Machrie - Argyll & Bute - Scotland

The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links,
Port Ellen,
Isle of Islay,
PA42 7AN,
Scotland


  • +44 (0)1496 302310

  • Ian Brown

  • DJ Russell

  • None

Islay, the southernmost island in the Inner Hebrides, is probably best known for its whisky production – there are currently eight active distilleries in operation there – but, for golfers, it will always be associated with the iconic Machrie links on Laggan Bay, a course that was originally laid out back in 1891.

Designed by Willie Campbell three years before he left for America to become the first professional at The Country Club in Brookline, the old-fashioned layout was modified by Donald Steel in the 1970s when, in the words of the architect, he made it “more complete, more modern and more challenging”.

Unfortunately, the hotel and golf course then ran into financial difficulties, bringing about a change of ownership in 2011. Ex-BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and his wife Sue Nye, former diary secretary to Gordon Brown when he was British Prime Minister, acquired the business with the aim of rebuilding the hotel and renovating the golf course.

Architect DJ Russell was called in to oversee what amounted to a complete redesign of the layout, ably assisted by course manager Dean Muir (who’d been at Muirfield for 17 years) and construction men Eric and Robert Sammells from Edinburgh Landscapes. A short par three course, driving range, putting green and practice area were also added to enhance the golfing infrastructure.

The refurbished course reopened for play in May 2017 with only seven of the original greens retained in an imaginative new course routing that still weaves wildly in and out of the dunes. Fairways are wider than before, offering a good chance of recovery from poor tee shots or wayward approach shots, and blind shots aren’t entirely eliminated, though there are far fewer to be played now.

Traditionalists will mourn the loss of the old Machrie and for sentimental reasons that’s understandable. However, the nostalgic attributes of the former course weren’t enough to attract golfers in sufficient numbers and the place was dying on its feet – it might well have perished forever – before a significant level of investment was made to remodel the layout and build new visitor accommodation.

The new Machrie is now geared up to handle visitors long into the future, the 48-bedroomed hotel opened in 2018. Rather than look back with regret at the loss of the old course, golfers who still pine for the old days and the old ways should really be grateful that somebody felt it worth their while reviving an old classic to make it fit for purpose in the modern era.
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Reviews for Machrie

