The small village of Machrihanish is situated on the western side of the remote Kintyre Peninsula; this is where the sky is big, the sunsets are dramatic and the air has been warmed by the Gulf Stream. Nearby Campbeltown was once the whisky capital of the world, but today only the Springbank distillery remains in full operation.
In 1876, the Kintyre Golf Club was founded; and in November of that year, Charles Hunter, the Prestwick professional, rearranged the course and extended it to twelve holes. Old Tom Morris then left his stamp on the links in 1879. The members felt that Kintyre was too ordinary a name for such a special golf course, so they changed it to the resonant Machrihanish in 1888.
The course was modified again in 1914 by J.H. Taylor and Sir Guy Campbell made further alterations when several holes around the turn were lost due to development work at the Campbeltown airport site next door.
This links must be one of the most natural, romantic and most enjoyable places to play golf in the whole of the British Isles. It’s not long, grand or a championship course, but it is sheer fun. It’s got an outstanding front nine and a thrilling start. The first, called “Battery”, is one of the best opening holes in golf, a teasing 423-yard par four with an elevated tee on the edge of the shore. The fairway hugs the beach and we must drive diagonally across it. How heroic can we afford to be with our very first tee shot? The beach is in play, not out-of bounds. But dare we play our second shot from amongst the seashells?
Machrihanish is not just about one great opening hole – the front nine is exceptional and the entire experience is magical. The greens are firm, fast, true and are positioned in the most varied of locations. Some are sunk in punchbowls whilst others are on a raised plateau or flattened dune tops. There are blind tee shots, fabulous sea views, undulating rippling fairways and exciting rugged dunes.
You have to make an extra special effort to get to Machrihanish, but it is worth it. The welcome is extraordinarily friendly and the golf is extraordinary. Expect to leave this place with a broad smile on your face... additionally, the results of a Top 100 survey suggest that Machrihanish is one of the best value golf courses in Britain.
The well bunkered 3rd hole is the start of some holes that feel quite unique. You are so far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life that you are drawn in to admiring the harsh beauty and the pattern of the wispy grasses that form the rough. The 4th is a rather short par three in amongst the low dunes and wild grasses with the shoreline along the left.
The only weak parts of the course for me were the 17th and 18th holes which are rather flat and less interesting. Even so, you must negotiate the burn on the 17th and the 9-hole course which is out of bounds on the left of both holes.
Machrihanish is definitely one of my favourite links and should be rated right up there in the very top echelon of top Scottish courses. There is a lovely ambience in the clubhouse which is located over the road from the first tee. The fairways and bunkers are always in excellent condition and the greens are nothing short of superb.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
This is one of the more isolated courses on the Top 100 list. For those of you in Ireland, I recommend taking the Kintyre Express from Ballycastle over to Campbeltown which only takes 80 minutes. The opening tee shot over the beach is the highlight of the round and it lived up to its reputation. Putting this golf course into perspective, it’s located in a remote part of the world with relatively rural facilities and not much budget. Meadow grass, daisies, buttercups and farmland are gracefully married to the sand-dunes that line the coastline. If a sheep walked across a fairway, you wouldn’t bat an eye-lid. At just 6400 yards from the tips, this golf course can be easily over-powered by modern technology. It has stood the test of time, and remained in the Rankings discussion due to its eternal connection with the hands of Old Tom Morris and his legendary ability to shape the land.