I played in the Men's Open at Aboyne GC on 10 July 2010 on a cool and showery day. Polly had played the course some years ago, so she caddied for me and was a great help (particularly in spotting where my ball went on some holes!) Aboyne is an excellent 18 hole parkland course and although relatively short at 6009 yards par 68 off the White medal tees, it's a stern test. The front 9 is pretty flat parkland but holes 10-13 are more moorland in nature, with tight bouncy fairways and lots of gorse and heavy, clinging rough. I'd been advised by the starter to make my score on the front 9 and hang on thereafter, taking what I could on the back 9. I started only reasonably well and was 3 over par after the first 4 holes. There was a prize for a birdie 2 and I only narrowly missed one on the 160 yard 4th hole, my 10 foot putt stopping an inch in front of the hole. At least I'd got it in line, as the greens were almost impossible to read. In my 3-ball, none of us holed anything of any distance and although the greens looked in great condition and were only of moderate pace, there were all sorts of borrows we didn't read. This is the view from the 5th tee, where my outward 9 really came unstuck. I'd hit a good drive, but a crazy bounce took the ball to the left of the fairway and I was blocked out by some trees. All I had to do was hook the ball around them and surely I could get no worse than a bogey on a 395 yard par 4. How I got a 7 I'm still not sure, but that lapse led to a stumbling 44 to the turn, including an outrageous sh--- on the 9th. I felt fresh enough, but this was my 11th round in 8 days. I'm pretty fit nowadays, having played well over 100 games since February, but I needed a real improvement on the apparently difficult back 9 if I was to make even the buffer zone.
Holes 10-13 came as an unwelcome surprise. The 10th is the longest holes at Aboyne at 512 yards, but plays much longer, being a right dog leg over a swamp and a lake. The tee shot can run out of fairway and the rest of the hole sits between gorse and a lake (used for water skiing, so noisy and a distraction to the relative peace on the course. I managed a good bogey, but took a double on the 11th, a narrow long par 4 played between rows of unforgiving gorse and heather. And then the rain started, here on the 178 yard par 3 12th. I'd hit a good tee shot, just short of the green and just missed a short putt for par. Another shot gone and the rain becoming heavy. The 13th is Stroke Index 1 and although only 419 yards off the back tee is a tough hole. The fairway landing area is small as the fairway throws anything remotely mishit away to rough on the right. The club had kindly provided spotters on holes 11-13 and it was hard not to feel for the bedraggled juniors perched amidst the wet heather/gorse and ferns, dodging our feeble attempts to find the fairway. At least we were all still midgie free, but I lost a ball and ended up with a 7. Then the rain stopped (now that my score was finally past recovery)and yes, my game improved, or more accurately, got less bad. I managed to play the last 5 holes in level 4s and single-putted the last 4 greens, for a total of 87, some 8 strokes above the SSS of 69. My handicap will be up 0.1 to 10.2 but I'd really enjoyed playing here. Aboyne was in great condition and was a good test. Perhaps I was too tired and i certainly took my time to get to grips with the greens. Aboyne is great value for money. I'd strongly recommend that anyone playing in the Norther-East includes this course in their programme. If you do, please feel free to take revenge on my behalf at the 13th!