Saturday, November 08, 2014


 Bon Accord, Caledonian and Northern clubhouses on Aberdeen's Golf Road with the Aberdeen FC grandstand in the background at Pittodrie Stadium. Picture by Cal Carson Golf Agency.




Bon Accord, Caledonian and Northern, Aberdeen's three oldest golf clubs south of the River Don and based in the shadow of Pittodrie Stadium, have finally settled their differences and agreed to amalgamate.
The new "super" golf club will be named Aberdeen Links Golf Club, based at the municipal Kings Links, and will have more than 600 members, making it one of the biggest in
April 1 is planned to be the official birth of the new club as the three present clubs' financial years end on March 31.
Bon Accord was formed in 1872, Northern in 1897 and Caledonian in 1899. Aberdeen Football Club was not formed until 1903 and they plan to vacate Pittodrie Stadium around 2017 - which is an important factor in dictating the speed at which the merging officials want things to happen on their side of the fence.
The clubs, sited next door to each other on a 100 yard strip along Golf Road, are playing their cards close to their collective chest but it understood that they plan to sell the land occupied by their clubhouses and car parks to a developer in a million £ deal.
The new club would then move across Golf Road if they can purchase the vacant Broadhill Bar building from Aberdeen Town Council.
There were originally FOUR Aberdeen golf clubs sited on Golf Road. The Victoria Golf Club, founded in 1879, was on the other side of Pittodrie Stadium, opposite the present Kings Links Golf Centre car park.
Northern Golf Club captain Derek Johnstone recalls that before Victoria went defunct in the late 1960s the club moved across Golf Road and operated out of a new building which later became the Broadhill Bar.
I was a Victoria GC member and I do not recall that move. Victoria were struggling financially in their final years and I cannot see where they would have got the money to put up a new building.
On another tack, Derek Johnstone said:
 " This is the fourth time there has
been an amalgamation move. In the past the members of one club or another has voted against it but now we have an agreement that it is going to happen.
"Not everybody is happy with it and all three golf clubs could lose members over it but it is the way ahead. The clubhouses are old and in need of repair. Now is the time to amalgamate as new club in new premises."
Sean Murray, the Bon Accord captain, said: 
"Bon Accord, Caledonian and Northern will keep their identities for next year's Aberdeen Pennant League and Maitland Shield tournaments, as the draws are done so far in advance." 



There is another issue in Aberdeen Links Golf Club being born next spring. By general agreement the condition of the Kings Links - the reponsibility of "Sport Aberdeen" -  particularly the greens, is "awful" - to the extent that low handicappers who are members of Bon Accord, Caledonian and Northern are playing most of their golf away from the Links.
Mr Johnstone admits that membership of the Northern club is falling and he believes that the poor condition of the Kings Links course has more than a little to do with that.
"Over the last 10 to 12 years," said Derek, "there has been a huge under-investment in maintaining the condition of the course to the required standard."
Aberdeen Town Council take the green fees paid by ALL golfers who play the Kings Links, not just the Bon Accord, Caley and Northern members. The Town Council department responsible for balancing the municipal golf books will be well aware that revenue from green fees at the Kings Links - and Hazlehead too for that matter - is falling every year. 
In a perfect world, the new Aberdeen Links Golf Club would take over the maintenance of the Kings Links course by special arrangement, just as Auchmill Golf Club has done at the municipal course where it is based on the other side of Aberdeen.



Proof that Aberdeen golf club membership figures have fallen dramatically over the past 50 years is provided by the following figures published in the 1964 edition of the "Golfer's Handbook.
Bon Accord .. 550 members
Caledonian .... 600 members
Northern ....... 600  members
Victoria ......... 200  members
Hazlehead ..... 916 members
Nigg Bay ...... 500 members
Murcar .......... 525 members
Royal Aberdeen 400 members
Cruden Bay ...... 400 members

The vacant, derelict and shabby looking premises formerly occupied by the Broadhill Bar on Golf Road. Projected as the "home" for the new Aberdeen Links Golf Club. It is owned by Aberdeen Town Council.
The amalgamated Bon Accord, Caledonian and Northern club officials, if successful in purchasing the property from the Town Council, would knock it down and build a new clubhouse capable of housing more than 600 members.

 (from the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club website)

The Aberdeen Golf Club was formed in 1815 and its members continued to play on the Queen's Links and over the Broad Hill until 1888 when they picked up their hickory clubs and gutty balls and migrated to the magnificent links at Balgownie on the north side of the River Don..
It was Captain H V Brooke in 1886 who moved that 'considering the way that the links was being cut up by cricket and football players, a private course at Balgownie should be procured for golfing purposes'.   Less than two years later, with very little ado the Aberdeen Golfers "folded their tents and silently stole away" to the peaceful seclusion of Balgownie Links.
Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in the world.   For the first thirty five years of its existence the club was known as The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, with membership of the Society being determined by ballot.
In 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, the Society changed its name to the Aberdeen Golf Club and in 1903 the accolade of Royal favour was conferred on the club by His Majesty King Edward VII.  
 In 1872 the club received the patronage of Prince Leopold.   However the Royal title was not applied for until 1903 and granted by his majesty the King on the 10th August that year.

Pictured below is the original Aberdeen Golf Club premises on the south side of the Broad Hill and at the back of the City Hospital.
Engraved on its front wall is the date "1866"
We have heard how Aberdeen Golf Club (prior to that known as the Society of Aberdeen Golfers) was founded in 1815 so we can only presume it was based at an earlier building than this one which was opened in 1866, 20 years before the decision to abandon it and move to north of the River Don and the Balgownie links.


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