Ardfin - Argyll & Bute - Scotland

Ardfin Estate,
Isle of Jura,
PA60 7XY,
Scotland


  • TBC

Situated between the village of Craighouse and the slipway at Feolin Ferry on the southern shores of Jura, the Ardfin Estate extends to eleven and a half thousand acres, encompassing around ten miles of coastline that stretches out along the south side of the island.

In 2010, retired Australian hedge fund manager Greg Coffey purchased the property from the Riley-Smith family (brewers from Tadcaster in Yorkshire) and immediately set about implementing an ambitious plan to upgrade Ardfin’s infrastructure.

The dilapidated C-listed Jura House has now been restored to its former glory, old disused outbuildings have been totally refurbished and transformed into modern guest accommodation and – more importantly for golfers – a brand new 18-hole course has been constructed.

Bob Harrison, former lead architect for Greg Norman’s design company (who has a string of courses currently ranked inside our Australian Top 100) mapped out the 18-hole layout overlooking the Sound of Jura and it was built by Irish contractor SOL.

Occupying a mainly cliff top location on either side of Jura House, the course is routed across a rugged landscape of peat and rocks, where large quantities of unsuitable material had to be dug out and replaced with soil mined from other areas on the estate.

Dry stone dykes were repaired, extended and brought into play, making them an integral part of the playing strategy on several holes. Sand and gravel was shipped in by barge from Northern Ireland and turf for tees, greens and surrounds was imported from Yorkshire.

The scale of the build would have been off putting for most construction firms but SOL is obviously made of far sterner stuff, having successfully delivered challenging projects to great acclaim in recent times at both Trump golf facilities on the Scottish mainland.

There are only three short holes on the card and they’re all spectacular: the 2nd and 10th require heroic carries from tee to green across the edge of the cliffs and the 12th plays out along the beach, beside the old boat house which has been converted into a half-way house.

Last word goes to architect Bob Harrison, who had this to say about Ardfin: “I am convinced that it is one of the most beautiful and spectacular courses in the world, and the question then becomes whether I have given the holes the interest and strategic merit they deserve.”

The impressive new 18-hole course takes shape on the Isle of Jura’s Ardfin Estate

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Reviews for Ardfin

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Description: Occupying a mainly cliff top location on either side of Jura House, the Ardfin Estate golf course is routed across a rugged landscape of peat and rocks... Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Reviews: 6
TaylorMade
Lindsay Buckenham

I've deliberately waited a week after playing Ardfin (twice) to reflect on my initial emotions. As earlier reviewers have said, it is hard to separate the overall experience from the golf course. Simon (in his words 'all things golf') and the rest of the team looked after us better than we could ever have hoped.

The course is truly magnificent, and a week after playing I can distinctly remember every single hole. It is difficult to pick a favourite hole, but the stretch from 8-13 has some serious wow factor. The 1st might even push Machrihanish (Old) as my favourite opening hole on a golf course.

I think the only hole that is anything but spectacular is the 5th, which I felt was a bit of a bland driveable par four. We had been advised (repeatedly) that the course was hard and that we would lose a lot of balls; however, what I would say is that - we did lose a a lot of balls between the group, but I thought that the course was very fair i.e. on the whole fairways were generous widths, there are not daft carries off the tee or otherwise etc. I think between four of us, over two days, only 2-3 balls were lost in areas where I felt it was unjust, most of the other lost balls came from very bad golf shots.

On the two days that we played golf, we were one of only 2 groups out on the course (albeit on the 2nd day I think some of the owner's friends were heading out later).

It is a long walk - despite being advised otherwise, I carried for our first round, and was pretty tired after finishing. I think I walked something like 25,000 steps that day!

I think I have currently played 54 of the current top100 golf course in GB&I, and this would probably rank right near (if not at) the top.

September 16, 2021
10 / 10
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Ralph Wardlaw

How do you objectively rate a golf course that serves up fresh scallops and fillet steak at its halfway house?

This is the dilemma I face after my recent trip to Ardfin. Never mind golf experiences, this is one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had. The whole place is simply breathtaking and was slightly overwhelming at times. Standing up on the first tee looking back down the coast to holes 8,9 and beyond is something I will never forget.

