The 18 holes are located on a brilliant rolling spit of land that juts away from Aberdeen City Centre and has the most tumultuous and adventurous terrain. Located amidst a conservation area it has everything that is required for exciting, exhilarating and quirky links golf. The land moves one way and then the other and then back again. There are blind shots, elevated drives, approaches to flags in the sky, shots to sunken greens and stunning scenery to boot.
I know you can feel a ‘but’ coming and I’m afraid to say there is a very big one on the way.
It was just so sad to see a course that could potentially serve up thrilling golf play so very soft and where the ball had very little roll once it landed. It resembled target golf on a parkland property. I don’t know why this is the case but I suspect it’s years, probably decades, of over watering and fertilisation which has turned the links into a green mush. The turf has lost most of its sandy nature and the grass was particularly lush and green.
I’m probably being harsh on Balnagask when I say all of this but it’s such a shame that what could be a cracking little links golfing experience simply wasn’t. In fact it was the antonym of it.
That all said there are some good holes, they just don’t play as fun as they should. The drive at the second is a belter with a simply splendid backdrop, the uphill par-three fifth is a fine hole too and there are lots of good things going on at the ninth.
However, the best hole on the course is the 10th, a 485-yard par-five that dog-legs left over a large dune ridge, which runs through the entire course, before playing downhill through a narrowing valley to a sheltered green.
Balnagask, one of many courses owned by the local council, is a tough walk for its 6,059 yards (par 70) because there are a lot of holes which are uphill then downhill or vice versa and some of the inclines to the many plateaued greens are particular steep. As you might expect at a municipal venue there was little rough to speak of so it’s possible to open your shoulders and blast away without much danger of losing your ball.
Although I came away a touch disappointed with Balnagask, home to Nigg Bay Golf Club, it still represents excellent value at just a few pence over £15 for a green-fee and the views of both the city harbour at one side and the Robert Stevenson-designed lighthouse and North Sea at the other end are not only unique but rather special.
My overriding advice, however, would be to head up the coast and play another course owned and managed by Aberdeen City Council. For the same price Kings Links will provide a firm and fast links golf experience which is simply not comparable to Balnagask.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.