Trump International Golf Links
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

Fifth hole, 385/355 yards; After two par fives and this intermediate two shotter the golfer starts to relax and forgets about the erroneous early reports that portrayed this course as an unmanageable beast. In fact, it dawns on him that he is having great fun. This cute placement hole is made by the left central hazard and left hole locations on this wide but shallow green that steps down to a lower left section. The 5,800 square foot green requires one of the most precise approach shots of the day.

Revetted bunker faces were chosen because the course could be made ready for play more quickly after foul weather with this style than traditional sand-faced ones. Some might favor the blown-out look of Pacific Dunes or Sand Hills but these possess the single greatest attribute – they are well positioned. The left center hazard 90 yards short of the green is a prime example.

Curiously, the bunkers at the fifth have growth on their top edges, which sets them apart.

Curiously, the bunkers at the fifth have growth on their top edges, which sets them apart. Congratulations to the construction team for preserving/creating one and two foot random humps and bumps within the fairway. The golfer will likely have to make slight adjustments to his set-up, a hallmark of links golf. Extremely gratifying is the sight of a ball carrying the greenside bunker, swinging hard left down the slope and nestling close to this day’s lower left hole location.

Sixth hole, 185/170 yards; Given the owner’s reputation, one thing was certain: world class golf holes had better emerge from the project or it would quickly fall from grace and the emperor would have no clothes. Give Hawtree extra kudos for delivering this all- universe hole. Magnificently steeped in nature, this hole’s setting makes one shotters elsewhere seem inconsequential.

Played from dune top to dune top, this hole is the stuff of dreams. Like the third, only one bunker was required.

Played from dune top to dune top, this hole is the stuff of dreams. Like the third, only one bunker was required.

The bunkers are true hazards. Their steep revetted walls coupled with small concave floors conspire to make recovery difficult. Sometimes, play in the direction of the flag is not an option.

The bunkers are true hazards. Their steep revetted walls coupled with small concave floors conspire to make recovery difficult. Sometimes, play in the direction of the flag is not an option.

Seventh hole, 280/245 yards; From 1950 to 1990, few drivable holes were constructed. It slowly began to change and around 2005, they became ubiquitous. Perhaps there are too many. Yet the only question to answer: is this hole the absolute best use of the land? In this case, the seventh fits well with the dunescape and yet…… something isn’t quite right. Ignoring crazy weather days, golfers of every caliber are urged/forced to have a lash at the green. The reason? The lay-up shot is no more of a bargain than having a go. Hawtree is aware of this issue and a tweak or two is expected.

With two penal bunkers guarding the none too big lay-up area, why not have a go at the green?

With two penal bunkers guarding the none-too-big lay-up area, why not have a go at the green? Ideally, players should be torn on the tee as to the correct decision with half choosing each option.

Eighth hole, 500/465 yards; Given the course’s supreme location, the WOW factor was never an issue. The more germane question was whether the natural landscape would be allowed to stand on its own or would tricks be employed to add ‘excitement’? Happily, restraint prevailed as exemplified here. The publicity photos are of the more heavily bunkered holes on the course (e.g. the fourth and eighteenth), so it is worth noting that eleven of the eighteen holes have one or no greenside bunkers. Bambury makes the point that the green surrounds are the same seed mixture as the greens themselves. There is a whooping 323,00o square feet (!) of greens complex turf on the course (which equates to an average of 18,000 square feet per hole) with the only difference between the surrounds and the greens being the height of cut. Bottom line: there is lots and lots of short grass and loads and loads of recovery options around the greens.

Trump International is a meld of rock solid holes: here, nine and eleven which blend seamlessly with some one-of-kind, spectacular ones like the three, six and fourteen. The golfer’s senses are elevated but never overwhelmed, an attribute of all great courses.

Trump International is a meld of rock solid holes: here, nine and eleven which blend seamlessly with some one-of-kind, spectacular ones like the three, six and fourteen. The golfer’s senses are elevated but never overwhelmed, an attribute of all great courses.

