From old courses blessed with enjoyably modest length like Boat of Garten, to mighty newcomers like Spey Valley, golf on Speyside has much to offer
The start to Old Tom Morris’ Old course at Moray is relatively gentle, with the wonderful green complex on the par-3 4th an early highlight.
You then cross the road for a spell alongside RAF Lossiemouth, and it isn’t until the 14th hole that you finally arrive right beside the beach, remaining there for a few holes before switching back to a final hole whose proximity to adjacent properties would put the fear of God into anyone – on both the tee-shot and final approach to a raised green – if the wind were off the sea and against.
Henry Cotton’s New course is a shorter but tighter layout, which also enjoys a memorable stretch along the shore and gets closer to the imposing Covesea Lighthouse.
The course plays over elevated links terrain above the Moray Firth, starting life as a nine-holer in 1909 before acquiring nine more holes in 1985.
The raised green on the 2nd calls for your early attention, with the par-3 3rd then playing semi-blind to a large double green shared with the 6th.
But the back nine is home to the strongest holes visually, among them the magnificent par-3 12th, which has so captivated Paul Lawrie among others. It’s an absolute cracker that kickstarts a stirring ride all the way back to the clubhouse.
The 1st is a short, sometimes reachable, par 4, after which you cross the road to five more par 4s of varying length over essentially flat terrain.
You then re-cross the road to the 7th tee, and from here, you enter a whole new world of pines, heather, mountain vistas and changes in elevation that will keep you entertained for an hour or so before you emerge back closer to the clubhouse.
The 9th is an absolute joy – a short par 4 where you turn to face the distant Cromdale Hills before flinging yourself at your ball in a determined bid to drive the green 275 yards away down the hill.
Boat of Garten
Only the unerringly accurate will ever reap the dividends of blazing away with the driver on this compact James Braid masterpiece, with the wise golfer more concerned about keeping it in play as the course rolls up and down through heather, pines and birch via more than its fair share of doglegs alongside the Strathspey Steam Railway.
This, coupled with occasionally rumpled fairways, will usually render any attempt to overpower this delightful little course futile.
This Dave Thomas course at Macdonald’s Aviemore Resort has hosted the Challenge Tour’s Scottish Challenge for the last six years.
This is a slightly grander scale of golf on Speyside, playing right beside the river, which seems to separate the 1st and 18th holes from the main body of the course, though in reality you never actually cross the river as it turns away at right angles as you make your way from the 1st green to the 2nd tee.
You stay close to it for a while until venturing further away after the demandingly long par-3 4th and epically long par-5 5th that stretches to 635 yards off the tips.
From here, the course plays over majestic, rolling terrain, with heather, trees and big bunkers the main adversaries for much of the round until the 15th, where a large lake awaits anything pushed right on the approach.