Andy Mossack enjoys a round of golf at the once exclusive Balmoral Golf Course, now open to the public on selected days of the year.
Whilst not being anywhere near the UK’s top 100 golf courses, Balmoral gets my vote as a unique place to play golf. It was created in 1925 for the exclusive use of the royal family and estate workers and has remained so until just recently when it is now possible for members of the public to book selected tee times.
It is an extraordinary experience for several reasons. It is, as you might expect, beautifully maintained by the royal gardeners, the views of Balmoral Castle, the estate and the rolling River Dee are magnificent, and you get a real sense of privilege strolling in her majesty’s back yard. Dotted about are various monuments of past royals and numerous cottages where family members and friends stay when visiting.
The course is made up of 9 holes, but each hole has two quite different tee locations making it a worthy 18 holes of 4,825 yards par 67.
I was blessed with a wonderful sunny day when I played. The small rustic club cabin and car park are discreetly tucked away in the forest so literally, all I could hear as I took my clubs out of the car was birdsong.
The first hole is named Victoria & Albert; their two elegant statues gazing at each other from opposite sides of the fairway. It’s a gentle 272-yard par 4 running alongside a field of royal horses who briefly paused their grazing to cast an eye over me. Sensing I was not Princess Anne and a mere commoner to boot, I was instantly ignored. I know my place. A sumptuous green patiently awaited and I sensed it curtsey as I left with a par.
The 2nd/11th named The Kirk is lovely, 124-yard par 3 over a private road and as I struck the ball, a Land Rover with tinted windows sailed past. I can’t deny my heart missed a beat. What was the penalty for a member of the royal family being struck by a golf ball? Fortunately, it sailed high and true and landed a foot from the pin. A birdie!
The 5th/14th Up an ower is a memorable hole, another par 3 uphill through the trees onto a plateau green.
Another tough one to navigate is the 370-yard 8th/17th The Dairy Dip, a meanderingly tricky par 4 that passes by the royal dairy. Index 1 on the front 9 it’s rightly the most difficult on the course.
This will not be the most difficult course you’ve ever played, and Aberdeenshire is blessed with many world-class golf courses, but take it from me, it’ll probably be the most memorable.
All images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about the Balmoral Golf Course
Balmoral Golf Course, Balmoral Estates, Ballater, Aberdeenshire AB35 5TB
T: 013397 42554/42555 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green fees are £150 for a two-ball booking (£75 for each player) or £200 for a four-ball booking (£50 for each player). This entitles you to an 18-hole round of golf for a maximum of four players, scorecards, use of the club cabin and parking facilities and access to the grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and café. Admission tickets for non-playing guests available at a special rate of £6.00 per person.
The golf course is open for bookings on selected dates during May, June and July.