ScotAGCA members visit Machrihanish

Six of our members tackled the old and new courses in classic links conditions with the wind making it a real test.

This was an excellent field trip for us in allowing us to compare different aspects of the courses. The Dunes Course certainly has developed a very natural landscape in a short time. There are some exceptional holes with many excellent views. To single out one hole I was very impressed with the par 3 13th (see photo below) which I rate as one of the best I have played. While playing alongside Paul Kimber, who was also showing me how to play golf at the time, I commented… “This hole excels in every aspect. The view, aesthetics and the challenge made up by a combination of bunkering and green design all add up to an excellent hole”.

On the down side there are perhaps a few too many blind tee shots but the background to the design of this course does explain how the constraints imposed by the environmental elements meant that the designers could not extend the earthworks sufficiently enough to allow more views to be made available from tees. This does highlight how environmental constraints can overwhelm the desire to make a golf course more playable and enjoyable. One has to ask if we have to try and convince the Environmental bodies to try and embrace the idea of creating a more playable golf course rather than stamp the environmental constraints onto such a site with little flexibility. One looks across the site during play to be reminded how a good golf course development can fit well with the environment and indeed enhance it. For the sake of a few more acres of earthworks this could have helped to enhance the visibility for more holes and as a result assist in creating a special golf course.

On the Old Course one has to mention the quite spectacular opening hole, a legendary 1st hole in links golf. The serious golfer can only drool at the opportunity to hit the first drive. We have to however wonder how this hole would have been admired as the 18th. I could not help feeling, as I was slightly disappointed to walk the final two holes, how much better it would be to play the 1st hole as the final hole. What a memorable finish that would be to take to the clubhouse and discuss among fellow golfers, “how one got on at the last!”. On such a windy day as we had we certainly needed something to raise our spirits and take our mind off the weather as we ventured down the last hole aiming some 40 yards into the Out of Bounds area in the hope that the wind would return the ball to the centre of the fairway. Indeed those of us who did not manage the strong left to right wind found ourselves playing most of the way up the 1st hole in the wrong direction!

For me, I certainly found that being able to get more views of the sea made a difference to my enjoyment of the Dunes course. The Old Course was excellent, perhaps with the slightly disappointing finishing holes, but the Dunes had the edge in having more interesting holes and a bit more variety of play. The number of marker poles, due to there being too many blind tee shots, did gnaw away at my enjoyment levels a bit but overall it had the edge and the Course designers should be congratulated on the work.


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