I see two main reasons to play the Machrie.
First, Islay has many distilleries to visit (nine or ten, according to the Islay Whisky Academy) and one golf course. It should therefore be top of the list for any group looking to combine high-quality whisky tourism with ditto golf.
Second, it is a very good links course and represents a great outing if you are on the island for other reasons. The reopening of the hotel with a spa and an equally ambitious restaurant should also make it attractive to golfers with friends or partners with other interests in life.
I am not so sure, however, that it fits naturally on any multi-course golf tour. We recently looked at fitting the Machrie into a week in Ayrshire in August this year, but decided against it. The majority view was that extra effort would not be worth it. Having now played there, I think it was a correct decision.
I am also not sure it will end up being chosen over other stay-and-play destinations like St Andrews, East Lothian, Southport or Sandwich. A group of golfers looking to play very serious links golf staying in one place for a few days would want a bit more variety than what one course can provide, however well designed.
On the design side, the course clearly has a lot of width of the tee, which makes it playable in virtually all weathers and pleasurable for most categories of golfers, a real plus in my book. I played it twice recently (end of March) in relatively modest one-club winds and found it bordering on easy, just like Ed in his review below. However, I can easily see that slightly higher green speeds would quickly raise the level of difficulty without sacrificing much of the playability. Hopefully that is how the course plays in summer.
Finally, I think a place that plays so much on its history (and talks so much about how the new is better than the old) would want to showcase how its course design and layout changed from the 1890s to now. Other clubs do this well by putting up old course maps on the walls with small explaining texts. Hopefully, the Machrie will follow suit.
Depending on how you define "the region" it is either four or five balls in my book.
Date: March 28, 2019