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Description: The refurbished Machrie golf course reopened for play in May 2017 and it's now geared up to handle visitors long into the future... the 48-bedroomed hotel opened in 2018. Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Reviews: 34
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Dan Hare
Wow, what a course ! We played The Machrie this afternoon in a 2/3 club wind, fortunately in blustery sunshine, so the views across the bay, of the moors and the Paps of Jura were gobsmacking. The hotel is a little tired, but the staff were very friendly and the course itself was very well presented. It has to be one of the best layouts I have ever played - 1 and 2 ease you into the game but it is only in retrospect compared to the later holes that you feel that they were straightforward . Coming off the course, there was only one weak hole (the short par 3 10th) and so many absolute crackers, any one of which would be another course's signature hole. Some of the approaches that you have to hit are out of this world, and once you get to the green the putting can be a terrific challenge but fair. Good value for the £55 we paid. Ref Cedric and others questioning the assertion of how fantastic The Machrie is, personally I have played 10 out of the 20 courses in Scotland ranked above it and cannot honestly argue that any, albeit how fantastic they are, beat it. It is a wonderful course and simply has to be played. If you don't like blind shots, why not ? maybe move to Florida ... = )
September 19, 2009
10 / 10
Machrie
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Cedric
September 20, 2009
Sounds like I really need to pay myself a trip to the Islands!!!
Johnson
September 21, 2009
Cedric, I know you have played a lot of the great courses but I am positive you would love this course and it would be worth your time. The whole setting is perfect, the 1st tee is just behind the hotel, the holes are some of the best you will find(#10 excluded) and after the round, the bar is a great place so sit back and enjoy a nice beer. The staff are great. Make sure you spend 2 days at least, there are some blind shots so the 2nd day you will have a better idea how to play it.
dan
September 03, 2011
I am now up to 14 of the 23 higher rated courses in Scotland and I still can't top my Machrie experience. How is the Machrie not higher yet, and actually going down ?
heffalump
This may be the most under-rated course on this site. If you are looking for a place to go ona pilgrimage to golf, go here. Makes Macrihanish look like a dog track (which it is'nt, its an epic course)
August 29, 2009
10 / 10
Machrie
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Craig Morrison
This is really one for the purist. And I am pure at heart. I love The Machrie. Whatever I feel for Machrihanish (which is equally remote, geographically not far from here and sounds a bit the same so therefore I can go around making these comparisons) is probably instinctive (the pounding sea and the crazy fairways) whereas what I feel for The Machrie is more intellectual (the many blind shots don’t appeal to my nature but when I think of the way golf was once played around these dunes I appreciate what happens here). Basically, in the days before zip grooves the toughest shots were ones over obstacles to hidden greens. The Machrie is so far flung that nobody forced them to flatten those obstacles and move on. It’s just very very cool. The condition is excellent too. Swallow your old Scottish golf books and go play it. (I loved the second hole here. No-one ever really talks about that. I also loved the par 3 twelfth, New Mount Zion. Nobody ever talks about that either. They all talk about the seventh, Scot’s Maiden. You’ve got to love it too. The first at Macrihanish Dunes is in a small way a copy of that hole.) Get down here in the winter and the place is empty. Where is everyone you might ask? America and Canada and Australia is the answer. Actually, apparently most of the Islay islanders headed for The Carolinas when the potato famine struck. The obviously took a wee bit of the gowf with them because they were probably playing a bit of it round about here back then. Hey, there are some amazing sites on Islay which could be turned into the greatest golf course the world would ever know… ANGLOSCOT
August 19, 2009
8 / 10
Machrie
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Ron Goudie
Comfortably the best golf course in the UK!It is difficult to get to, the hotel is a bit dated and there is only one course on the island.Was it worth the trip...you should definately visit this place.Blind shots, perfect greens natural beyond anything possible on the mainland and the best challenge in golf.
April 22, 2009
10 / 10
Machrie
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Cedric
April 22, 2009
The best course in the UK??? I haven't played it but such an affirmation sounds a little strange. Do you mean the best you have played? Clearly, if this was the best course in the UK, everybody would know about it...Maybe (surely) a very good course but I doubt it is the best ever.
Tim
April 23, 2009
Cedric, while his claim may sound a little far fetched that The Machrie is the best, it is not that far off. I have been fortunate to play 35 links courses in Ireland/Scotland and my dad is upto about 75 and we both believe that The Machrie should rate very near the top. It is not well known due to its location but it was 2 of the best days we had in Scotland and the 2nd day was horrible weather but you couldnt keep us off the course. Worth the travel and stay a couple of days.
Shaun
April 28, 2009
I must side with Cedric here. Whilst the Machrie was in excellent condition and in a unique location it would probably not feature in my personal top 100, too many blind shots.
Kem
May 13, 2009
My opinion is somewhere in between. Having played Carnoustie, Dornoch, Machrihanish, Deal in England and The Machrie, I have only limited links experience but definitely on some good courses. In my opinion the Machrie is not as good a layout as Carnoustie or Dornoch, but a more enjoyable experience given the remoteness and the feeling that you have stepped back in time. (and don't forget the 7 single malt distellaries on Islay!)
Dennis Slattery
Playing Machrie is like stepping back in time. The remoteness and isolation adds to the charm. Another positive aspect is the egalitarian nature of the golf. Everyone is welcome, including blue collar and working class.
April 22, 2009
8 / 10
Machrie
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harryd
i think that this is my favourite course by quite a way and i have played other very good courses such as Walton Heath or Royal St. George's, but this is definately the best. it is not an easy course by any means especially when the wind blows. the greens are emaculate, the fairways are beautiful, and as well of this the amount of blind shots is wonderful my favourite hole is probably the seventeenth as the approach shot is over a large mound into a bowl shape green i would recommend this course to any golfer who likes a challenge which is not expensive, and wants a guarenteed good course
June 08, 2008
8 / 10
Machrie
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Tim Johnson
If you are going to go to the trouble of playing Machrie, plan on at least two days to really enjoy it. I played it with my father in May 07 and it was well worth the travel time. We checked into the hotel just as dinner was finishing and they told us they would keep the kitchen open for us. After dinner, the owner realized that we were 2 to a room and gave us each our own room, this was unrequested and we were only charged for a single room(the hotel was not full). The course was beyong expectations, these were some of the best holes we have played to date. As many of the reviews have stated, there was not a weak hole on the course and some of the approach shots were the best I have ever had the pleasure to play. The staff at the hotel is suberb. My dad and me enjoyed grabbing a 7 iron after dinner and going out and playing as many holes as we felt like in the setting sun. Life doesnt get much better than that. The 1st tee is mere steps away from the hotel so you can have a nice breakfast, go to your room to freshen up and then take a leisurely stroll to the 1st tee. It reminded me of staying at the Golf Hotel at Royal Dornoch. The pub in the hotel is great and enjoyed hoisting more than a few beers with the bartender and then played 18 with him the next day. I have forgotten his name and alos the name of one of the waiters who treated us like family while we were there. For my money, it is better than Machrihanish (which is getting alot of press these days). The whole experience(ferry, hotel, staff, location and golf) is probably the best that I have come across in all of my links golf travels. I have spent 2 months over 5 years playing in Ireland/Scotland and this was the best 2 days by far. And it howled on the second day and was still a joy.
May 24, 2008
10 / 10
Machrie
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A. MacMillan
A magic setting in the Inner Hebrides. A hidden gem in immaculate condition. A challenge to golfers of all standards. I never tire playing the Machrie links when I get the opportunity.
September 25, 2007
10 / 10
Machrie
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scott maiden
Machrie is possibly my favourite course in the whole world. It is a wonderfully balanced layout, with no weak holes, and is maintained beautifully. The last six holes may be the best, most scenic, and possibly the toughest finishing stretch of links holes anywhere, with the added bonus of having the well appointed hotel and a warm welcome waiting for you just off the 18th green. If you haven`t been there, I suggest you make the considerable effort immediately- your links education will not be complete until you`ve played this masterpiece. Leave your misconceptions that the course will be easy and untidy just because it is on an island behind you- Machrie is a championship quality links traditionally maintained with fescue dominated greens and tight cut surfaces that allow you the opportunity to play proper seaside golf shots. I can`t speak highly of the place.
August 29, 2007
10 / 10
Machrie
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Kem Westdyk
The Machrie is mystical, magnificent and mad. The most fun I have ever had playing golf. Blind tee shot, blind approach shots, everything but blind putts! Too many great holes to mention, but the 7th is probably my favourite. Get on the ferry and stay over on Islay a few days, and when you don't play golf, go to any or all of the seven distilleries. Just watch out, the roads on Islay can get very narrow! Kem Westdyk, South Africa
October 05, 2006
10 / 10
Machrie
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