1.) Routing: 9
Returning nines, with the front nine to the south forming a tight clockwise loop and the back nine on the north side feeling like a necklace folded in on itself. Good balance of exposure to coastline and inland.
• Menie Park Lodge, Menie Estate; Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
• http://www.trumpgolfscotland.com; 44-1358-74-33-00
• Par 72: 7,428 yards (77.4 rating/149 slope); 5,215 yards (72.6 rating/131 slope)
• Green fees: $234 (weekday); $313 (weekend) / local residents receive 20 percent discount
• Walking encouraged; caddies available but not required
2.) Quality of shaping: 7
Fairways have big flow, but not a lot of quirky crumple to them. Biggest limitation here is the repetitive form and appearance of the deep, revetted bunkers. Tees have been shaped into little platforms, with a front “lift” of turf and high grass that render them invisible from the fairway.
3.) Overall land plan: 8
Scale of the entire property should allow for generous setbacks so that hotel and real estate will be out of view. Uncommonly large (for U.K.) practice area, 22 acres, needs targets for better definition. The main sensibility here is of intense proximity to the dunes and coast.
4.) Greens and surrounds: 7
Ground-game access on more than half the holes; there’s the occasional overreaching of contours and just not enough room for recovery around greens. But green sites are lovely, with angles varied and slopes appropriate to the context.
5.) Variety and memorability of par 3s: 10
Every direction is covered, with clubs ranging from very short iron to fairway metal/hybrid, depending upon tees and wind. Downhill third hole (108-205 yards) brings a beachside burn into play while the 13th hole (120-229 yards) is a smartly defended platform stage draped by theatricaldunes behind.
6.) Variety and memorability of par 4s: 8
Good range of holes and rhythm, for example going from the nearly drivable seventh to consecutive, long, uphill holes at the eighth and ninth. The course momentarily stalls at the 11th and 12th, both of them dogleg rights through wide fairways that simply are too similar. The aforementioned 14th hole is the undisputed stunner, followed by a sophisticated little hole at the 15th, where the right-side bunkersappear to choke off a landing area and yet are 50 yards apart.
7.) Variety and memorability of par 5s: 7
Second shots on all of the par 5s are interesting, though there’s a bit too much similarity in the bunker complexes 100 yards or so short of each green. The alternatefairway on the 10th makes little sense, but the burn in the landing area off the tee at the fourth hole gets your attention, as does everything (fairway bunkers, marsh ponds) on the “I can see for miles and miles” 18th.
8.) Tree and landscape management: 7
Millions of marram plants secured the dunesand made construction possible. The native roughs have an untreed, undifferentiated wild look and swallow up everything.
9.) Conditioning: 8
Superintendent John Bambury and crew did an impressive grow-in during one of the coolest, wettest seasons for a new course. It takes time to establish links conditions, and so the run on the course will pick up pace steadily.
10.) “Walk in the park” test: 9
An elegant, adventurous walk for golfers. Whether the dunes and small walking paths can accommodate the crowds that Trump hopes will some day attend a major championship would require a complex logistical maneuver.
This is a wonderful effort – in the mix with Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart for stellar modern British efforts. Hawtree deserves much credit for having tamed a site – and in all likelihood an owner – that could have been overwhelming. The far northeast coast of Scotland was once a stretch for the serious golf traveler – a destination reserved for the third time over. With the opening of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, the region moves closer to the forefront.