The perfect golf break

WITH a number of superb courses to choose from, the Aberdeen region of North East Scotland is blessed with some of the top links courses in the UK and an ideal destination for that perfect golf break.

WITH a number of superb courses to choose from, the Aberdeen region of North East Scotland is blessed with some of the top links courses in the UK and an ideal destination for that perfect golf break.

Scotland is the Home of Golf and golfers from our region, travel north each year to sample Scottish hospitality. Be it Turnberry, Troon or the Gailes courses in Ayrshire, Muirfield, Gullane and Dunbar in East Lothian or St. Andrews, Ladybank or Kings Barnes in Fife to name but a few, we are spoilt for choice.

But many have not had the privilege to play a trio of courses that can test the very best in the game. To the north of the 'Granite City', are three wonderful lay-outs, Cruden Bay, Murcar Links and the 'Big Daddy' of them all, Royal Aberdeen.

These are links golf courses at their very best, the ever-changing sea breezes, wonderful crisp turf, deep pot-bunkers and firm fast greens all combine to give you the ultimate links experience.

Yes, the drive might be a little on the long side, quicker by train and 35 minutes by air but it's worth it and you won't be disappointed.

A short journey north out of Aberdeen, the beautiful Balmedie Beach stretches for as far as the eye can see and hidden in the huge rolling sand dunes, you will find Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links. The landscape here is unbelievable and with many of the tees sited high on the dunes, both courses command marvellous views across the wide expanse of Aberdeen Bay.

Royal Aberdeen is a true championship course and the only reason the club has not had an Open has to be the infrastructure. Aberdeen does not currently have a ring road and the city can be a nightmare to get through during the rush hour.

But they have had more than their fair share of top tournaments - Scottish Amateur Championships at regular intervals from 1924, the Scottish Boys, the Scottish Ladies Amateur and most recently, the 2005 Senior British Open Championship. And in 2011, Royal Aberdeen will play host to the Walker Cup.

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the 6th oldest club in the world and one of the most testing of all the great Scottish links. A par 71, measuring 6900 from the championship tees; the standard scratch is 74 - a good indication of the difficulty. The outward nine-holes are more than impressive and are reckoned to be one of the finest stretches of links golf anywhere in the world.

On paper, the back nine looks easier but these are usually played into the prevailing wind making the holes feel much longer. If you play anywhere near to your handicap at Royal Aberdeen, you will have had a round to savour.

Next door to Royal Aberdeen is Murcar Links Golf Club. Similar to its Royal neighbour, the huge sand dunes, crumpled fairways, whins, gorse and burns all play a part in providing an experience you will never forget. From the back tees the course measures 6516 yards and is great fun to play. It's a different ball game from the yellows with the two par 5s dropping off the card to leave a very tough par 69.

Murcar Golf Club was founded in 1909 with a course laid out by Archie Simpson, the professional from Royal Aberdeen. Legendary architect James Braid later revised the course and the result is outstanding. When the wind blows, Murcar Links can be an absolute beast but whatever the weather, this is a must-play course and tremendous entertainment all the way round.

The third of Aberdeenshire's gems is Cruden Bay. Situated approximately 20 miles north of Aberdeen, this course is one of the game's originals with a number of blind tee shots, hidden greens and even a blind par 3 where many a good score has been ruined. The deep rough on the dunes may look picturesque and a photographer's dream but beware - stray too far from the fairways and you will be loosing golf balls at an alarming rate.

But that doesn't put golfers off returning, they simply fall in love with the Cruden Bay experience. Designed by Old Tom Morris and opened for play in 1899, the course remains a firm favourite for visitors from all over the globe and has been rated at 52 in the world by 'Golf Magazine'

As for accommodation, there are many B & Bs in the region along with some very good hotels and the pick of them has to be the 'VisitScotland' Marcliffe Hotel, Spa and Restaurant.

This 5-star hotel situated on the outskirts of Aberdeen offers luxury breaks and is designed to provide a tranquil, stylish refuge for both the business and leisure traveller.

