Fergus Bisset was fortunate to play in the inaugural Aberdeen Golf Links Pro-Am this May. With tremendous courses and great off-course camaraderie, it was quite a few days.
Over 15 years writing on this sport I’ve done my best to, whenever possible, extol the virtues of golfing in the North East of Scotland, where I live and grew up.
Sometimes the focus is on my wonderful home club of Banchory (you’ll see what I’ve done there), but often the pieces I’ve written on Aberdeenshire have centred on the brilliant courses to be found on the coastline.
With classic championship links, unique seaside gems and modern masterpieces, the Aberdeenshire coast boasts a feast of testing and fascinating links golf.
As of this year, there’s a new way to enjoy three of the region’s very best courses, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Trump International Golf Links, and I had the opportunity to experience it by playing in the inaugural Aberdeen Golf Links Pro-Am from 1-3 May.
A 54-hole competition, prizes were awarded to the top-three teams (with best two Stableford scores counting at each hole,) and cash prizes to the leading professionals.
I was lucky enough to be on a team captained by Ladies European Tour professional Michele Thomson – An Aberdeen native, representing Meldrum House Golf Club, she’s finished in the top-10 three times on the LET and, last year, together with Meghan Maclaren, took a bronze medal for GB in the European Championship at Gleneagles.
She’s an excellent player, but also a very nice person who was brilliant company through the event.
Also on our team was Colin, father of the event’s organiser David Harris.
David runs a company called Bonnie Wee Golf that organises golf tours around Scotland and Ireland (and now this pro-am) and his dad (a retired GP) drives the bus.
Not only was he to be my team-mate for the week but also my chauffeur, thank you again for that Colin!
The fourth member of our squad was Tom – an American staying in Aberdeen for a year or so who is here with a view towards playing quite a bit of golf… sounds like a good plan.
We got together on night one, pre-tournament, for a wonderful dinner at Meldrum House Hotel, just outside of Old Meldrum.
It’s one of Aberdeenshire’s most prestigious and luxurious hotels and we enjoyed brilliant food and hospitality in their characterful private dining room, and then a fine night’s sleep in the impressively converted stable block.
We needed that good night’s sleep as it was an early start for round one at spectacular Cruden Bay.
It was a tough opening as Aberdeenshire’s famous haar had settled across the links, but visibility was sufficient for play to get underway.
There are some highly memorable holes on the front nine at Cruden Bay – the par-3 4th with the village to the left and then the brilliant 5th, demanding two strong and precise shots.
The layout then climbs to deliver spectacular views around the turn before dropping on the far side of the headland for some secluded and attractive holes from the 10th to the 14th.
We battled well in testing conditions and Michele could be pleased with her three-over round.
The team were a little lower on the leaderboard and that was to be a theme over the three days.
You need to dovetail well in an event like this and we tended to have all our good holes together and the same with the bad ones… Not the recipe for high team Stableford scoring!
But it really doesn’t matter and, although there is obviously a competitive element, the main focus of this event is the fun and camaraderie, not only between your team but also with the other teams competing around you.
One of the fun things is that a number of the pros know each other well from playing together on the domestic circuit, and further afield.
There’s some great banter between them as they focus on the more important task of carding the lowest gross scores they can.
A few notable professional entrants for the week included, recent European Tour winner and two-time Scottish Amateur champion David Law, former Volvo PGA Championship winner Andrew Oldcorn and Spanish professionals Miguel Angel Martin and Carl Suneson.