The Naming of the Holes


I want to take a moment to thank everyone who entered our “Name the 6th Hole” competition. We struggled for weeks to pick just one out of the 800+ worthy entries, but we eventually settled on a fantastic entry from William Tevendale, who suggested we name it Fingal’s Footprint! William won more than just a Stay & Play at Mach Dunes – his selection will now be a part of the course’s history and charm!

Thanks to William, and to everyone who entered for your suggestions and your support!


AutumnPairsNow, I will freely admit that I am a history geek. When I was growing up and being chauffeured around the country by my father, receiving the best golfing education a teenager could ever hope for, I quickly became fascinated with the history of golf courses. Observing how the early architects used natural topography to create strategic hazards on ancient courses, and then being given the opportunity to view both good and bad examples of how modern designers attempted to replicate that early brilliance on tracts of inferior land interested me greatly, but nothing stirred my emotions on visits to these revered historic sites quite like the names that were given to holes and features by educated enthusiasts who came from a long-forgotten era but who obviously had similar romantic notions to myself.
membersonlymedalOf course, for every Elysian Field and Principal`s Nose there is an Awa` Hame and a Ca` Canny, and it used to make me laugh when I visited yet another course that had an uphill par 3 called Spion Kop! Throughout all the years of digesting the history of golf, from reading hilarious Bernard Darwin stories from the golden age of the game`s first boom (if you`ve not read Darwin yet, you really should) to researching the methods of the early architects and greenkeepers, I never thought I would have the opportunity and honour to be personally involved in a project to come up with names for the holes on a new golf course. Then I came to Machrihanish Dunes, and discovered that nobody had beaten me to it!

A chance discussion on Facebook one day (about something completely unrelated) started the ball rolling, and from there it was tentatively decided that we should put together a steering group of people to discuss and choose names from suggestions that we would encourage people from all backgrounds to bring to the . We wanted a list of names that would be entirely original and individual, names that would provoke intrigue and stir romantic notions not just today, but in fifty or a hundred years time. Most of all though, we wanted to make the very most of having the opportunity to introduce a bit of mischievous fun, just as the forefathers of golf did a century ago and more.

Here is what we came up with, and why.

1st hole, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland

David McLay Kidd has often told the story of how for many years his Father Jimmy and his Mother June brought him to Kintyre for their annual holiday, and how the enjoyment of Summer days spent playing golf at Machrihanish were augmented by wistfully staring over the fence to the left of the 9th and wondering just what a spectacular golf course a young designer might be able to create on such an idyllic and unspoiled piece of linksland. Jimmy and June are regular visitors still, and Jimmy`s input into the continued architectural and agronomic development of Machrihanish Dunes cannot and should not be overlooked. For that reason, we decided that the 1st should be named in the Kidd family`s combined honour.

2nd hole behind fairway marker, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland

The utilitarian and slightly disconcerting structure that previously allowed its incumbents to keep a beady eye on whatever dark secrets were housed behind the double barbed-wire fence of Site 2 (if indeed there ever were any!) would be rendered entirely defunct if it didn`t give us something not to aim at off the 2nd tee. It just catches your eye, even though it is actually miles off line. While this may seem a blindingly obvious name for this hole, I can`t help but wonder how long the tower will remain there before it is unceremoniously pulled down. Whatever happens to the base and however it is re-landscaped in the future it would be a shame if people forgot its connection to the golf course through its early years, and commemorating the Watchtower with a hole name seemed a fitting way to cement the relationship for the long term.


History has it that Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah, a mighty hunter and leader who commissioned the building of the tower of Babel, which he hoped would be so high that it would actually reach heaven. I suppose there is nothing wrong with being ambitious! Why the RAF chose to name a large reconnaissance plane after Nimrod I don`t actually know, but I do know that one of these mighty aircraft (no. R1 XV249) was stationed at Machrihanish during 1976 while their home runway at Kinloss was being re-surfaced. From what I can gather, there were 3 Nimrod squadrons based at Kinloss at the time, but I`m unsure as to whether all 3 “boltholed” to Machrihanish or whether it was just the one. HMS Nimrod was also the name of a World War 2 anti-submarine training camp, apparently located in the original Campbeltown Grammar School building. It seemed obvious to make mention of the area`s recent connections with the armed forces at the point on the course where the base is in closest proximity, and Nimrod seemed an evocative and poignant name with which to do it.


