For a change from Links golf I’d recommend a few days on Royal Deeside west of Aberdeen. Royal Deeside follows the River Dee up into the scenic Grampian Mountains and gained it’s ‘Royal’ title because of Balmoral Castle, the Royal Family’s summer home since the 1850’s.
Royal Deeside is a golf destination in in it’s own right and I’d be quite happy playing here all week with seven courses directly accessible from the main road on the 56 mile drive between Aberdeen and Braemar (there are more courses just a few miles off the main road too). You will find a mix of parkland and highland courses starting at Deeside Golf Club and Peterculter Golf Club in the Abredeen suburbs, through Banchory home to both Banchory Golf Club and Inchmarlo, and then on to Aboyne, Ballater and ending up at Braemar which is the highest 18 hole golf course in Scotland at 1,200 feet above sea level. Reviews of all these courses to come in the future.
Traveling west from Aberdeen on the A93 the road runs on the north side of the River Dee passing through stunning scenery with mountain views. Aboyne Golf Club founded in 1883 is located about half way between Aberdeen and Braemar. The club’s first course was a nine-hole course on the village green before relocating to the present site in 1905. The current course layout was constructed in 1991 and plays just over 6,000 yards par 68 from the medal tees (course rating 68.7 and slope 117). Don’t let these numbers fool you – there are two 230 yard par 3’s and enough hazards out there to get you in trouble especially on a wet and windy day.
The two nines both have three par 3’s and only one par 5 but play very different. The outward nine is parkland with tree lined fairways. The back nine plays mostly on a more rugged hillside with narrow fairways and thicker rough. Make sure you score well on the front side!
The course was in great condition when I played. There a few holes where you are hitting your drive towards a marker post as the second half of the hole is blind from the tee. Some of my favorite holes…
5th (Palteau) par 4 – trees on both sides of the fairway which turns slightly to the left into an elevated green.
10th (Bonnyside) par 5 – Back nine starts with the longest hole on the course a 512 yard dogleg right.
11th (Valley) par 4 – you have to cut the corner from the tee but don’t bight off too much as the fairway is extremely narrow.
13th (Fernie Brae) par 4 – dogleg left, easy to get caught up in the rough on the inside of the corner.
You’ll get a very friendly welcome in the the modern clubhouse which has a pro shop and locker rooms on first level with the bar and lounge upstairs so you can continue to enjoy the views.
The clubs website aboynegolfclub.co.uk has a wealth of information for visitors including a great course flyover video.
Standard green fees are Weekday £35 single round (£50 day ticket) and Weekends £40 (£60). Carts, trolleys and clubs are available for hire at the pro shop. Tee times can be booked online at aboynegolfclub.co.uk/brs.aspx?type=visitor and there are discounts to the standard green fees at certain times.
Head south after your round taking the B974 road over Cairn o’ Mount for some breathtaking views on your way to the Fettercairn distillery. The distillery was founded in 1824 and produces some great single malts. I first visited after climbing nearby Mount Keen (3,081 feet) the most easterly Munro in Scotland. The distillery is open for tours Monday to Saturday from Easter until October. Fettercairn distillery is now owned by Whyte and Mackay www.whyteandmackay.com but their website is lacking in information about Fettercairn so head over to Wikipedia for more information… https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettercairn_distillery
I can also recommend eating at the Ramsay Arms Hotel in Fettercairn just down the road from the distillery. www.ramsayarmshotel.com