Founded in 1883, when twenty-four golfers paid the grand subscription total of £3, Aboyne Golf Club moved to its present site in 1905 when a 9-hole course was quickly established.
This initial course was expanded to a full 18-hole layout three years later and further extended in 1913, marked by an exhibition match between Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The course was upgraded again in the early 1990s with the creation of some new holes and planting of a number of trees which are now maturing and adding definition throughout.
Notable golfers have played here over the years include Prime Minister Asquith in 1912 and the Duke of Windsor during the 1930s, both of whom played whilst visiting Balmoral Castle, eighteen miles away.
Aboyne has been described as a course of two halves with the front nine played as parkland golf with tree-lined fairways and the homeward half proving a sterner test over heathland terrain. Mature trees and water come into play at many holes, with the Loch of Aboyne featuring at some of these.
Measuring a shade over 6,000 yards from the medal tees, the course has six par three holes on the card. Unusually, two of these are found at the opening and closing holes. But don’t think they provide an easy start and end to the round as they are both over 225 yards in length!
If ever there was a course laid out for a golfing game of two halves then this is it. The front nine is really rather uninspiring - I made only one note on my scorecard about holes 1 to 9 and it referred to the par four 5th (rated stroke index 2) and its raised, two-tier greensite -- but the back nine more than makes up for the relative tedium of what’s gone before.
Starting at the uphill par five 10th and continuing through to “Queens Hill,” the par four 17th, Aboyne suddenly comes alive with tumbling terrain, blind drives, sharp doglegs and interesting green contours.
Only the pond at the 16th jarred the golfing senses on this fabulous stretch, which was highlighted by the wonderful left doglegged 13th, “Fernie Brae,” which is well worth its stroke index 1 rating. It’s a pity the round ends as it starts with a long par three hole (worse still, it’s uphill this time) but it doesn’t really diminish the exhilaration of playing the earlier holes on the inward half.
Combine the back nine here with the front nine at nearby Ballater and you’d have a composite Highland 18-hole course of some stature.