The Shepherd`s Cross tournament is played every July and has so far always seen competitors play the first 9 holes at Machrihanish before crossing the fence to begin a composite 9 holes at Machrihanish Dunes, which begins here at the 4th and finishes at the 18th.

5th hole from tees, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland

The newly restored (read “rescued”), iconic Ugadale Hotel and its surrounding village can clearly be seen from this picture-perfect par 3, making it an obvious choice to name the hole after it.


Our competition winner. Despite involving everybody we could think of in the naming process we just could not come up with a name that would do justice to this recently renovated par 3. William Tevendale was the man with this flash of clever alliteration – not only does the name roll off the tongue well and make mention of the Giant who famously “built” the nearby causeway between the North Antrim coast and the island of Staffa, but what really sealed it for us was that the hole when viewed from the air actually does look like a giant`s right footprint. Very clever, and definitely worthy of inclusion.


Played from a low tee onto a high plateau where visibility is understandably impaired, this fairway is littered with hazards. There are 3 large natural bunkers, but also many smaller mounds and natural sink-holes, any of which could leave a golfer with an unpleasant hanging lie. It seemed obvious to the contributor to use this as a way of marking the history of the Machrihanish Colliery, which provided employment at pits near Machrihanish and in nearby Kilkivan from, it seems, the mid 18th century. More is made historically of the canal (opened in 1791) which was initially constructed to take coal to Campbeltown, and the light railway which succeeded it in around 1875 than of the mine itself, but I am sure it provided much needed employment to the area at the time. The row of well-maintained miner`s cottages in Drumlemble are a classic architectural feature on the road to Machrihanish, and the whole story combines to form a worthy inclusion on this list.


Whatever you make of Sir Paul McCartney`s music or lifestyle, there is no doubt that he and his wife Linda did much for tourism in Kintyre. The evocative lilt that bears the Mull`s name portrays the beauty and serenity of the area well, and has drawn in countless visitors over the years, eager to experience the magic for themselves. Although Sir Paul has not visited the area for some time, many people in the wider populous still associate the area with him and his family, so we felt it was a good idea to include the name of his beloved farm among our list of holes. Anyone who has walked up through the farm will know that the hill farm is spread over distinct lower and upper levels, much like the fairway on this hole.


This is one of those classic personal monikers that I used to enjoy researching when I was a boy. St. Andrews has Granny Clark`s Wynd, Musselburgh has Mrs. Forman`s, Machrihanish Dunes now has Cecil`s Caravan. Cecil was a miner from the North East of England, who loved Kintyre just as much as Paul and Linda McCartney did. He spent every summer holiday for a number of years staying in a caravan which he parked on the site of the 9th green. In years to come, people will no doubt attempt to research who Cecil was, and why he and his caravan were deemed so important as to have a hole named after it. I don`t think it always needs to be important though, sometimes I think all you need is a bit of fun that just needs to roll off the tongue well and allow a frivolous image to develop in a visitor`s mind.

#10 – HANG TEN

Many of us were keen to have a surfing reference on the course, and because the tee on this hole stares directly out towards the Atlantic and the breakers that form the perfect ocean playground to attract people from all over the country to come and tame its waves, this seemed the ideal place to do it. Golfers playing this hole will regularly walk side by side with their chilled-out neighbours as they stroll towards the green and beach respectively. As for the reference itself, I am no surfing guru but I understand that “hang ten” refers to a manoeuvre where the surfer allows the back of the board to be counter-balanced by a weight of water in order to allow him or her to move right to the front and hang all ten toes over the front lip. Feel free to correct me if I`m wrong! Clearly, we chose this term because it is the 10th hole.

Looking over to 11th green from 17th hole, Machrihanish Dunes - Argyll Scotland

During the early 1970s, some of the younger members of the local business community developed an interest in motorsport. Fuelled by images of heroic off-road legends such as Paddy Hopkirk and Roger Clark, the enthusiasts chose a suitable piece of ground at Clochkeil and set out a track on which to race their own cars. The racing was enthusiastically supported, but inevitably there were casualties and when cars stopped rolling either through terminal mechanical malfunctions or from catastrophic body distortion they were unceremoniously buried by a large Poclain excavator which was kept on-hand for crushing duties. I have no idea whether the remains of any of these iconic vehicles still lurk under the mounds of the 11th fairway, but if they do then they will continue to serve as a monument to the earliest era of motorsport in the area, which subsequently made the obvious move to the tarmac of the airbase.