The golf course itself is an absolute marvel. How they have managed to construct a golf course here beggars belief. Like others have said, the course is split into 3 parts. Holes 1-7 to the top of the course, holes 8-14 run along the cliffs/coast. Then holes 15-18 run back towards the clubhouse.

Again like others have said, the course is incredibly penal. Too penal? In my opinion yes. The course felt a bit suffocating and claustrophobic at times. Disaster looms on every single shot. You can’t lose concentration for a second other wise it is bye bye pro v 1 fresh out the sleeve. I managed to lose 15 balls over the 43 holes that I played. Is that fun? Where Ardfin manages to pull you back in is the breathtaking setting. One moment you’re saying goodbye to your 4th £5 golf ball of the round, the next you are staring back over to Isla at the most wonderful views.

Breaking up the rounds with the visit to the greenhouse and the boathouse also manage to take your mind over the number of balls you have lost. The experience at the boat house in particular was quite something. Scallops and fillet steak on the picnic bench outside, served in glorious sunshine. Does it genuinely get any better?

Back to the golf course. The other two gripes I would have with Ardfin is that I felt that it got a bit repetitive at times, and it took the driver out my hands.

There are a number of holes where because something cuts across the fairway, you have to lay back. This happens on 4,8,9,11,13,14,18. For me this led to a lot of 3woods/long irons down to a point then chipping a wedge or a short iron onto the green.

With the driver, 1,3,16,17 are so tight that there is pretty much nowhere to hit it. On 5&6 you could hit driver but slightly pulling it left on either hole and you could find yourself running into the thigh high stuff and lose your ball - guess who did that (more than once too).

That only leaves the 15th where I would hit driver under normal circumstances. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? For me it did slightly detract from the experience though it should be noted that when I played the course there was absolutely no wind and the course was firm from a recent dry spell. That may have had a factor in how I tried to play the course but I’m not sure my strategy would change all that much in different conditions.

These are minor nitpickings though. I absolutely loved the course. I absolutely loved just standing there, looking round trying to take in my surroundings. Like I said before it’s an absolute marvel. I loved the 8th hole. 310 yards to a fairway you can’t really see and the green the size of a postage stamp. Golf doesn’t need 500 yard par 4s with holes as clever as this.

I loved standing out on the 10th tee feeling like I was at the edge of the world. I loved standing on the 11th tee hitting towards the boathouse. I don’t normally like par 3s over 200 yards but I will make an exception for the 12th. And then I loved putting out on the 16th looking back down towards 11,12 and the boathouse.

One final point about the difficulty of this course. I’ve been a member at Carnoustie all my life. I’ve played Muirfield in the Scottish Amateur of the Open tees. I’ve played Sawgrass and Kiawah in the States. This is harder than all of them. Far harder. Given how penal the course is, how thick the rough is, how small the greens are and how wild the weather can be in that part of the world, I can’t imagine a harder course anywhere. It’s almost like the make believe courses you used to get on Tiger Woods 2005 on the Xbox. Hopefully one day I’ll get to compare Pine Valley to it. We will see!

I can’t finish the review without giving credit to the staff, for the hospitality they gave us and the food they served up. I’m just a normal guy who decided to treat myself and my girlfriend. I was blown away by the whole experience. The food was the best I’ve ever had. It made Turnberry look like a Premier Inn (sorry Donald).

Is it worth the money? 10000%. If you’re on the fence about going then don’t hesitate just go. You won’t regret it. It will be one of the best experiences you ever have.

August 05, 2021
9 / 10
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Maarten
August 05, 2021

What a great review. Loved the nitpicking as well. It shows that you were maintaining a critical view while the amazing scenery, delicious views and royal hotel treatment were thrown at you. It's easy to be bedazzled on such occasions. Fair comparisons about the difficulty as well. how does Ardfin compare in terms of fun compared to these other difficult courses you mention? I recently played Les Bordes, which I think fits the same difficulty category as you're describing, and found that to be very enjoyable despite the extremely penal character. I'm sure I'd manage to make a 54 at Ardfin if it would've been featured in Tiger Woods 2005 though!

