The trek to the remote island of Islay is well worth the effort if you want to play The Machrie which offers top-class links golf on a modern lay-out. There has apparently been golf played on this land for about 130 years, but it is a complete redesign by D J Russell, completed in 2017, which has raised the quality of the golf course into becoming one of the very best in the British Isles.
The lay-out is a mass of grassy dunes bisected by wide fairways on an undulating site. The bunkers are very strategic but not over-powering (there are too many in my view on many modern-designed courses) whereas if you miss the big fairways, the rough is often penal. The general conditioning of the greens, bunkers and fairways is exceptional, everything is presented to a very high standard.
Two things stand out as to why I consider The Machrie a wonderful place to play the game. Firstly it’s remoteness virtually guarantees ‘millionaire‘s golf’ for you seldom see another playing group and the peace and solitude is awe- inspiring. The second feature I like is the huge variety of the holes over similar-looking terrain, for the course architect has displayed an imagination that seems incredible.
We played on a breezy but dry day, conditions which make links golf so much more enjoyable. It is surely only very good golfers who like strong winds! All the holes are strong, but some merit special attention:
1. The 2nd hole is a magnificent dogleg left requiring a well-placed drive over dunes onto a fairway with a burn running along the left and a some very strategic bunkers on the right. The green offers a bigger landing area than it appears from distance, but once on it there are some difficult putts!
2. The charming 9th which is the shortest hole but a lovely test onto a good-sized green surrounded by dunes and pot bunkers.
3. The short par4s at 7 11 and 17 are an unusual feature because although they are very tricky as you would expect, and can be driven by a top golfer in a favourable wind, you feel the mid-handicapper has a good chance to make par with two well struck shots into testing greens.
4. The sheer beauty of both par5s on the back nine. The 12th has a wide fairway which splits in two for the second shot before offering a gorgeous-looking approach shot into a bowl of a green. The 18th meanwhile finishes right in from of the clubhouse and hotel rooms and is a risk-and-reward hole with obstacles to be overcome. But sound rather than extravagant play can provide a happy finish.
In my view, The Machrie provides an outstanding and fair test of golf. It is an exhilarating place to play and realistically priced for the enthusiast when considering its location. I am sure the travelling golfer will love the experience and surely, like me, plan to return.
Date: July 08, 2021