Sometimes an iconic name is enough, and a viable reason is not actually necessary. This is one of those names.


The black sheep have become synonymous with Machrihanish Dunes. Originally employed as a method of helping control the ingress of ephemeral rough grasses, the flock of Hebridean sheep have since made their way onto sweaters, umbrellas, the shuttle buses and even above the door of the pub. One thing a club needs in order to successfully market a brand is a brilliant logo, and the black sheep is in my opinion one of the very best in the country. Will you see the sheep on your way around the golf course? You might, depending on the time of year. Their role has been reduced substantially since the purchase of dedicated rough mowers which are far more easily trained to control the growth in the exact areas of marram and ryegrass that we and our partners at Scottish Natural Heritage wish to remain relatively thin (in order to protect the continued health of selected rare species), but if, in future, the black sheep are utilised only by the marketing department of Machrihanish Dunes, then their employment is still a thoroughly worthy one.


In the days when the armed forces roamed the links, the large bank behind the 14th green used to be used as a training rifle range. Many spent shells have been recovered from there since the course was first constructed, and hopefully it has now been cleared up to the point where the sandmartins who have constructed high-rise flats in there can have the place to themselves.


I never had the opportunity to meet John Currie, but during my previous existence on Islay, I spoke to him on the phone a couple of times and he was always very amiable and helpful. Legend has it he was a bear of a man – a sea-dog in the classic sense of the phrase – but he was also a great ambassador for his island of Rathlin and the small group of people who live there and struggle to keep their community alive. John piloted a large passenger-carrying rigid inflatable boat around the area through weather bad enough to keep most ordinary people sensibly housebound (he apparently used the Martini jingle to describe his charters “anytime, anyplace, anyweather”), and you would no doubt be able to see him doing that yet from the fairway of this hole had he not met an untimely death in 2011. A proper community hero is always worthy of remembrance.


None of the 3 Paps of Jura are high enough to reach the coveted Munro status, but because they rise straight out of the sea they look majestic and their steep, scree-infested slopes make them tough to scale even for experienced climbers. And, of course, because they are not surrounded by any other hills of notable height the view from the top is incredible (if you can ever get a day when the summit is not shrouded in cloud, that is!). The Paps dominate the skyline to the North of the 16th hole and the largest of them, Beinn an Oir, is steeped in mythology. Translated into English the hill would be called “mountain of gold” and it`s treasure was mythically believed to have been guarded by a huge giant of a woman, who formed the great scar down the mountain`s northern slope by sliding down it on her backside. Climbers who make it to the summit of Beinn an Oir can still make out the shelters which were apparently built out of the scree and rock by an unfortunate serviceman whose job it was to keep watch for approaching enemy ships during one of the World Wars. It is stunning up there, but I can`t imagine being stuck there for weeks on end through some of the winter gales we have to endure on the west coast. It must have been brutal! We tried to shy away from using nearby place names for the holes because, well, it really isn`t that interesting, but in this case it was so obvious that we couldn`t ignore it.


Anyone attempting a drive down the long and winding A83 from Glasgow to Campbeltown inevitably has to take on this alpine-style pass, and although the long drag up the hill from Arrochar has been substantially sanitised since the wider high road replaced the switchbacks of the original single track, many will still breathe an audible sigh of relief at the summit as this really marks the point where the central belt is left behind in favour of fresh air, epic scenery and a more relaxed pace of life. Likewise, anybody reaching the sanctity of the bench below the black tee at the 17th on a windy day can take a momentary rest from the elements before tackling the most difficult hole on the golf course with a renewed sense of vigour.


The 3 standing stones of Clochkeil can be found in the deep rough to the left of the green site. They orientate in a NE/SW direction, although what that actually signifies is something only our ancestors can tell us. Many of you probably don`t even realise these artifacts are in there, something I plan to rectify in the near future with some regular strimming and maybe even an information board. It is a sin that I haven`t done this already. The farmland over which the golf course now resides is called Clochkeil farm, so it made sense to use this name for the last hole. It was after all a far better choice than Awa` Hame!

Many people had an involvement in the process of coming up with these names – I could thank them all individually here but they know who they are and I would imagine it will fill them with pride to know that their contributions have made the final 18.


