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.
I returned to play here just over six years after first playing the course and the weather was not so kind this time (not that I expected to play in short sleeves in mid December right enough) with rain falling during the last six holes played.
I loved the 2nd, with the green perched on a mound over the burn but was disappointed to find the 4th had a temporary green on. Holes 6 and 8 are great par fours and all in all, the front nine is as good an outward half of golf that you’ll find.
If I’m honest, the back nine was a slight let down (maybe the weather played its part in dampening my spirits) but I felt the rhythm of the round was broken by playing two par fives at holes 10 and 12, then playing back-to-back par threes at 15 and 16.
I’ve no real complaints about the closing two holes as I think they are an excellent way to finish the round with no gimmicky final flourish. Greens were great for the time of year so all in all there was little room for complaint, especially after tucking into another bowl of soup from the famed urn in the corner of the clubhouse – simple golfing pleasures are hard to beat!