From the safer, left edge of the fairway (i.e. the side away from the hazard), left hole locations are blind.

From the safer, left edge of the fairway (i.e. the side away from the hazard), left hole locations are blind.

The enormous 9,200 square foot green with its slight rolls and random puffs is a thing of great beauty. Golfers of all levels can have fun manufacturing an approach shot to this open green.

The enormous 11,300 square foot green with its slight rolls and random puffs is a thing of beauty and is one of the author’s favorite features on the course. Golfers of all levels have fun manufacturing approach shots to this open, lay of the land green.

Ninth hole, 470/425 yards; Interesting, nuanced angles of play go a long way toward determining how much fun a course is to play time and time again. If a course is too straightforward, its charms wane. Here, a dip feeds into the swollen right side of the fairway and shunts tee balls laterally. From there, approach shots must be played over the edge of a dune into the deepest green on the course at 54 yards in length. Fine subtleties abound: Tee balls nudge right, a blind to partially blind approach on an oblique angle to a long green with a back left hidden bunker.  The golfer who can hold his ball on the left half of the fairway is rewarded with the best look down the length of the green.

An A+ grade goes to this golfer for holding his tee shot up down the left. Tee balls that drift farther right can leave a blind approach over the dune in the distance.

An A+ grade goes to this golfer for holding his tee shot down the left. Tee balls that drift farther right leave a blind approach over the tall dune.

Tenth hole, 575/495 yards; Primary to any links is how well its holes interact with the dunes. Some golfers, especially low markers, prefer links like Birkdale and Muirfield where perfect optics are frequently provided. Yet, without the occasional blind shot the traditionalist won’t feel connected to the dunescape like he will at gems like Prestwick and Rye. Conversely, too many blind shots and courses become ill-suited for hosting major events. Hawtree did an admirable job walking that fine line so that both the old fashioned links lover and the modern player will both find things to like.

This view from behind the tenth green highlights the angles of play.

This view from behind the tenth green captures the angles of play. The golfer needs to work hard on his first two shots so that he is has a good look up the angled green for his third. Otherwise …

Unless, the golfer positions his second shot properly, this is the view he can have for his approach.  The elevated tenth green is tucked around the shoulder of the dune on the left.

… this blind shot over the shoulder of the dune is what he must face.

Eleventh hole, 470/455 yards; The back tee provides the highest vantage point on the course and it is worth a clamber up the dune for a look. You might even swear that you spy the Netherlands across the North Sea, so commanding is the view. Though the golfer has already had several postcard moments from elevated tees at the second, fifth, sixth, and eighth, he greedily soaks up another. So what about the golf?  The hole lives up to its auspicious start. The player who stays on the inside of the dogleg right has the best angle into another well conceived green complex.

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The putting surfaces at Trump International are nicely varied and never over the top. If you prefer your links greens to be like St. Andrews, you might wish for more interior contour. If you like the putting surfaces at Scottish stalwarts like Troon and Carnoustie, you’ll be content. Certainly, too much interior green contour is risky in such a windy location. Personally, the author sees similarity here with Alister MacKenzie’s approach at Cypress Point: well done but never to the point that they distract the eye from the glorious surrounds.

Twelfth hole, 435/365 yards; Backdrops to golf shots are important. The curse of so many downhill drives is that the overall sensation of the tee ball falling out of the sky begins to wane, no matter how spectacular the landscape. This tee ball features the North Sea at eye level and provides nice variation. The green nestled past a depression against a dune is another visual enticement.

As seen from the tee, the ships remind one of Aberdeen's long distinguished history as a major port.

As seen from the tee, the ships remind one of Aberdeen’s long distinguished history as a major maritime center.

The second shot plays across a depression to a well-conceived green complex. Beware the false front!

The second shot plays across a depression to a well-conceived green complex. Beware the false front!

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