We managed to complete our planned aeration works in perfect weather and with a minimum of disturbance, so the greens have settled down again very well. There is a lot of new seedlings already coming through on the putting green and chipping green, and we are hopeful that over the next few days we will see this mirrored over the rest of the greens (which were worked on a few days later). Sometimes when you undertake these works things don`t go according to plan – usually because of the weather – but this time we struck it lucky and now we just need to ensure that the new seedlings are allowed to mature so that they can help us provide a reasonable surface throughout the Winter and beyond. We have begun a similar program of works on our main tees, and we hope to have that completed by this weekend (26/09). After that we will discuss what further aeration we can do while this spell of fine Autumn weather (which is ideal for root development) is still with us.

Members and non-members alike are reminded that our annual Autumn Pairs competition is being played at Machrihanish Dunes on Saturday October 10th – if you wish to participate in this event please contact the Golf House at your earliest convenience as the booking sheet is filling up fast. Competitors are reminded that there is an evening prize-giving and function planned to coordinate with this event, and I understand that our Head Chef has planned a very interesting Thai buffet for this. We would be delighted if you could join us.

That’s it for this month – see you on the course!


Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Mach Dunes Golf Club

The Wild Flowers of the Summer’s Hottest Golf Course

The weather conditions during July have been extremely conducive to growing grass, which does put a strain upon manpower and machine, but the upside of this is that if we are pro-active enough, these conditions also give us a great opportunity to do some successful overseeding work on the fine turf areas. In recent weeks, we have seen some fine ingression into the greens from indigenous Highland bentgrass, which I have always taken to be a sign that soil temperatures have become suitably elevated, allowing us to sow some extra bent into the greens without the usual risk of abject failure.

We set up for this overseeding mission by verticutting in two directions to thin out the sward before topdressing with our favoured 80/20 sand/soil material to give the new seed some fresh material to key into. We then seeded the greens using a walk behind Blec seeder with a dimpled roller. I am a big fan of this old machine because it does a really good job of aerating and decompacting the surface while leaving behind thousands of tiny holes for the seed to fall into, become trapped, and ready for germination. The whole job was timed to work alongside our monthly spray program, which contains humic acid and plenty of amino acids, simple carbohydrates and enzymes, which are critical to ensure that the potential for germination and initial growth is maximised. For me, there are few things more satisfying to see out on the course than a grid pattern of new seedlings that proved we timed our applications perfectly, and I am expecting good results – the weather we have experienced for the last two week has been absolutely perfect for this. Rubbish for golf, but good for seed germination!


The other thing that satisfies me to see out on the course at this time of year is the incredible display of colour in the roughs – proof once again that our rough management program suits the continued health of the rare species of plants that Scottish Natural Heritage are so keen for us to protect. I can`t remember ever seeing a golf course provide such a stunning display of natural machair colour as ours has over the last month. Not only have we stared in awe at the field of assorted orchids at the back of the 6th green, but we have also enjoyed the white, yellow, blue and purple palette of low growth on many other areas of the course. Even the blown-out area between the 2nd and the 8th has been awash with colour, full of violets, different varieties of clover, wild thyme and flanked in the longer grass by more orchids and yellow bedstraw. The natural improvement of this area shows me that we are doing the right thing by reducing the topical growth from thick areas and removing clippings, and although there is not much of any ecological merit in the more agricultural part of the course (the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th fairways and the driving range and Golf House area), we have the opportunity to further improve the potential for spreading these rare plants across the rest of the site by continuing with what is a pretty simple mowing and clearing process.

I don`t have an awful lot more to say this month – it tends to be that way at this time of year when we are well into our cutting program and we do pretty much the same things every week. I don`t suppose any of you want to read about how much grass we are cutting! Instead, I thought I would share some of my wild flower photos with you, just in case you missed them on your way round. I know there are some people who read this blog who haven`t had the opportunity to visit the course recently, so these images are for their enjoyment too.

Wild thyme. This smells as good as it looks.


Clover is a pretty average looking plant on its own, but when yellow flowers mix with white and purple in one patch it really can look stunning. There is a massive patch of this between the 2nd and the 8th, which we will try to encourage while also filling in the bare sandy areas with some actual grass, so maybe you can get a decent lie in there for a change next year!

A variety of Leucanthemum I would imagine, I`d like to get smart with my description but “big white daisy” is the best I (and google!) can come up with!

Yellow Bedstraw. It has been seemingly everywhere these last few weeks, providing a great mat of colour to contrast with the purple of the orchids.

A fine specimen of a purple orchid, although I`m not actually sure whether this is an early marsh orchid or a pyramidal orchid. I`m going to go with the former- although it has a pyramidal shape, early marsh orchids can sometimes fool you when their lower display has opened while the upper portion is still closed.

The field of orchids behind the 6th green. This site really is stunning at this time of year, but it always proves very difficult to photograph. I`ve tried many times but I can never do it justice. The barrel-shaped orchids are called the “Early Marsh” varieties, the tall bushy one is a “Northern Marsh” orchid and the pyramid shaped ones are, unsurprisingly, “pyramidal” orchids.

It`s back to the technical updates for me next month, because I`m going to be talking about aeration. We all know that every golf course needs to be aerated in order to offset the compaction from foot and machine traffic and to ensure that water and oxygen can move through the profile effectively, but a specific action that suits one course will not necessarily suit the course down the road (or in our case “over the fence”). I will, of course, be focussing entirely on what we plan to do on our course, on why we are doing it and on what we hope to achieve. It is a favourite subject of mine because so many golfers have inaccurate perceptions of what aeration is all about, which is why this intrusive practise infuriates them so much. I want you to have all the facts before we get started!

We hope you enjoy your golf during August. We look forward to seeing you out there! Please remember the Black Sheep Cup is being played on Saturday 29th August. We have been discussing plans to make this event bigger and better than before, so if you are interested in taking part, you can get more information and enter for this competition by phoning the Golf House on 01586 810058 or emailing

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club

BBC’s ‘Where in the World is Andy?’ Talks Campbeltown, Kintyre & Machrihanish

Radio Host: He is an hour later than he is on a Thursday. We are about 35- 40 minutes late with our roaming travel reporter Andy Mossack. Where in the world is he this time? But first thing is: I need your help, and I have clues here but no answers, so are you ready for clue number 1? You can also help me out with this on the same number.

Clue number one for Andy Mossack:  The 17th century town near here once claimed it was the whisky capital of the world, when it was home to 30 distilleries. Now there are only three of them left, but it still remains as one of the five official whisky producing regions of this country, which is leading me to think he ain’t that far away. But the 17th century town near here once claimed it was the whisky capital of the world, when it was home to 30 distilleries. There are now only three of them left, but it still remains one of the five official whisky producing regions of this country. Where in the world is Andy Mossack?

There is another clue, which I will give you, the start of the midnight moment, and the man himself, about 20 past twelve. I’m thinking Scotland, personally, but where exactly I am kind of at a loss.

Maybe the second clue, which I have not seen yet, will help us out on this.  03453033333. Send me a quick email as well at  Rhodesfield here helping me out with Andy Mossack here. I think the mystery location is Campbeltown, out island beaut, most westerly town in Scotland. An old friend of mine lives there, I think we are in the right nation. I am sure it is Scotland, I think. I am fairly certain it is Scotland. Now I did say I would give you the second clue, and then we shall get on to more romantic matters, and I’ll start talking down there.  So here is the second clue. Excuse me, where is the second clue? Got to open the envelope for this. There we go. Let’s find out where in the world is Andy Mossack. (Laughs). I think we are highly likely to get it now. (Laughs).

Paul McCartney mutualized, no he immortalized this beautiful place in 1977 when he released a song about it, which became a global hit. Well, I have no idea. No idea what-so-ever.  So it was the whisky capital of the world, or claimed to be, and in 1977 Paul McCartney wrote a ditty about this place, which became a global hit and sensation. Where in the world is Andy Mossack? Catching up with him 15 minutes from now.  We, uh, for guesses and help we had two clues about Andy Mossack now. Sui Murphield, Gavin Tilslee, and Gene Holmes, Field Grey, I mean McCrepp. Now I’ve got to say Angie Gavins, who all say Mull of Kintyre, alongside Norma in Sleatford, Andy Crepps says The Island of Moe…….. Everybody says they are going for that, I suppose. We ought to find out! Otherwise, we won’t get to sleep tonight without knowing this, if we leave it hanging so, Paul McCartney sang a song about it, and it was once claimed to be the whisky capital of the world. Thirty distilleries. Thirty distilleries. These days, only three of them left. I’ve visited a few in my time, but it is time to find out exactly where in the world he is.  Andy Mossack! Good evening.