David Davis
August 05, 2021

Great review Ralph! I wonder if you could count the windless days at Ardfin annually on one hand? What about Carnoustie? You were super lucky. I've played quite a few rounds there and only had one that I would consider windless, to be fair, it was windforce 3. A couple things should be considered of course, the first is that you are better player than the rest of us and likely hit the ball much further. My first reaction is to be happy that driver was taken out of your hand because you likely overpower a lot of courses, especially when firm. Secondly, if you were still losing balls it could mean the course is penal, but it could mean you might have to think your way around a course just slightly differently than normal. Not a bad thing (though I'm certainly not doubting the course is too penal based on my own experience). I'm just thinking if I had your game, I could avoid ball loss by playing the game the conditions dictated. Maybe I'd be wrong I'm more or less challenging your premise. One thing is for certain, imagine how amazing Ardfin could be if it was more playable. I think generally everyone comes away with this thought and hopefully one day this will ring home with the owner as well. The potential is unlimited at this place, playability increases fun, all the other elements are present x 100. Enjoyed reading about your experience!

Tim Elliott

In rating golf courses, the Top100GolfCourses website has a 6 ball rating for ‘Courses don’t get any better than this, drop everything to play’. There are probably a handful of courses around the world that would justify this assessment. I am a well travelled player and have reviewed many golf courses. In my humble opinion Ardfin fully deserves this rating.

We stayed on the remote Ardfin Estate located on the beautiful south west Jura coast, for two days in mid-summer. The sun shone throughout and there was scarcely a puff of wind, rare conditions for this part of the world. We were lucky enough to play Ardfin twice, and it is difficult to find anything about the experience that was not perfect. Both days we were the only players on this sublime, peaceful and simply stunning golf course.

I suppose the one fault would be Ardfin’s exclusiveness and appeal solely to a well-heeled clientele. I met the owner, Australian hedge-fund manager Greg Coffey, who plays off a handicap of 16 and he explained that his wish had been to create a semi-private golf course that was both extremely challenging and yet fun to play. He wanted every hole to be memorable in its design and beauty. And how he has succeeded!

Firstly he discovered this magnificent estate on Jura, previously an island famous for its whisky and outstanding scenery. He then hired a supreme golf course designer and architect, fellow Aussie Bob Harrison, to build his dream. Harrison spent three years creating a world-beating golf course over initially very unpromising terrain. He was of course helped by modern earth-moving machinery, and one would imagine a very generous budget.

So what has he created? The detail of the holes is described more than adequately elsewhere on this site, so I will deal mainly with personal reflections.

The course starts along a cliff top with a challenging uphill par4, followed by a jaw-dropping par three across a giant ravine to a decent size and undulating green. A cunning short par4 follows where pinpoint accuracy is required off the tee, before the 4th with its intimidating blind drive to a hill top fairway. And so it continues as the course rises and dips along the coast line, as you head out to a charming half-way stop, a converted boat house right on the edge of a spit of land. Here you pause for home-made refreshments for as long as you like, just taking in the magnificent sea view, whilst listening to the sea animals and birds and gazing across to the nearby shore of Islay.

The boat house actually comes after 11 holes, and the 12th is a testing uphill par3. After this comes my favourite hole on the course at 13. The drive is a gentle draw over an old repaired sheep house and other outbuildings. The second shot is a mid iron to a right to left sloping green with a stone wall and stream in front, trees and a steep bank behind and the Sound of Islay to the left.

The golf has been extremely testing to this point, but the difficulty is then ratcheted up another notch for the final 5 holes comprising 3 long par4s and 2 par5s, as the courses winds uphill away from the sea. The closing hole is a beast of a par5 with an uphill snaking fairway to a table top green in the far distance.

If your game is on song, you will be thrilled to make some par scores and maybe the odd birdie, particularly over the first 13 holes, but you are also likely to loose golf balls in the penal rough which borders every fairway. For good players who lose 2 or less golf balls over their 18 holes, the performance can be described as better than par.

It is the experience however rather than the score that any golfer lucky enough to arrive at Ardfin will remember for a long time. Not only the golf, but also the exceptional hospitality and accommodation will also linger in the mind. Treat yourself if you can. In my view, it doesn’t get better than this!

