Balgownie is one of the truest linksland layouts in golf. It's a course to test the better golfer, one who can accommodate the many variable conditions this arduous links can throw at you. Balgownie's front nine holes rank amongst the very best in the world. No two are the same within a natural ecosystem, interspersed with rich turf and tight rolling fairways, that is a sheer delight to behold. The Balgownie course is a classic links layout - out through the dunes and back along a plateau. The 1st offers a wide fairway playing slightly downhill from the elevated clubhouse (the tee box set immediately in front of the clubhouse windows) before dropping into a deep hollow just before the raised green. On a course that is not known for its large greens, the 1st offers one of the more difficult, leaning towards you and sloping off to the left with Aberdeen Beach immediately behind. The following holes make up the most unaffected piece of golf terrain you are ever likely to encounter and worthy of all the praise and rancour that gets poured upon it. The 2nd is a wonderfully natural par 5, a long carry over grassy hillocks then on through the windy, winding valley with high dunes on the right and tangling gorse to the left. It can seem relatively calm in the valley and so it is easy to be deceived. Long, low irons along the markedly undulating fairway might help avoid the full strength of any bluster. The 3rd is an exceptional, and by the stroke index the hardest of the par 3’s on the course. The challenge is mainly due to its length, an elevated tee shot at 248yds off the championship tee and depending on the wind direction it can be everything you’ve got in the bag and more. There is the opportunity to land it short and to the right of the green, there the ball will tend to be gathered by the slopes and run down to the fringe or if it has the legs the green. Stroke Index 1 occurs at the 4th where you must initially find the fairway but just like the 3rd hole the high tee creates more of a wind influence. A good tee shot preferably down the right side of the fairway will allow a more favourable line into long and narrow green. If you simply place the ball over 200 yards at the 5th it can be a good birdie opportunity, leaving around 130 yards into a well-protected green. A driver’s clearly not necessary as the hole becomes more difficult the closer in you get. The front-right greenside bunker (behind which the pin is often placed) gathers up everything so be longer on the approach. The 6th is another birdie chance, not a long par 5 and hitting into a sunken valley. The 2nd shot is critical as the fairway again bottlenecks and the green is well protected by bunkers just short and front of the green, so going longer is best or lay up for a short pitch in. There is a pinch of fairway showing from the 7th tee indicating a dog-leg right but faint-hearted first-timers shouldn’t take chances and simply play a straight shot for position preferably on the left side of the fairway otherwise the least that could happen is you catch the fairway bunker on the right. From any fairway position, the narrow green entrance with its protective bunkers and mounds calls for judicious play. The two pot bunkers around 10 yards short of the green create an illusion that they are closer. It is a two-tiered green running across the putting surface so be mindful of the pin placement. The 8th is the course’s signature hole, a par 3 that changes its spots to suit conditions, a 3-iron one day, a pitching wedge the next. Nine bunkers surround the green like dragon’s teeth and the only way home is straight down its throat. The 9th curves right over the burn and climbs steadily up the dunes. A new bunker at 290 yards will catch those trying to get the absolute most out of cutting the corner. This leaves a long, uphill second shot so make sure you have enough club– at least one more to reach a long green. With gorse and thick grass on the left a visible deterrent, favour the right side once again.