ABERDEENSHIRE, Scotland -- Extraordinarily beautiful with all the appealing features you would seek in a pretty parkland course -- including fine specimen trees, lovely lakes, glorious views, a wealth of wildlife, sparkling fountains and meticulously manicured fairways and greens -- the Meldrum House Golf Club, obviously, was created solely to provide pleasure for those fortunate enough to play it.
Wonderfully inviting fairways encourage open shoulders on the tee. Nowhere on the golf course will you feel cramped or constricted. And though you will more often than not land on the short stuff, your approach gets that much easier if you're in the right position, so consult the yardage chart before blasting off.
Water rates as one of the principal defenses at Meldrum House. The opening hole features a lake on the left, a burn on the right and another large lake that guards the green. Landlubbers appreciate the par-3 sixth hole, the only completely dry stop on the front nine. Although distressing, a lost ball in water, at least, brings a finality that negates the need for a tedious search. The rough is sensible and mostly set far back, so you likely won't waste time at Meldrum searching for balls.
Bunkers, many of the pot variety, scatter literally about and are best to avoid.
I'm not sure of the term to label a series of bunkers -- a blast, perhaps? -- but it would work in describing the long 11th, as there no fewer than 18 traps clumped on a hill guard the green. It's designed to discourage attempts to get home in two on this uphill par 5.
The thick rough around the greens, almost U.S.-Open style, demands delicate chips that will test the nerves of players who struggle with the short game. And anxiety won't abate on the greens, where different levels, subtle slopes, hidden borrows and a slick surface combine to create tricky conditions that puzzle all but the most expert exponents of the short stick.
"Those who are good at long putts have a decided edge around here," Meldrum House Golf Club Head Professional Neil Marr said. "It's also important to put yourself in a good position off the tee from which to attack the pin."
The 6,350 yards off the regular tees stretch to a tad more than 7,000 with the recently introduced black tees.
"Although much more demanding, it's great fun off the blacks," Marr said, "more especially for the lower handicappers." Naturally.
Marr runs Meldrum House Golf Club's state-of-the-art golf academy, a facility that surely ranks as one of the best equipped in Great Britain. The academy comes complete with grass tees, a short-game area with three USGA-standard greens, a dedicated pitching green, bunkers and a large putting green. It also features video equipment and the latest launch monitor and tracking system for those who want to know their club head speed and, of course, how far they hit the ball -- great fun and extremely helpful.
The academy and the first tee require a short stroll from the magnificent Meldrum House itself, a majestic country-house hotel at the heart of the estate. It's exceptionally comfortable, wonderfully cozy and extremely classy. Recently refurbished, Meldrum House boasts 27 bedrooms and -- perhaps more importantly -- a huge whiskey bar that resembles a wonderfully well-appointed cave.
"I absolutely love this place," said James Allen of London. "To be able to walk out of your hotel room and onto such a splendid golf course is such a delight. And the course is just perfect. It's both pretty and eminently playable. My wife and I have a lesson in the morning and play 18 holes in the afternoon. Can it get any better than this?"
Meldrum House Golf Club: The verdict
A perfect parkland golf course in an idyllic setting, Meldrum House Golf Club sits a 20-minute drive from the liberal sprinkling of links golf courses along the northeast coast of Scotland. Blessed with a top-class hotel, it serves as an appealing resort destination and an excellent base from which to tackle historic tracks like Cruden Bay Golf Club, Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links.