July 05, 2021
10 / 10
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Robert Mcallan

I had the great pleasure of playing Ardfin in the COVID summer of 2020. A major investment but justified by being both my anniversary and the penultimate round of my own top 100 challenge.

At the time they were only hosting one group per evening, so my wife and I made the journey to the isles, playing both Machrie on Islay and then Ardfin on Jura.

The owner of the course has currently set an eye watering green fee, along with the caveat that you need to stay the night as well at extra cost which I feel puts it into the global elite and as an advocate for Scottish golf, I would say this is shame as only the most dedicated or rich will venture to play. I sincerely hope going forward the course becomes more reasonably priced and more frequently played, without the need for the overnight stay, perhaps a clubhouse can take people away from the main accommodation and allow for both worlds to sit together – the committed golfer and the luxury traveller.

As other reviewers said the course is split into sections, with seven holes to the North of Jura House, then holes 8 to 11 running to the Boat House, then the final 7 holes, from 12 to 18.

The reason I mention the divisions is that within both rounds of golf I was met at the glasshouse after 7, then the boathouse after 11, for drinks/food, which added to the charm and unique experience.

Included within the green fee I was able to play the course twice, being joined and guided on the first by Simon the course manger/head green keeper.

I played the course near the end of my own personal quest to play Scotland's Top 100 courses. I can safely say that no course provided a similar experience. Ardfin is blessed with a stunning layout along the edges of the South Jura coast.

Several holes proved fantastically memorable, even now, several months later, superb golf holes. 1-3 are magnificent, there is no easy introduction to the course, straight away the first is a challenging uphill par 4, which is so exposed to the winds.

For me, through all my Scottish golf, the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 11th and 12th are easily some of the most memorable I have ever played, all taking advantage of the stunning coastline and views back south to Islay.

Indeed the run of holes from the 7th to the 14th is a breath taking roller coaster, with little room for error and I assume always playing into a demoralising wind.

i can talk all day about the experience, something about being so exposed against the island weather, something about the breath taking scenery, something about being treated like a five star guest, something about an experience that is simply not available anywhere else in the world.....

The course had the feel of a new build with the turf just becoming firm in places and the need for a bit more drainage, however, with the investment to date, I do not see either thing being an issue for long.

PS the accommodation and dining were superb, simply first class, it was eerie as we were the only guests due to the pandemic but it was unforgettable, absolutely charming and an anniversary we will never forget. The general manager is in the elite of Scottish hoteliers, the Chef was award winning etc. Simply put the place lived up to the price, which is actually a huge compliment.

Review of the Month November 2020

November 15, 2020
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
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David Davis

The biggest surprise of my golf year has been Ardfin. First of all, just the opportunity to go out and pre-play this course during a couple day visit to the Isle of Jura is extremely special. However, that pales in comparison to what we found once we arrived. Having recently visited Ellerston outside of Sydney, one of the most private courses in the world, Ardfin also by the same architect may well end up the same type of situation and closed to everyone except the Owner, his family and immediate friends.

Ardfin Estate is situated on the South East corner of the Island of Jura and occupies a truly spectacular and magnificent piece of land. The routing takes us out to the East side of the estate along the cliffs. The first hole is a short to medium length par 4 playing up along the cliffs. Standing on that tee box is truly breathtaking. It’s clear that the intent at Arfin was to greatly impress the golfer right out of the starting gate and that intent was hugely successful.

A solid drive to the left hand side of the fairway allows a pretty good look at the clifftop highly undulated green. Don’t miss the approach shot to the right, first step is a serious one.

The second hole is one of the more spectacular par 3’s on Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer the planet. Played from cliff top to cliff top and measures roughly 180 meters from the back tees. The green is naturally placed along the opposite cliff top and sets up ideally to receive a ball that lands just short of the green and bounces up. There is also a significant right to left slop to the green and two tiers that allow players to bring it in from the right.

The short par 4 3rd is a risk reward cut off all you can chew type hole played towards a semi narrow fairway that is running from right to left at a diagonal line from the tee box. A decent drive with anything from a hybrid to a driver depending on the wind will set up a relatively short downhill approach shot to a front to back sloping green. Short is definitely better than long here and if it’s playing firm then there will be a strong need to land it short and run it up. Long is near death with a small stream running behind this green.

