Aboyne must be the best kept secret in golf! This immaculately maintained course set in beautiful highland surroundings harbours what many believe to be the best test of golf in the region, which, when added to its closeness to nature, cannot fail to stimulate emotions. What you may lose in the swing you will definitely gain on the round!
But to start at the beginning when life and setting were different. The 19th century local economy was supported by Landowners and gentry, who, in pursuit of a fashionable pastime introduced golf to Aboyne in 1874.
Although details are vague it is known that play took place over nine holes laid out on the village green. Sir Alexander Lyon, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, was a regular sight in his Royal Aberdeen Golf Club red reefer jacket.
It was ten years later, in 1883, before the Club was founded mainly due to the efforts of Mr WE Nicol of Ballogie (Captain), Dr Keith from Aboyne and the Rev. Dr. Drummond minister at Birse.
The local stationmaster Mr Forgie was the first secretary. Subscriptions and membership were 2/6 each and the grand total of £3 was received from the 24 members!
Play continued in the village until 1905 when the present site was leased from Ean Cecil of Aboyne Castle estate and nine holes laid out beside the loch, mainly on the present inward half.
By 1908, with the assistance of Archie Simpson (pictured), Professional at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, the course was extended to eighteen holes.
To celebrate this and the erection of “a fine new pavilion” a grand opening was performed before 150 invited guests by Lord Aberdeen.
The 1930's were subdued times, economies being made wherever possible, a fact highlighted in 1934 when the club’s first tractor (a second-hand Fordson) was subsidised by the Greens staff “accepting a cut in wages”!
It is worth recalling playing conditions then when clubs were still of hickory (steel shafts were introduced about 1935), balls could float as well as fly, greens were small and fairways narrow, the rough was pure hay field and a good score was 72 or “level 4's” as counted in those days.
Further alterations to the course in 1913 lengthened it to 5010 yards (“Bogey” 74).
This event was marked with an exhibition match between the famous Professionals Harry Vardon (pictured) and Ted Ray. They scored 65 and 69 respectively.
Probably the Club’s greatest benefactor was James Mearns, a self-made businessman in Aberdeen and from 1923 new owner of the Castle estate.
He became president in 1924, the first such break with tradition. until his death in 1943, his final act ensuring the Club’s future when he willed the land to the people of Aboyne “for as long as it remained a golf course”.
But by 1939, for the second lime in twenty years, Britain was at war and golf was put aside, though not forgotten, until 1946.
During the war most golf courses were used for animal grazing and vegetable allotments. So it was at Aboyne when an E.G.M. was convened in 1946 to form a new committee which redrafted the constitution and reclaimed the course.
By 1948 conditions had recovered enough to allow a 36 hole Open tournament to be introduced which continues successfully to this day.
The next 25 years saw golf grow in popularity. Not much seemed to change yet steady progress was made and facilities improved for the increasing membership, largely due in the 1950s to subsidised work by local businessmen. During this period golf was cheap and membership easy to obtain, any one from anywhere could join by paying the subscription.
But by 1970 things were changing. The discovery of oil in the North Sea had a dramatic effect on employment in the region and Aboyne quickly became a commuter area for people working in the oil industry. Membership grew rapidly passing 1000 by 1986 before being controlled by residential qualifications
In this 15 year period good use was made of the increased revenues including the opening of a new clubhouse in 1980 and constant investment in the course and machinery.
It was also in this time that the club marked its centenary (1983) with an excellent week of celebration including its first ever Pro-AM.
The layout of Aboyne golf course remained virtually the same from 1913 until the new holes were added in 1990 by renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree.