When I wrote my blog entry about Course No 410, which Craig Stu and I played on 6 June 2011, I was honouring a commitment to not mention the name or location of the course, given the owners' wishes for complete privacy. At that time, access to the course was restricted to the owners' family, estate workers and those few golfers who were able to gain access for corporate golf days. Those few aside, the course was strictly off limits and access was almost impossible. We were lucky that we knew someone who knew someone working for the estate's management, but even then, we were sworn to honour privacy, hence the rather cryptic blog entry. Since then, I've learnt that one of the guys at my own golf club works for the royal household, has access to the course and can invite guests!
However, it seems that the former privacy has just been waived. The Scotsman newspaper of 20 February 2017 contained the following short article -
"Queen's private golf course being opened to public
The Queen's private Balmoral golf course is being opened to the public. Normally only open to the royal family, staff and their guests, visiting golfers will now be allowed a round on the 9 hole course for £200 for four players. The course in Aberdeenshire had been available for hire by corporate clients. A shortage of bookings due to a downturn in the north-east's oil and gas industry has encouraged the royal household to open it up."
Given this development, I guess I'm no longer obliged to treat the existence of the course as confidential - despite the obvious presence of the course on Google Earth if anyone bothered to look. So, the secrets are out, there's a proper golf course on the Royal Estate at Balmoral and Craig, Stu and I have played it. Is it worth £50 a head? Yes! The course itself is pretty good and not the easiest we've encountered on our travels. And yes, the scorecard is pretty special! It really pays to keep the ball straight, hit the fairways and avoid the penal rough and water hazards. But apart form the golf, there's fun to be had just getting there. I'd a new black Honda CRV at the time, with black tinted rear windows, which really looked the part when I drove slowly into the estate, past the lines of gawping tourists. We were allowed to drive on the estate roads to the course, which is well away from the normal tourist routes around the estate. However, we could still be seen at various points on the course and we wondered whether anyone thought we were "important." A daft thought perhaps, but inescapable in the circumstances.
Here are some more photos from our 2011 visit -
Overall, well worth a visit, although I'm not sure exactly how anyone would make a booking and the official Balmoral website doesn't give any clues.