The small village of Machrihanish is situated on the western side of the remote Kintyre Peninsula; this is where the sky is big, the sunsets are dramatic and the air has been warmed by the Gulf Stream. Nearby Campbeltown was once the whisky capital of the world, but today only the Springbank distillery remains in full operation.
In 1876, the Kintyre Golf Club was founded; and in November of that year, Charles Hunter, the Prestwick professional, rearranged the course and extended it to twelve holes. Old Tom Morris then left his stamp on the links in 1879. The members felt that Kintyre was too ordinary a name for such a special golf course, so they changed it to the resonant Machrihanish in 1888.
This links must be one of the most natural, romantic and most enjoyable places to play golf in the whole of the British Isles. It’s not long, grand or a championship course, but it is sheer fun. It’s got an outstanding front nine and a thrilling start. The first, called “Battery”, is one of the best opening holes in golf, a teasing 423-yard par four with an elevated tee on the edge of the shore. The fairway hugs the beach and we must drive diagonally across it. How heroic can we afford to be with our very first tee shot? The beach is in play, not out-of bounds. But dare we play our second shot from amongst the seashells?
Machrihanish is not just about one great opening hole – the front nine is exceptional and the entire experience is magical. The greens are firm, fast, true and are positioned in the most varied of locations. Some are sunk in punchbowls whilst others are on a raised plateau or flattened dune tops. There are blind tee shots, fabulous sea views, undulating rippling fairways and exciting rugged dunes.
This is an outstanding course and one of the best links to be found in Scotland. We played there in September under the best conditions you could imagine. Sunny, 20 degrees and a slightly breeze from the Irish Sea. The first hole is classy and the following five holes a amazing as well. No really bad hole on this course even the often as bad holes mentioned closing holes. In the same league like Portrush or Aberdeen. A Must Play course!
The well bunkered 3rd hole is the start of some holes that feel quite unique. You are so far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life that you are drawn in to admiring the harsh beauty and the pattern of the wispy grasses that form the rough. The 4th is a rather short par three in amongst the low dunes and wild grasses with the shoreline along the left.
The only weak parts of the course for me were the 17th and 18th holes which are rather flat and less interesting. Even so, you must negotiate the burn on the 17th and the 9-hole course which is out of bounds on the left of both holes.
Machrihanish is definitely one of my favourite links and should be rated right up there in the very top echelon of top Scottish courses. There is a lovely ambience in the clubhouse which is located over the road from the first tee. The fairways and bunkers are always in excellent condition and the greens are nothing short of superb.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.