The 4th hole is a long tough par 5 with a blind tee shot up over a hill from a tee box that may be set at the lowest point of this starting 9. Visually there seems to be little space but once you arrive on top that deception is all too clear. The hardest shot on this par 5 may well be the second shot and the choice to lay up short of the burn and native area or attempt to carry it so that you can have a short uphill approach into this green. The surface is not viewable from the fairway on the right but may well be from the far left, a side of the fairway I did not choose to go. The approach is full of centerline bunkers so the play also needs to make a choice on the second shot if they would prefer to play to the left side fairway over the burn or the right.

The 5th hole is another extremely interesting hole. Once on the tee box you are faced with a similar look as standing on the first tee at the Old Course in St. Andrews. There is an old stone wall to your right running all the way up past the green on the right-hand side. The wall then runs behind the green and across to the far end of this 150 yds wide fairway before it comes back down parallel with the fence on the right side before cutting off to the left further. Much like the Old Course it’s a very wide fairway and thus not easily missed, however there is a clear strategy here which is in fact the closer you play to the right-hand wall the easier and more straightforward your approach shot is. The further left you play the more difficult it becomes.

The 6th hole plays back down in the opposite direction to an elevated green with the sea and channel between Isle of Jura and Isle of Islay as a backdrop. The tee is elevated slightly given the 5th also plays uphill and now we return back down the hill. There is a really interesting risk reward aspect to this hole as well in that you have to again take on the wall in order to enjoy the best angle of attack. From the tee, you can choose to take on the carry of the entire wall running in front of you and landing where the wall cuts to the right side. The elevated green has a couple tiers so makes for a really tricky approach and the angel is far more favorable from the right side.

The 7th hole is a par 5 playing back down to where the Estate House is located and back towards the first tee. A diagonal approach Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer in a wide fairway with lite bunkering is followed by a layup or long approach which for us played almost directly into the wind. This green runs away from front to back as well.

After the 7th the golfer is required to take a sizeable 5 minute walk along the front of the estate.

The 8th hole feels as though you stand on the side of the cliffs and aim for a sliver of a target in the right to left sloping fairway surrounded by stone walls on the left and in front.. At around the 220 meter mark there is a hazard in the form of a dry wash. A hybrid or a long iron will leave a short to mid iron to a wonderful green perched at the cliffs edge. A breathtaking shot to a green guarded on the right by a strategically placed bunker and on the left by a small native area and the drop to below.

The 9th hole is another wonderful mid-length par 4 playing along the cliffs edge as you gradually work your way down towards the sea and the alone isolated boathouse that doubles as a halfway house. The tee shot requires a slight carry to a fairway that is ordained with some natural rock structures. A strong tee shot leaves a challenging approach to another green along the cliffs edge. The setting is that from a storybook.

The 10th is a par 3 played from cliffs edge, or if dared from an extremely small back tee of about 4 meters width in any direction surrounded by cliffs on all sides. Those afraid of heights or with vertigo won’t venture to this tee box. Either way the heroic tee shot carries from cliff top to cliff top. A scary shot though there is ample room to the right out of view that can be used as a bail out.

The 11th hole is a tough par 4 that finishes our journey from clifftops down to the the waters edge culminating with the KLF Boathouse. Millions of pounds are said to have disappeared here in a single night’s party. A strong drive with a forced carry leaves perhaps the most challenging approach yet before the break is the be earned. The approach is over a wetland native area to a raised green surround on 3.5 sides by wetland.

After a break at the boathouse the 12th hole welcomes with a long par 3 played slightly uphill and along the shores edge. The green is tucked up into the bottom of the cliff. It’s long and narrow and sloped back to front with varying tiers. An amazing hole to see and in Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer any kind of windy conditions a true challenge to play well.

The 383 yds 13th hole is a solid par 4 playing along the beach on the left. From the back tee the ideal line is over the old stone structure, a feature I loved about this hole but could understand others not liking it as much. I found it cool how the old stone walls and structures were worked into the course. The men’s medal tee allows for a line more to the left. The approach to this green needs to be measured carefully. There is a burn before the green and also one behind. There is ample room but distance control especially into the wind can be tricky here.

