I played this excellent 9 hole heathland course between Grantown on Spey and Aviemore on 4 September 2012 on my way home after my earlier rounds that day at Nairn Cameron and Cawdor Castle. I suspect that as 9 hole courses, Abernethy GC (and nearby Carrbridge GC) might sometimes get overlooked by visiting golfers attracted to the nearby 18 hole courses of Spey Valley GC, Boat of Garten GC and Grantown on Spey GC. But as far as I'm concerned, anyone who misses this course in the village of Nethy Bridge is missing a real treat. When I played there it was an absolute joy from first to last and was the perfect ending to a great trip involving 7 new courses in 3 days. This was Highland Golf at its best and although there's only 9 holes here, each is superbly designed and cared for and you get the obvious benefits of playing each twice and knowing where you're going second time round. My one regret about my visit to play this little gem of a course is that I only had the time and energy for 9 holes!
The 1st is a 292 Yard Par 4 played slightly downhill from an elevated tee over a shallow gully. With the wind behind and even stronger than it had been at Cawdor Castle and Nairn and a wide fairway to aim at, my opening tee shot was really inviting and the green looked almost within range. I hit a good shot, had a short sand iron to the green and holed out from 3 feet for an opening birdie. Here are photos of the shots I had on this lovely looking opener.
The 2nd is a 112 Yard Par 3, as shown here. Just avoid a water hazard, traffic on the road in front of the green and some good bunkering, find the right level on the two tier green and don't three-putt. I managed that and had a comfortable par. The 3rd and 4th share a wide fairway, with the 292 yard Par 4 3rd being largely downwind. Your second shot will be totally blind to a small green in a hollow beyond a small hill. Just be careful that there's no-one playing from the 4th if you wander up to have a look before playing your second. Another easy par after a good wedge just missed the green. The 4th was my first test into the wind. The hole is a short 275 Yard Par 4, with the wind keeping my drive short of gorse separating the green from the nearby 3rd tee. The approach shot on the 4th was tricky, though, with OOB dangerously close to the left of the green and the strong wind adding to the pressure. A bogey there after missing the green and almost going OOB.
The 5th is an uphill 172 Yard Par 3 played blind to a small green in a hollow over a ridge. I'd missed the green short and right but had a good pitch and single putt from 6 feet for another par. The 6th is a 286 Yard Par 4 played slightly uphill with the green tucked away close to surrounding pine trees. Another par and I was still level overall, despite the strong winds.
The 7th is a hugely difficult 365 Yard Par 4 dog leg left and by far the most testing hole on the course, fully deserving its Stroke Index 1 status. This is the view from the tee. The carry to the top of the hill was around 250 yards into the wind, so my 9 iron second shot was totally blind and at risk of being blown into heavy rough and/or heather. I played a low punched 9 but still had 126 yards to the pin (with my laser range finder blowing around) playing 145 or so directly into the wind, as shown below. I tried a punched 20 degree Rescue to the green which eventually landed in heather beyond the green and I was lucky to eascape with a double bogey. Whoever scores a par here must be a helluva good putter.
The 8th is a 213 Yard Par 4 played downwind, downhill and blind over a ridge, avoiding the village war memorial blocking the right side of the fairway. I can't remember seeing another such memorial within the line of play on any other course, but why not? The more shocking thing was the length of the lists of names from such a small village. Mainly Seaforths and some Gordon Highlanders (my brother's old regiment). Another good par on the 8th, though.
The 9th was uphill into the wind and at 290 Yards this Par 4 looked to be a good finishing hole, ending right in front of the clubhouse windows. I'd hit a good long straight drive but the wind was swirling around and the green was actually beyond the side of the clubhouse. I'd only 105 Yards for my second but in an effort to keep the ball under the wind I tried another punch with my 20 degree Rescue. I really don't know why, it just felt the right club for that shot! The ball rose far too high, was caught by the wind and hit hard about a foot below a clubhouse window, leaving me almost stymied, as shown here. This left me with a really difficult shot and another chance to hit the window, so I was relieved to finish with a bogey 5 and no insurance claim. I'd gone round in 36 gross, net 31.5 with only 12 putts. The Abernethy course was in great condition and I hope I can play it again sometime. If you're ever in the Aviemore area, spare the time to play at Abernethy. It's an easy walk, won't take you long and you'll love it.