Under the heading ‘INVERALLOCHY’ the Aberdeen People’s Journal of Saturday 15th November 1884 gave notice that “a golf club has been formed here under the name of the White Links Golf Club. Office-bearers have been appointed and the match days fixed”. There was no mention of the person (or persons) responsible for fashioning the fairways so it’s presumed local fishermen, who comprised most of the club’s early membership, laid out the holes.
An item in The Scotsman on 26 February 1901 mentions “a match played over the links course at Aberdeen between the Inverallochy club and The Victoria club. The Inverallochy club is composed almost entirely of fishermen, and when one remembers that it is only in the brief intervals that occur between the herring and white fishing seasons that the members can obtain practice, it must be admitted they have made rapid strides in the period within which they have taken up the game.”
The following month, the Fraserburgh Herald reported on an exhibition game at Inverallochy between the Balgownie professional Archie Simpson and a couple of the club’s leading players. The year after, The Tatler printed a story that told of “an Inverallochy team completing a tour in which they played the Bonaccord club of Aberdeen, The Edinburgh Burgess Club, and the Royal Musselburgh.”
And on 3rd April 1905, the Aberdeen Daily Journal published an article headlined ‘The Inverallochy Golfers at Sandwich’ which gave details of a match organized by the MP for East Aberdeenshire at Royal St George’s between the golfing members of the House of Commons and the Inverallochy team.
Nevertheless, despite all these indications of a thriving club, things didn’t always run so smoothly, as mentioned in the golfsmissinglinks website:
“The annual business meeting was held in February 1909, D C Dundas presided. The chairman stated that the club had practically been defunct last year owing to the late date at which the fishermen had returned from English waters and other local restrictive causes.
In June 1921 a match was played between the old and new members of the Inveralllochy Golf Club, resulting in a win for the veterans by 13 matches to 12. The final of the Fraser Cup was played in March 1924. This would be the last organised competition to be played on the course until the late 1930s.”
The Aberdeen Daily Journal printed another story on 5th April 1938 under the banner ‘Golf again at Inverallochy: Wild Course to be re-claimed’: “Efforts are to be made to resuscitate the Inverallochy Golf Club, which has been defunct for about fifteen or sixteen years. At a meeting held recently, a committee was formed, and various schemes have been considered for providing funds to restore the course to playing condition again. The club closed down about sixteen years ago, mainly owing to the depression in the fishing industry at the time.”
It’s not known if the club successfully reopened as intended at that time because World War II broke out the following year and the course may well have remained dormant until hostilities ceased in 1945. For sure, locals wanted to claim back the course from grazing sheep in 1951 so local fisherman Robert Duthie purchased the links land at Cairndinnity, Hallmoss and Bankhead from Monsignor Fraser of the Catholic Church, who owned the land. Three years later, the club had its 18-hole course back in full swing and it has never looked back since.
I’d only been in this corner of the North East of Scotland once before, back in August 2008 when I played the Corbie Hill course at Fraserburgh, so when I saw that Inverallochy had made the Scottish district rankings at the start of this year, I knew I had to return to see what the course was all about.
I was particularly intrigued because, after reading up on the club’s history and its strong association with the fishing community, the person I’d been in contact with at the club (Ian Ross) told me he’d be unable to meet up with me when I played the Gents Open on Saturday, 10th October 2020 due to work commitments… he’d be out at sea fishing!
In the end, it turns out Ian’s trip got called off at the last minute so I did get to join up for a chat after my round, when he filled me in on some of the more recent course developments.
Inverallochy was all that I hoped it would be – and a lot more, actually. In parts, it reminded me of another links layout 300 miles to the southwest, on the coast of Cumbria, at Seascale. I really liked that place too, both on and off the course, when I visited in October 2018 and Inverallochy had much the same vibe for me – a little out of the way perhaps, but well worth the effort to get there.
The opening handful of holes are quite pedestrian, played out on open ground closest to the clubhouse, so the party only gets into full swing starting at the downhill 6th, which takes play away along a narrow coastal strip towards the small village of St Combs. There’s lots to enjoy here, beginning with back-to-back par threes at #7 (stroke index 1 from the whites!) and #8.
The 12th is a real beast of a par four (stroke index 2 from every tee position), doglegging slightly left along the shoreline to a massive, lie of the land green, and this hole starts the turn for home. There’s still time for another cracking downhill par three at the drop shot 14th, where a drainage ditch cuts across in front of the green, before the uphill 18th brings us back up to the higher ground beside the clubhouse.
I did notice a scorecard peculiarity when I got home – different stroke indices for the white and yellow tees. They’re exactly the same number on the back nine but there’s a big difference with one hole on the outward half, where #6 plays as a 470-yard par five (index 11) from the whites or a 442-yard par four (index1) from the yellows – that’s quite a discrepancy for all of 28 yards!
And here’s another thing I’ve never come across before. Many clubs have logoed signage on every tee box giving yardage and stroke index information and sometimes there’s another smaller strip underneath with details for the local electrician or car mechanic sponsoring the hole – well, at least half a dozen of these smaller signs here have nothing other than the picture of a fishing vessel and a caption with its registration number, such as “Ocean Dawn FR 347” on the 2nd and “Grateful FR 249” on the 18th.
I know the nearby Corbie Hill course is nationally ranked, attracting the more curious golfer who might venture beyond Cruden Bay and Peterhead in search of good golf. They, like me 12 years ago, will be missing a trick if they don’t make time to play this little beauty.
'Blue is the colour' I will always associate with Inverallochy, Nothing to do with John Terry et al but a reference to the endless vistas of that hue that so enhanced my day here.There are views of the North Sea from every hole and there just seems to be more sky in this part of Scotland than any other. The course falls short of its beautiful surroundings,unfortunately. The opening and closing sections are bland but there is a nice stretch at the far end of the course with enjoyable par threes at 8, 11 and 14.
Quite often when you venture off the beaten golfing path you come across hidden gems like this and Inverallochy most certainly falls into this category.
The biggest compliment I can offer Inverallochy, located right in the north-eastern tip of Aberdeenshire, is that each and every hole offers something good or interesting. At the first it is the stunning vista to your left as you walk down the fairway; a view that can be seen from most holes but you are never closer than at the opening hole. On the day we visited the water of the North Sea was a beautiful turquoise colour.
Meanwhile, the green settings at the second and fourth are very good and whilst there is an open feel to the first section of the course the holes are structurally sound. However, this delightful course really gets going from the sixth with an excellent heroic drive and an even better approach to this tempting par five.
You then find yourself in a very narrow strip of linksland where Whitelinks Bay pinches in to the mainland but where the architect has brilliantly created three one-shotters. Each one splendid, each one varied, each one demanding. The first two come back-to-back at the seventh and eight whilst you must wait until the 14th before you play the third, shooting in the opposite direction.
In-between you still have the best part of the course to play. Holes nine through to 13 are very good. You initially tackle two shortish par fours on higher ground before descending down at the short 11th, a hole with a fabulous green, then making a U-turn and heading back between dunes on the lower ground closer to the shore.
The course very much ends as it started on more open land but the quality is still high and the holes retain your attention.
Inverallochy certainly over-delivered on my expectations and I came away very impressed by this hidden treasure. Tagging it on to a round at Fraserburgh ensured this was one of the most enjoyable 36-hole days I’ve had on the links and I would recommend you do the same.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.