The 416 yds par 4, 14th hole might receive my vote for the #1 hcp hole. While not the longest for some reason the approach here was one we found very challenging. The drive along the beach is a bit of a cut off what you can chew shot however it is possible to play well right. The fairway does appear wider than it plays however and running out of space on the right side is feasible even with what feels like the ideal line.

The approach is really what makes this hole so difficult in my mind. A good drive leaves a mid to long iron in still conditions and in our case into a heavy wind you have to choose between lay-up, long iron or fairways wood. I hit 3 wood and made the carry but was still short right of the green. The second day in the other wind I hit 5 iron in finding trouble left which is clearly not the play. Still playing slight uphill this approach is tougher than it looks.

The 15th hole is another serious par 4 and the longest par 4 of the set at 460 yds. The added challenge here is that the tee shot plays steeply up hill to a green surface that is out of view. At this point of the course we have turned back to the East to head back home. On the way out golfers have had to guard against going left but now that’s changed around. Right is sudden death but there is so much space left and this fairway somehow makes this hole play much shorter than the distance.

The approach to 15 is another story and makes up for the perceived distance gained on a solid drive here. The slope is fairly steep and the player must add an extra club or two. The green is guarded by bunkers and drop off on the right side so the safe play is again to the left side just like the drive.

The 520 yds, par 5 16th hole is an excellent 3 shotter. The fairway ahead is split by some native area and mounding down the middle. The aggressive line is down the right side and will allow a shot at this green in two. After the mounding begins the fairway runs down the bluff to the Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer right to a green perched at the end of the bluff above the 11th green. A safe shot to the left side of the fairway will require a lay-up with no chance to reach the green. This is a really tricky tee shot.

The approach to the 16th, which I went for in two both times seems to draw you into going for it (obviously, it did me), even though it is most certainly not without risk. Anything to the right will disappear. The 16thgreen has a beautiful location with a view out to the boathouse. Since it plays downhill the green which is protected by a tricky bunker on the left still seems to set up well for chasing one in on the ground.

The 17th is a 456 yds par 4 dogleg right. The drive is up the hill with tons of space on the left hand side. Hugging the right side provides a much shorter approach but if not long enough the shot will end up being blind.

The closing hole is a 540 yds up hill par 5. This is a serious 3 shotter with a snaking fairway. Longer drives will have to stay right and be played over a semi blind native area. Too long, (probably about 280 meters) the fairway runs out to the right and this will be reachable by longer players. The drive is faced by what I’d best describe as a subtle dogleg right and shots too long to the left can run out of fairway.

The second shot plays over a native area and up a pretty Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer steep hill climbing back up to the top of the cliff/bluff. This green is raised up and the surface is out of view due to the slope. Right is danger and also guarded by bunkers so playing up the left side is advised.

A round at Ardfin won’t come easy but if you do ever have a chance to visit drop everything immediately. It has my vote as a Top 20 course in the world. It’s that good and it's one of the few courses you will ever play that have 18 holes so different from one another that as you walk off the course the routing is totally and completely ingrained in your mind. At least it was for me. Not an average hole on the course, 18 great holes and several all world holes.

Yes, Ardfin is the real deal!

December 06, 2017
10 / 10
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BB
December 19, 2019

Hoi David, is there any news yet on the visitor policy for Ardfin?

Top 100 Admin
December 19, 2019

Ardfin is working on a new website which is due to launch in the New Year. This new portal will detail the visitor policy and contact details.

T P Dean
December 19, 2019

BB, you can already contact them to arrange a game for next year, but you might have to raid the piggy bank (or Fort Knox). It’s going to be a ‘premium’ experience.

BB
December 20, 2019

Thanks for the info guys. Would like to see the reimagined Machrie, and Ardfin looks perfectly located to tag onto that visit

David Worley
October 16, 2020

No golf course is worth the massive amount they want - think I'll just go to Spey Bay instead on my next trip and put my 20 quid in the honesty box.

Having played expensive courses like Loch Lomond, Skibo Castle,Wentworth,

Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs none of them were worth the going rack rate.

David Worley.

