Polly and I had planned to play this 18 hole heathland/parkland course in the western suburbs of Aberdeen a couple of years ago at the start of a trip to the area, but the weather was awful, we knew there would be another opportunity and getting soaked wasn't the most attractive option. So, when I was planning my latest trip to Aberdeen, Westhill was a priority. Even when we first visited the course in the pouring rain it looked pretty interesting so we were really looking forward to this one. 28 April 2014 dawned bright and sunny so Polly and I set off on what would be a 3 day trip to play another 5 courses. The forecast for days 2 and 3 was pretty poor but as we reached Aberdeen, the temperature was close to 20C, the sun was out and there was no wind. Better still, we pretty much had the course to ourselves. As the name suggests, this course is built on a hill. The first 4 holes are particularly hilly, but after that the course is relatively easy walking and mostly reasonably flat. The fairways are a mixture of heathland with tight lies and parkland with more lush and softer turf. The greens were faster than they looked, flat and true running, so no excuses.
Westhill is a 5482 Yard Par 69 course and starts with a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill, with pine trees to the left and OOB to the right and a cambered fairway that demands an accurate tee shot. Get that right and it's a flick to the green on this very short 259 yard Par 4. Sounds simple enough, but the green is very tricky and runs away from you, front to back, with various humps and hollows to add to the confusion. I was only 20 feet away in 2, but my 20 foot putt went 30+, hence the opening bogey. Your next hole is a 193 Yard Par 3. improbably steeply downhill. Polly had waited for the greenkeeper to finish looking for small weeds on the green, to no avail. He stepped aside eventually, satisfied he had sprayed any offending invaders, much to Polly's relief. After we'd said hello to the man after playing the hole, he told us that the safest place to stand on that hole was often in the middle of the green - and he was right. Had he been anywhere near the pine trees to the left of the green, he'd have been in real danger! Sad but true. This is a view of the 2nd green. The hole plays a lot shorter than you might think, so be warned - and say hello to the Greenkeeper. A lovely man who obviously loves his course.
The 3rd hole is uphill again and blind. This Par 4 is only 315 Yards, but get past the marker and the fairway slopes steeply downhill, falling away to the right. The green is tucked away on a little shelf, as shown here (top photo), so again, accuracy is key. The 4th is even shorter, at 271 Yards and is easily driveable, being steeply downhill. However, your tee shot will be blind and you need to go down the narrow left side of the fairway. The 4th green falls away at the back, so do not be long. Trouble awaits back there, so unless you're entirely sure where you're going and can hit your drive deadly straight, this little hole may punish you. The photo below is a view of the 4th from half way down the fairway. Note the bunker to the front right of the green, ready to trap the unwary.
I'd started bogey, par, bogey, par and since accuracy off the tee can be an erratic aspect of my game at best, I was becoming concerned that if the rest of the course was as tight, scoring would not be easy. The long walk to the 5th tee is through a leafy glade, so it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that what had been a tight hilly heathland course had become far more open and parkland in nature. The 5th itself had been re-modelled over the winter with new tees and a large pond added to this gently downhill 504 Yard Par 5, the longest hole on the course. This is a really good hole and to the left of the 5th green you get a sneak preview of the 6th, as pretty a little Par 3 as you'll find, as shown below. This hole is only 124 Yards, with a lateral water hazard running in front and to the left of the green - if you avoid the pond, that is!
I'd add a few colourful plants and make this the signature hole, given the chance. The next few holes are also good, with the 8th being far more testing than I'd expected. This is a slightly downhill 417 Yard Par 4 and it's easy enough to avoid the stream that cuts across the fairway. However, for your second shot you might not see the depth of the green which rises to a second tier at the back, where the flag was positioned when we played it. If the flag is at the back, your second shot will be a lot longer than you might think. Only a 20 foot putt saved my par!
I've been lucky enough to play hundreds of rounds with Polly over the years, so I tend to know what's coming in particular circumstances and the 10th at Westhill was certainly a good example of that sixth sense. For starters, the Ladies Red Tee was 48 Yards further back than my Yellow Tee and was steeply uphill and blind, looking alarmingly narrow. I was just hoping the Yellow Tee would be more forgiving. I should have known better than point out that she was getting a stroke and that the Men's Medal Tee was even further into the depths of the gully we were standing in. Her dark look forecast trouble ahead for yours truly if Polly's drive didn't split the fairway and sure enough, her dead right drive appeared to be just that - dead. From the Men's Yellow Tee this Par 4 is all of 222 Yards, if you can find it. As this photo suggests, there's a broad path of sorts turning sharp dog leg left from the tee to the green, rough on the steep banking to the leftt, higher rough and a downward slope to the right. This "path" is actually the fairway and only a complete idiot or someone with a masterfully stright drive would try to cut the corner of the dog leg. In conversation with Westhill's Pro after the round, it seemed the sensible player/visitor should take a 7 iron or such, try to keep it reasonably straight and hit a short pitch to the green, hoping to avoid the bunkers either side of the green. Idiot that I am, I walked off with a dodgy double bogey. Polly fared even worse. She doesn't swear as a rule, but my sixth sense told me that "ridiculous" "stupid" etc. meant something far more extreme and that if I had any sense I'd pray something good would happen, and quickly.
No such luck. The 11th was the Stroke Index 18 Hole for the Ladies and looked to be a simple enough 150 Yard poke with an iron to a green protected by a single bunker short right. Polly doesn't hook as a rule either and as her ball careered wildly left into rarely trodden territory, my suggestion of a Mulligan did at least soften the blow of a lost ball and her dented pride. I was happy enough for us both to walk off with bogey 4s - the 11th green is 2-tiered and difficult to read. Well, that's my excuse!
The Par 12th runs parallel to a road, so be careful not to hook your drive. This hole is only 336 Yards, but the green is narrow and slightly raised up from the fairway so accuracy is again important. The green also slopes uphill front to back so there's little forward run on second shots. I was happy enough with a tap in 4. Westhill then hits you with a couple of really testing holes, the 13th being an awkward 492 Yard Par 5 that plays far longer than that and narrows the further you go. The 14th is a meaty 431 Yard Par 4 and justifiably the Stroke Index 1 hole on the men's scorecard. I played this hole very well and just missed par from around 15 feet. The 15th is an uphill 160 Yard Par 3 with another 2-tiered plateau green, playing at least 190, so don't be short.
The 16th is another blind hole, this time a 405 Yard Par 4, played over the crest of a small hill, down to a tricky green. The 17th didn't appeal to me much. Maybe it was just the yappie dog in a neighbouring house, but this 181 Yard Par 3 was just too flat and featureless for my taste.
And so to the 18th, a terrific uphill 369 Yard Par 4 that felt more like 400+. This hole is a Par 5 off the White Tee and at 478 Yards looks to be a gem of a closing hole. For readers not familiar with Scotland in the Spring, the yellow bushes to the right of the fairway are gorse, horribly prickly plant that is completely impenetrable. The only negative to this hole is the climb back up to the clubhouse. If you ever get the chance to visit Westhill don't leave your car in the top car park, as we did. The climb from the 18th green to there is pretty testing!
We'd caught Westhill on a lovely Spring day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This is a serious challenging and interesting course, well worth seeking out. OK, there are flatter courses in the area, but I strongly recommend you give it a try. I went round in a 83, net 72, against the par of 69 off the Yellow Tees, with 33 putts. Not bad, but see how you do and take care on the 10th!