The food served in the conservatory restaurant is mainly locally produced be it Aberdeen Angus beef, game, or fish and shellfish from local rivers and ports. And with over 400 wines in the cellar and in excess of 100 malt whiskies, the connoisseur is spoilt for choice.

Away from the Marcliffe, the Albyn Restaurant and Bar, located in the west end of Aberdeen offers a great dining experience. Here the classically trained chefs have created mouth-watering menus offering great Scottish cuisine, all presented superbly. And if you dine at weekends, the Albyn provides entertainment - a blend of jazz and 'rat pack' style music making this restaurant the perfect choice no matter what the occasion.

Another restaurant of note is the Silver Darling, a roof-top conservatory restaurant located in Aberdeen's former customs house and overlooking the entrance to Aberdeen's harbour. This restaurant is renowned for its fine food and wine, in particular their fabulous fish dishes, exquisitely prepared by their highly professional team in the kitchen.

And if you fancy a break from golf why not visit a couple of Aberdeen's most famous exports - the Glen Garioch Whisky Distillery or Dean's of Huntly!

The distillery is situated in the Aberdeenshire village of Old Meldrum, a region famed for its stunning scenery, colourful tartans and ancient history. Established in 1797, this small distillery takes its name from the Valley of Garioch, traditionally the finest growing barley area in Scotland.

There is a saying that from small beginnings come great things and this could not be truer for Glen Garioch. The guided tour is informative and you will love the tasting session - this highland malt Scotch whisky reflects the character of the quiet little village in which it is produced, typically Highland, full of charm with a long warm finish.

Not all shortbread is the same and be it Christmas or that delicious occasional treat, most people have at some time tasted Dean's range of traditional Scottish all butter shortbread.

Developed exclusively for the independent retail, gift and delicatessen sectors, the company has come a long way from its homely beginnings in Helen Dean's kitchen. Dean's of Huntly continues to bake traditional Scottish shortbread using Helen's original recipes and time-honoured hand-crafted baking traditions. A visit to the factory and their visitor centre is well worth the effort and you will be pleasantly surprised on how informative it is.

2009 is the perfect year to celebrate in Scotland with Homecoming Scotland 2009. For further information and to plan your visit to the 'Home of Golf' visit www.visitscotland.com/perfect day or telephone 0845 225 5121.

Factfile

Name: Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

Address: Balgownie Links, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8AT

Telephone: 01224 702 221 (Professional & Tee Reservations) 01224 702 571 (Secretary and Clubhouse)

Fax: 01224 826 591

E-mail: admin@royalaberdeengolf.com

Web Site: www.royalaberdeengolf.com

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Name: Murcar Links Golf Club

Address: Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8BD

Telephone: 01224 704 354

Fax: 01224 704 354

E-mail: golf@murcarlinks.com

Web Site: www.murcarlinks.com

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Name: Cruden Bay Golf Club

Address: Aulton Bay, Cruden Bay, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, AB42 0NN

Telephone: 01779 812 285

Fax: 01779 812 945

E-mail: secretary@crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk

Web Site: www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk

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Name: The Marcliffe Hotel, Spa and Restaurant

Address: North Deeside Rd, Pitfodels, Aberdeen. AB15 9YA

Telephone: 01224 861 000

E-mail: enquiries@marcliffe.com

Web Site: www.marcliffe.com

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Name: The Albyn Restaurant & Bar

Address: 11 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, AB10 1YE

Telephone: 01224 211 666

Web Site: www.thealbyn.com

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Name: The Silver Darling Seafood Restaurant

Address: Pocra Quay, North Pier, Aberdeen, AB11 5DQ

Telephone: 01224 576 229

Web Site: www.silverdarlingrestaurant.co.uk

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Name: Glen Garioch Distillery

Address: Visitor Centre, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, AB51 0ES

Telephone: 01651 873 450

Web Site: www.glengarioch.co.uk

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Name: Dean's of Huntly Ltd

Address: Huntly, Aberdeenshire. AB54 8JX

Telephone: 01466 792 086

Web Site: www.deans.co.uk

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Name: VisitScotland Perfect Day Campaign

Telephone: 0845 225 5121

Web Sites: www.visitscotland.com/perfectday

www.visitscotland.com/perfectgolf

 
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