Jim McCann

Almost exactly a year after I last visited the new Ardfin course on the isle of Jura (to read the story click here), I returned last week with a couple of other members from the Top 100 Team to see what progress had been made with the project. Having travelled to Jura via the small passenger ferry from Tayvallich on the mainland twelve months ago, I arrived this time on the small vehicle ferry from Port Askaig on Islay.

Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

The last time I was here, architect Bob Harrison and estate manager Willie McDonald showed me around. This time, I was left in the capable hands of Christopher Campbell, recently recruited from his former position as Director of Golf at Trump International at Balmedie in Aberdeen, and Esie O’Mahony, Golf Development Manager of SOL Golf Construction, the company that somehow or other managed to build the course on what’s a very challenging site.

Simon Crawford, the new Course Manager who spent the last 11 years as Head Greenkeeper at Royal Westmoreland in Barbados also walked the course with our group, which included Paul Rudovsky, the only man to have played every course that’s ever appeared in a World Top 100 ranking list (click here to read his story from a year ago) so, along with Paul’s charming wife Pat, we comprised quite an eclectic gathering of golfers.

The opening four holes at Ardfin are pretty uncompromising. The first two are set along the edge of the cliffs that overlook Jura Sound, where mishit shots to the right are gone forever. The next two holes dip into then out of a small glen that runs away to the east of the estate, with the offset tee on the 3rd hole designed to disorientate golfers a little, followed by an intimidating uphill tee shot with a lengthy carry on the 4th.

Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

The wide open spaces of the parallel holes on 5 and 6 bring some welcome relief from the rigours of the first four holes, and offer a breather midway through the front nine before the long par four 7th then swings back towards the 1st tee and a lovely infinity green perched on the edge of the cliffs.

There’s then an awkward transition to get down to the 8th tee, which is set on the other side of the walled garden that sits in front of Jura House. A buggy ride of some sort might be the best way to transport golfers from green to tee once a couple of bridges have been installed to traverse little gullies that eat into the cliff top.

The next seven holes, from 8 to 14, occupy a sublime portion of the property, starting off on the cliffs then working down to the water’s edge where a converted boathouse (now one of the most impressive half way houses you’ll ever see) and old sheep shearing buildings lie right on the shoreline. There are rocky inlets, dry stone walls and wetland areas to carry along this demanding stretch and it’s more than likely a few golf balls will be lost here by players who’re not on their game.

The 15th begins the march for home, with the hole rising steadily uphill until the split fairway on the par five 16th falls down a little towards a green that’s suspended on a rocky outcrop above the putting surface of the par three 12th. The par five 18th might on paper be regarded as a birdie opportunity but don’t bank on it as it’s uphill all the way to the respite of the home green.

Ardfin Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

Overall, fescue greens and ragged edged bunkers (constructed with capillary concreting) are absolutely top drawer though I think some additional teeing positions could be installed as it’s quite a big jump in overall yardage from forward tee positions at 5,523 yards to middle tee markers at 6,445 yards. There’s no stroke index or SSS assigned to the scorecard yet and it’ll be interesting to see what they’re set at when the course is rated. A few paths need to be finished off and some little bridges installed so the course is all but ready for regular play.

The restoration of Jura House is now complete from what I understand. I didn’t get very close to it but externally it looks rather grand from a distance. The nearby outbuildings which are being renovated for guests are still a work in progress but there’s an army of tradesmen working on them right now so they’ll soon be ready for occupation. All that’s to be decided now is the visitor policy, which the owner hasn’t yet disclosed.

My respect for Bob Harrison’s design skills is immense but by admiration for the construction abilities of Esie O’Mahony’s men at SOL is just as great. It hardly bears thinking what had to be done to somehow fashion fairways along the edge of the cliffs on either side of Jura House, across terrain that even the estate deer would once have thought twice about venturing onto. Hats off to all concerned at Ardfin as it’s a case study of how to overcome adversity both off and on the course.

Jim McCann

September 11, 2017
8 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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Tom Sampson
September 13, 2017

This looks an amazing course, but there is something nagging in the back of my mind about the trend for building golf courses remoter and wilder parts of our island. Judging by the costs involved they seem to be the playthings of the fabulously wealthy and i suspect will mainly be played by their ilk. The difficulty of getting to this course alone would deter most of us.