Ballater seemed a good choice to return to golf blogging after several months absence due mainly to my sojourn to watch the British Lions take on the All Blacks. Ballater is 40 miles east of Aberdeen, in the heart of Royal Deeside, an area I spent many happy years hill walking in during my teens. The “royal” tag comes as Balmoral Castle, The Queen’s summer residence, is only a few miles away.
A nine hole golf course was founded in Ballater in 1892, and extended to 18 in 1905, the pedigree of the course demonstrated by an exhibition match between James Braid and Harry Vardon in 1906.
Although the course is described on it’s web site as mainly heathland with parkland characteristics, I beg to differ and say it’s actually the other way round, and felt much more parkland to me. Although surrounded by hills and forest, the course is surprisingly flat and offers an easy walk. With many fairways adjacent to each other, with only light rough in between, it offers regular opportunity to be wild off the tee and still easily find your ball – something I unfortunately took advantage of often! However, overall this is not an easy course with some very tricky greenside bunkers (some of which are blind to your approach shots) and some very penal rough.
Although the course lies close to the River Dee the river does not come into play as often, by comparison, as Braemar (further along the Dee). These open fairways and lack of water in play, means the course is quite good for holiday golfers. However, the course is quite busy and I would recommend booking, especially during the Summer months.
The course has some challenges in particular the opening six holes are very tough – I double bogied the first 5 holes, and actually felt I struck the ball well! The 3 par 3s on the opening 9 holes are particularly tough, culminating with the 9th hole which has a semi blind small green.
The course was in all round good condition when I played, with good greens and lush but firm fairways. I played better than my scorecard would suggest. It felt like a 30 point day, but with 3 balls lost, for 6 penalties, made it only 25 points. I had a nice birdie 2 on the par 3 17th though.
I played having booked through the teeofftimes.co.uk website and paid £22.50 versus the course published price of £35 for a midweek round. At £22.50 it would be worth 4/5 for value but only 3/5 using its rack rate.
It’s worth playing this nice course, which also has a big bar and good value restaurant food.
Note: I had to use my phone for pictures, which are not the usual standard….sorry!
Course Type: Parkland
Par 67 (0 par 5s, 13 par 4s, 5 par 3s)
Distance (yellow): 5582
Moly’s Gross score: 94.