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!
Date: July 05, 2021