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Course Review

The southern tip of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland has long boasted a golf course, Machrihanish, whose reputation was such that avid golfers would ignore its remoteness and pay pilgrimage. But that journey is now doubly rewarded with the opening, in 2009, of Machrihanish Dunes.

If you really want to experience what golf was actually like a century ago, then this is where you go. Because it is built on a site of special scientific interest, as little earth as possible was moved during construction, so the routing of the holes follows the land, with the result that you face many blind shots, to both fairway and green (several of which are located in natural bowls).

Also, drainage and irrigation could not be included in the construction, nor fertilisers used, so the whole place has a wild, rugged, natural look and feels as if it was created by Old Tom Morris, and not David McLay Kidd (the man who designed the Castle Course at St Andrews). It is not long and certainly favours placement over distance, and is also somewhere that rewards a little local knowledge, so play it more than once if you possibly can.

42nd Best UK Golf Course


Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club is the first golf course to be have been built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSi) since the days of "Old Tom" himself. It is also the first 18-hole links golf course to be built on the west coast of Scotland in 100 years.

Set hard against the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Machrihanish Dunes shares breathtaking views with the adjacent Machrihanish Golf Club links (ranked 39th by Golf Digest's "Top 100 Courses Outside the U.S." in 2008).

True to The Way Golf Began, the site of Machrihanish Dunes links featured 23 "natural holes" (definition:a hole which fits so well into the natural landscape prior to construction that only minimal effort is required to ready it for play in terms of grading and shaping work). Course architect and Scotsman David McLay Kidd, who is internationally acclaimed for his design of Bandon Dunes in Oregon and the The Castle Course at St. Andrews, chose his 18 favourites to make up the inspired routing for Machrihanish Dunes. Measuring 7,300 yards, Machrihanish Dunes features six greens and five tees at the ocean’s edge.

"We followed the lie of the land and unlike most courses around the world, we did not lay out the course and make the land change with it, we designed each hole around the natural terrain," says David McLay Kidd. "For maintenance we will do a little mowing, but will mostly rely on the wandering sheep to keep the fescue in check - just like the old courses used to do. We are returning golf to how it should be played; no longer is it a gentle walk in a garden, it will be a full-fledged mountaineering expedition at this course."

In a world with over 32,000 golf courses, the development of an authentic links course (there are only 270 in the world) on the west coast of Scotland is most unique. Machrihanish Dunes promises to be a true testament to The Way Golf Began.


The Kintyre peninsula is not only one of Scotlands most secluded outposts it is one of its best-kept secrets. In the past, it has required an effort of will to seek it out but always with the prospect of rich reward at journeys end. Now, the advent of Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club has led to a wealth of transportation improvements.

Today, there are two flights daily from Glasgow to Machrihanish on British Airways Flybe. Flight time is a mere 25 minutes.

And as demand for the Kintyre peninsula grows, travellers will enjoy easy access to some of the worlds most renowned golf. Nowhere else will a golfer be able to play seven of the worlds top 100 courses, in a matter of days, and still enjoy the same accommodation each night.

Driving Directions: Take the A82 out of Glasgow and change onto the A83 at Tarbet. As you approach Campbeltown and Machrihanish you will see a sign on your right for Westport beach. Continue on A83 for approximately 2.7 miles, passing through the village of Kilchenzine. Turn right following signs for Campbeltown Airport and M.O.D. Machrihanish. Continue on this road for 2.1 miles passing the Airport turn off. Turn left into Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club.

By Land: The breathtaking three-hour drive from Glasgow is a three-stage scenic delight conjuring memories of several song lyrics along the way. It is a journey of discovery that begins along the "Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond", then winds through the Highlands (which locals call "the rest-and-be-thankful drive"), one the most scenic glaciated drives in Europe and, finally, it meanders along the stunning Atlantic coastal highway that was the inspiration for Paul McCartneys lyrics "The Long and Winding Road."

By Air: Air access is direct into Campbeltown Airport. Both commercial and private jets can fly directly from the U.S., Europe or Glasgow and touch down on the second longest runway in Europe, a stones throw from Machrihanish Dunes. Local helicopter and sea plane services also allow golfers easy and fast access to gems like Shiskine and Machrie and classics like Turnberry, Prestwick and Royal Troon. Flybe (British Airways) currently operates flights twice daily between Glasgow and Machrihanish. /

By Sea: The crossing by high speed charter ferry to Campbeltown Harbour takes 55 minutes from Troon (on the Ayrshire Coast) and only 50 minutes from Northern Ireland.

Latest Rounds

Fred Newman 07 Jul 14
Machrihanish Dunes
Learn about golf scoring: Golf handicap explained    Stableford points explained

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