The Aboyne Loch Golf Centre forms a central part of the Lodge on the Loch, an up market holiday, spa and golf complex on Aboyne Loch, just outside the village of Aboyne in Royal Deeside. The Centre has three 9 hole parkland courses namely (in descending order of length and difficulty) the Tiger, the Pussycat and the Kittycat and a driving range. Although the courses are primarily open to residents at the Lodge, I'd made arrangements to play all three courses early on the morning of 1 August 2013. The driving range fits into the 7th and 8th fairways on the Tiger Course and as such, it's not possible to play the course when the range is open and vice versa. I would be playing the Tiger Course before any residents were likely to want access to the range and time and energy permitting, play the other two courses concurrently, since most of the Kittycat holes fit inside the Pussycat holes, sharing mostly the same greens.
Anyway, as the name suggests, the Tiger is a seriously tricky golf course, despite being only 2612 Yards Par 34 from the White Medal tees that I used. 1 August had started overcast and the weather forecast for later in the morning was pretty grim, so with the course empty, apart from the Greenkeeper cutting each of the greens ahead of me, a quick first round of the day was my target. The Tiger is perhaps best described as a hilly parkland course with small greens and after rain in recent days, slow fairways, meaning the course was playing its full length.
The 1st is a gentle starter, being a downhill 256 Yard Par 4. Easy drive to a wide fairway, short pitch to the small green and a couple of true running putts. That was the easy bit over and done with! The 2nd is an altogether tougher proposition, being an uphill ever steepening 340 Yard Par 4 that played to something like 390 Yards to a tiny green. The fairway narrows considerably towards the green, which is perched well above you. Even the drive is demanding, as some marshy ground immediately in front of the tee awaits anything miss-hit. This is a view from the 2nd Tee. A wide fairway, but clear the swamp first! I'd hit a good drive and an equally good 20 Degree Rescue, leaving just a short pitch to 4 feet for a dodgy par.
From there, it's a steep climb up to the 3rd Tee. Yes, it really is up that improbably steep path! The 3rd is only 194 Yards, but plays to around 240 as it climbs further up the hill. I hit Driver, wedge and another short putt for a level par start. I was really high now but much of the views, which the Greenkeeper assured me were simply stunning on a clear day, were shrouded in mist. Thankfully, the 4th Tee is the highest point on the course. The 4th is a steeply downhill 120 Yard Par 3 that's little more than a flick with a wedge and a long wait for the ball to find its way down, down to the green far below. The 5th is another downhill hole, this time a 490 Yard Par 5 which for me anyway, was a clear 3 shot hole, tee to green. The green itself lies to the left of the fairway, over an old wall/stream. I thinned my third shot to the green, costing me a bogey. The 6th is a 137 Yard Par 3, named after the ancient graveyard lying immediately behind the tee. The hole itself is tricky and anything short will quickly drown in the pond that fronts the green. I'd a good par there with my (still) new ball.
At this low-lying part of the course intuition told me that the next hole would be uphill. Sure enough, the 485 Yard Par 5 7th is a real lung-buster. I was happy enough to reach the green in 4 lusty blows and 2 putt for a bogey. I was also happy that I'd not chosen to play with a Yellow ball to offset the gloomy light and the ever-increasing threat of rain, since driving range extends over the 7th and 8th fairways. Finding a Yellow ball amongst hundreds of Yellow range balls would have been challenging! This is a view from the 7th Tee. Just hit your ball over the swamp and the driving range shelter and start climbing.
The 8th green on the Tiger Course is also the target on the 2nd on the Kittycat and the 8th on the Pussycat and is by far the most difficult green on all three courses.This inverted saucer of a green is long and narrow, with bunkers front and back at the narrowest point, as shown above. A pin position between the 2 bunkers, effectively in the very middle of the green, would be hugely difficult, so I was glad that the pin position was in a reasonably accessible spot when played from each hole on the different courses. The 8th on Tiger is downhill 441 Yard Par 4, playing to nearer 460 in the heavy conditions. A bogey was a good result and I needed a single putt!
This is the 9th on Tiger, a 145 Yard Par 3, played towards the Lodge over part of the Loch and a road, with the car park some 30 Yards behind the green. I'd really not noticed that my car was parked in line with the pin, so with clear obstacles in front and the rainfall starting to get serious, I thought that my 27 Degree Rescue might be a prudent choice. The Greenkeeper had just finished cutting the green and was parked just off the back of the green. I'm just glad that the ground conditions were on the heavy side, since my tee shot was at least 15 Yards too long. On a drier day, I'd have ended up in the car park. Still, a chip to a foot with my new Cleveland Wedge rescued an unlikely par. I was round in 38, only 4 over par, with 14 putts, so not bad.
With the rain by then fairly battering down, it was time to leave some clubs behind in the car and lighten the golf bag as much as possible before tackling the Pussycat and Kittycat Courses concurrently, to save time, energy and minimise the soaking.