Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 11 installment . . .
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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – With the Scottish Open in my rearview mirror, I drove from Nairn to Aberdeen on the A96. It’s about a two-hour drive to the oil capital of Scotland.
Just north of Aberdeen is both Murcar and, of course, Royal Aberdeen in the Bridge of Don region, two classic links courses.
I’ve been to Royal Aberdeen many times, but two were to cover events: the Senior British Open in 2005 when Tom Watson beat Ireland’s Des Smyth in a playoff and then the 2011 Walker Cup when the U.S. didn’t play very well and got beat, 14-12.
That U.S. roster was pretty solid and included Peter Uihlein, Russell Henley, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth. It’s still hard to believe the U.S. lost.
Royal Aberdeen is also the home of Richie Ramsay and is a course that may be one of the hardest links venues you’ll find in Scotland.
When I was covering the Senior British Open, I stayed on the Menie Estate, which includes the primary house known as the Menie House. The estate, which is more than 200 acres, has a coastline that runs for miles along the North Sea, with spectacular sand dunes everywhere.
The owners at the time – Tom and Sandra Griffin – were from Texas but lived at the Menie Estate or in France.
They would bring private parties in to hunt and fish on the property until one day an American billionaire (that’d be Donald Trump) knocked on the door and inquired about purchasing the estate.
So I returned to Menie Estate today to find the same dunes and coastline with 18 spectacular holes winding through Trump International Golf Links, Scotland.
According to the Golfweek’s Best rankings, Trump Scotland is our top-rated new course in the GB&I. (Click here for the rankings)
It’s understandable, because the course is a terrific combination of new design with old-world land.
I have always maintained that Bandon Dunes in the U.S. is the best combination of courses in the United States, but it doesn’t have the dunes of Trump Scotland. The look from different points on tees or greens over the immense landscape of the Menie Estate or out toward the North Sea makes this property one of the most picturesque in the world.
That doesn’t mean the design of the golf course matches up with the land, but Martin Hawtree managed to that by using the land when it made sense and creating holes when the land needed a little help.
The result was an impressive combination of striking environment and intelligent design.
When you talk with Donald Trump about his course in Scotland, he talks like a proud father, which is understandable.
Today was the day after the course’s first birthday, as the first tee shots were struck by Trump and Colin Montgomerie on July 10, 2012.
Which is why certain characteristics of the course still need to mature. The greens are still establishing a root structure and thus run relatively slow. Over time, the greens will become faster.
The course looks like a links course, but again with a considerable amount of water put on the course to promote grass growth the course is very green and doesn’t play like a mature links course.
Hawtree was back over the past couple of weeks and started to lay out the second course at Trump Scotland.
The photos of the new course were taken from the fifth hole, which is the southernmost part of the course and also from the ninth tee. As you can see, the new course also will be set amongst the dunes of the Menie Estate.
One of the best parts of the experience at Trump Scotland was my caddie Murray Morrison (I just called him Murray).
Murray is a caddie during the day and fish-and-chips proprietor at night, owning Garioch Fish Bar in Inverurie, which is 16 miles northwest of Aberdeen.
Murray was once a 1-handicap at Royal Aberdeen, but with no time to play he lost the handicap and plays a lot less now.
The reason he caddies is because he wants to lose weight. According to Murray he has dropped a decent amount of weight since he started looping last year. He mentioned something about “stone,” but like centigrade conversion it means nothing to me.
Murray was a great pleasure to walk around with and knew the course and greens as well as you can expect for such a new course.
The Trump Scotland experience was awesome, and the Bulldog approved. Make sure to ask for Murray if you need a caddie, which I would highly recommend.
After my round, I left Trump and drove south on the A92 through Aberdeen and Dundee to St. Andrews, my home for the next three days before Muirfield and the Open Championship.
Check in tomorrow. I figure a quick tour of the Home of Golf would be a nice change.