 14 - 445 yards, par 4, index 2 - This is a terrific hole from a very high tee. The narrow fairway runs along a valley bounded by large dunes. The green appears misleadingly narrow against the extraordinary amphitheatre of dunes
Hole 15 - 392 yards, par 4, index 18 - A short par 4 where the tee shot is to a wide fairway in a valley bordered by dunes. There are more bunkers to consider than on any other hole. The second shot to the green presents a narrow view.
Hole 16 - 195 yards, par 3, index14 - The last three holes play back into the predominant wind. The green is encircled by dunes all around. It is well shielded by seven bunkers except on the right side making the line for the tee shot difficult. The green is substantial in size and will easily hold a well struck ball.
Hole 17 - 466 yards, par 4; index 10 - This long par four rises gradually from tee to green. A valley follows the left-hand-side of the fairway with trouble all the way. The long and somewhat narrow three tiered green is set slightly to the left. It is amongst the larger putting surfaces on the course and is only defended by one bunker. The tiered green makes the hole more difficult than it first looks.
Hole 18 - 651 yards, par 5, index 4 - The tee shot from the elevated tee plays rather shorter if the wind is not against. There is water to the left of the fairway, two large lakes are very much part of the natural dune landscape on the site. There are 18 bunkers that start about 80 yards from the hole. The approach to the green needs to find the right level
Trump MacLeod House was a historic Scottish Baronial Mansion and is now a five star hotel at Balmedie close to Aberdeen. It is is available for exclusive use, offering ten opulent guestrooms, private lounge and dining space, an exquisite private whisky bar, hot tub and extensive grounds. The guestrooms are superbly finished with Italian marble bathrooms, underfloor heating, flat screen HD TVs and charming characteristics such as its very own secret stairway.
Trump MacLeod Lodge near Balmedie is a historic former blacksmiths quarters, stylishly renovated to offer nine luxury guestrooms. The historic Scottish mansion and lodge is set amidst mature woodland in the heart of the magnificent Trump International Estate. Boasting many charming characteristics including traditional log fires, period features and spectacular grounds the hotel and lodge offer luxury and comfort in a secluded and dramatic location, the ultimate countryside retreat. This five-star hotel provides exquisite superior, classic twin and double guestrooms. Each fully equipped with all the facilities and amenities to suit the modern, luxury traveller. The Hotel and Lodge is just a short drive from Aberdeen International Airport, the vibrant city centre and ideally situated for golfers to North East Scotland.
The Dunes Restaurant & Bar is a comfortable, relaxed environment with rich walnut, leather seating, warming fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views across the Great Dunes of Scotland championship links course. It serves stylish modern classics as well as firm favourites including Fish and Chips, Burgers, Mac and Cheese. Also mouth-watering fish dishes, salads and specials to suit all tastes.
The Clavis Whisky Bar features an extensive selection of over 200 Scottish and International malt whiskies carefully selected from the world’s leading producers. Rare and highly sought after releases sit alongside well-known favourites and traditional Scottish brands giving guests a unique choice of liquors to sample and savour. In 2012, Trump Scotland commissioned The GlenDronach Distillery to exclusively bottle and release a special highland single malt to celebrate the opening of the golf course. Cocktails, fine wines and other drinks are also available for guests to enjoy.