Played by NCG: Machrihanish Dunes
Where is Machrihanish Dunes?
You’re not going to get here by accident. A short distance away from the Mull of Kintyre, which faces out towards Ireland and the Atlantic Ocean, Machrihanish Dunes is found deep in Argyll & Bute.
Surrounded by beautiful scenery and flanked by Campbeltown Airport, it’s a short drive from the village of Machrihanish itself, and the hotel and cottages owned by the American company that built this course in a multi-million pound development in 2009.
What to expect
A wild links that’s completely natural and utterly at the mercy of the elements.
This is the only course ever to be built in a site of Special Scientific Interest and it shows. It’s golf as you might have imagined it a century ago, before technology altered everything we think about how a course should be presented.
The wandering sheep – there about 80 of them on the course during the off-season – keep the fescue grasses in check and munch the fairways into submission.
Only seven of the 275 acres on which this course sits were moved during the construction – and only so greens and tees could be created. In every other sense, you are walking on ground that has lain in this state for hundreds of years.
So what about the course? Well, simply put, it’s epic. Architect David McLay Kidd has taken a piece of land, heavily restricted by all sorts of protections on fauna and flora, and produced a quirky, but magnificent, links.
If you like your golf challenging, with lots of blind tee shots, approaches struck from undulating lies and putts that move significantly on well contoured greens, you are going to love it at Machrihanish Dunes.
There’s some bold topography at work here and it won’t suit those who like their courses modern and with tightly groomed fairways.
But I defy anyone not to be inspired by these surroundings. The stretch along the dunes – particularly at 15 and 16 – is memorable.
My best bit
Anyone who tells you golf courses need lengthening to be relevant today should be led to the fourth for their preconceptions to be shattered.
This par 4 is only 247 yards off the whites but, if you’re going to try and drive it, you’d better be very accurate. Trouble lurks everywhere – particularly to the right and behind the green.
What I really love about this hole is that there’s so many ways to play it. Whether you hit driver, 3-wood, hybrid or iron, all make the second shot play completely different. Isn’t that the mark of a great golf hole?
I hit a 6-iron and was left about 90 in. I slightly left the face open on a pitching wedge but was delighted to see it come off the right bank. It ran round the back of the green, grabbed the slope and trickled down to two and a half feet. A very enjoyable birdie and exactly what a round at Machrihanish Dunes is all about.
What to look out for
I’ve got a thing for a good par 3 and they’re all pretty special on this course.
Two mean bunkers just left of the sloping green protect the fifth but it’s the view from the elevated tee that’s really magnificent. You go straight into another short hole and, depending on where the wind is, it can be a difficult challenge – even though it’s only 134 yards. The 12th is the biggest, and longest, test but a large green will reward a proper shot.
When I go back:
I will embrace my best Old Tom Morris and take it on using only hickory clubs.
For more information, visit the Machrihanish Dunes website.