What are the best golf courses in Aberdeenshire? The Golf World Top 100 panel chooses the top layouts in the country’s north-east corner.
Aberdeenshire takes some reaching, but once there you’re blessed with some of the country’s very best golf courses, including a trio of high-octane options.
An ideal destination for a golf break, with an excellent mix of courses and resorts, Trump Aberdeen is the star of the show, but there’s quality throughout and the beauty of producing these regional and county guides is that we can shine the spotlight on golf courses you may never have heard of.
How did we choose the best golf courses in Aberdeenshire?
Top 100 editor (and Scotsman) Chris Bertram was joined by the Scottish panel of Mike Bailey, Stuart Bendoris, David Jones, Alan McPherson, Douglas Mill, Darius Oliver, Susie Robertson and Neal Stewart to provide the framework for the regional rankings. McPherson, Robertson and Stewart have played every course in Scotland, Mill is a handful short, and their knowledge in every area was naturally priceless.
In addition we had local experts in every area, namely: Ayrshire – Mill; D&G – Bertram & Derek Heron; Glasgow – Stewart & David Walker; Edinburgh & East Lothian – Bendoris; Fife – David Scott; Aberdeenshire – Justin Grant; Perthshire – Ally Philp; Argyll & Islands – Jim Hartsell; Highlands – Murray Urquhart.
Best Golf Courses in Aberdeenshire
1. Trump Golf Links Aberdeen
Golf on a grand scale. The Martin Hawtree links offers a breathtaking journey among dunes unmatched in Scotland. You just have to play it.
Carved between some of the tallest dunes you can experience in Britain, its fairways are generally generous, but if you miss them it is a certain lost ball for the marram that holds the dunes in place is thick.
Even off the yellows an exacting test of accuracy with minimal forgiveness – it would be a serious test of the world’s top players. This is, without doubt, a memorable experience.
2. Cruden Bay
Archie Simpson’s design is many people’s favourite rollercoaster. Cruden continued its rise in our 2022 GB&I ranking from quirky curiosity to top-20 fixture.
Showcases one of golf’s great routings with the figure of eight around Port Errol. Crossing over in the middle, the views from the elevated 9th tee are glorious.
The holes around the turn may be weaker, but it almost feels churlish for this rivals North Berwick for fun factor.
3. Royal Aberdeen
You’ve heard all about the front nine, which vies with Machrihanish, but the back isn’t bad, either.
After a wonderful start playing down towards the North Sea, the front half plays through a dune valley that could have been made for golf. Then you make an about-turn to play on the higher ground coming home. A class links.
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Plotted on a classic stretch of linksland next to Royal Aberdeen, This 1909 design by Archie Baird was revised by James Braid and is indubitably GB&I Top 100 class.
The bland 1st makes you wonder what the fuss is all about, then it dazzles and enchants you with half-par holes, benched greens, funky two-shotters and seminal green complexes.
6. Duff House Royal
A flat, fun (starts with six short par 4s) and manicured parkland in coastal town Banff. Strategic bunkering and two-tiered greens. Opened in 1910, refreshed in 1923 by Alister MacKenzie.
Willie Park Jnr set down a nine-holer among the dunes in 1892 before it was extended to 18 holes in 1908. Has been a fixture in our Scottish Top 100 for several lists; underrate it at your peril.
8. Meldrum House
Country estate resort with a gently undulating, pristine Graeme Webster-designed parkland (1998). Eighteen bunkers guard the green at the long 11th. Members and hotel guests only.
9. Newmachar (Hawkshill)
Dave Thomas parkland (1990) winds between silver birch, pines, water hazards and well-positioned bunkers. Hosted the 1997 Scottish Senior Open and a serious test.
Founded in 1883, it is the oldest club on Royal Deeside. The parkland was shaped by Archie Simpson and Martin Hawtree and received strong backing from our panel ahead of several well-known links.
11. Newburgh on Ythan
Delightful links on the Ythan Estuary overlooking the North Sea and Sands of Forvie National Nature Reserve. Dates back to 1888 but only became 18 in 1996, with an obvious difference between the nines.
Incredible value clifftop course founded in 1888 beside the main East Coast railway line. ‘Hitler’s Bunker’, found between the first two holes, was created by the Luftwaffe following a 1940 bombing raid.
Old Tom Morris made the most of nature’s gifts here – the coastline, sea stacks and escarpments. The clifftop par-63 will be one of the quirkiest courses you’ll ever play. It’s in our GB&I Fun Top 100.
14. Deeside Haughton
Century-old parkland with magical Royal Deeside scenery, especially from the par-3 opener, as well as the tricky greens.
Underrated and challenging 1908 parkland. Always well presented. Best holes around the turn demand good strategy.
This 1989 Donald Steel design has matured into one of the region’s leading parklands and has hosted some prestigious competitions. Findon Burn lies in wait, crossing five front-nine holes.
A gently rolling heathland/parkland (1906) with several holes close to the River Dee. Just over 6,000 yards, but the opening six holes are challenging.
Picturesque parkland on the banks of the River Dee. Designed by John Souter in 1905, well-placed bunkers and mature trees make it a solid all-round test.
Little-known links restored to 18 holes in the early 1950s. Just 5,436 yards but is full of surprises, with six par 3s, and sea views from every hole.
UK’s highest course sits about 1,200ft above sea level and originally began as a nine-holer 111 years ago. Modest yardage, stunning vistas from many holes.
Seaside course from early 1930s by J.H. Taylor. Features several short par 4s before finishing with a demanding 400-yard hole to a tiered green.
22. Hazlehead (MacKenzie)
Alister MacKenzie-designed public parkland that sits, largely unchanged, alongside the Pines course and a nine-holer.
23. Royal Tarlair
A clifftop parkland commanding panoramic coastline views. The awesome par-3 13th is played over a clifftop chasm.
24. Newmachar (Swailend)
Friendlier parkland foil for the demanding Hawkshill, the 1997 Dave Thomas-designed Swailend measures 6,388 yards.
Panoramic parkland with undulating front nine, a thrilling finish and wildlife galore.
Agree or disagree with our list of Aberdeenshire’s best golf courses? Get in touch
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.