Andy Mossack: (greets him in another language)

Radio Host: (greets him in another language). So it is Wales! No, I’m only joking. So good evening, or good morning should it be Andy?

Andy Mossack: It is a bit later than normal!

Radio Host: Just a little bit! So let me guess, is it actually, are you on the Mull of Kintyre?

Andy Mossack: I am indeed.

Radio Host: Oh, we got it right! Excellent. So everyone gets a pat on the back, whoever managed to spot that one. What exactly are you doing up there?

Andy Mossack: (laughs). I am doing what you think. I am visiting some amazing distilleries, but also just exploring this fantastic coastline, which is quite extraordinary. Um, I don’t know if you have been up this way.

Radio Host: I have. I have spent many lovely holidays in Scotland, and I’m reminded every time someone says “Let’s go on a holiday to Scotland,” I am reminded of an old joke that Billy Connolly said once, where it goes, where he says, “Go to Scotland. There is nobody there.” It is miles and miles of breathtaking country side, and nobody’s in it.

Andy Mossack: Yes, quite right. I mean the extraordinary thing is, I am in Campbeltown, which is about 8 miles away from the Mull of Kintyre. And, uh, it is on the peninsula, it is called the Kintyre peninsula. The extraordinary thing is it’s 60 miles as a crow flies from Glasgow, but it is 140 miles by road, because you literally have to drive around the Lochs. I mean you go around Lochgilphead, and then you have to drive around Lochead. There are no bridges anywhere, so you are continuously circling these incredible Lochs, which are, just as you say, breathtaking. And then you get to the ocean side, which is, again, you’ve got the Atlantic Ocean for about 30 miles down the peninsula. So it really is quite extraordinary, and Campbeltown itself is quite a lovely town. And it, as you say, it was 30 distilleries, and they called themselves the whisky capital because it had 30 distilleries, and there are three still going. But it is the official, one of the five, whiskey regions of Scotland, and here is one of those. It’s got a lovely Springbank whisky.

Radio Host: So the interesting thing about Campbeltown and the whole area, but especially about the area where you are, for me, would be, you have, it is a question of what came first. Was it the whisky business and then the town sprung up, or settlement for other things, such as industry or fishing, then whiskey followed? So which came first, whisky or buildup?

Andy Mossack: Well I would say, first it was a fishing, fishing area. Then, with the Campbells, the clan started it. And the Duke of Argyll, the guy who started the town, it was brought up in just a beautiful area, and the fact that it is relatively peaty and the water here is wonderful, so it started whisky.

Radio Host: Because that’s the magic of whisky, isn’t it? It is clean spring water. And it is very peaty earth, isn’t it?

Andy Mossack: Absolutely. It is actually to be called single malt, you can only call it that, first of all, it has got to be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years and one day. I don’t know quite where the one day comes in.

Radio Host: For good luck!

Andy Mossack: Yea, that’s probably it! It has to be used by using one distillery, and one type of malt and water. And that’s your Scottish Scotch. I don’t think it can be called Scotch unless it has been in that oak barrel for three years and one day. It is taken very seriously down there!

Radio Host: You aren’t kidding! Now, you obviously visited one or two distilleries on this.  Now, the most recent distillery I visited was Highland, no, not Highland Park,

Andy Mossack: Well there is Highland Park

Radio Host: Yes there is. It is the one on Orkney. So you’ll have to forgive me if I got that incorrectly. I went to the Orkney house, I have family up there, and so we go up, we went on the distillery tour, and, you know, it is a wonderful process. Some of it is a working distillery, and the smells you get, they dry out, certain ingredients they dry out on the floors and they basically just sweep it every day and basically that is aerate it. But they had bottles of, let’s say, particularly fine vintages in the shop at the distillery. And there was a bottle of Scotch for 35,000 pounds. On the side of this. And it was there on a glass cabinet, and, how good must that taste? Are there similar things down there, because it is quite a touristy thing, isn’t it? People like to go to distilleries.

Andy Mossack: They do, they do. I will tell you a secret, actually. Personally, I believe, and it is my opinion, but good single whisky, really, if it is ten to twelve years old, it’s good. Now, I don’t necessarily think that if it is 40 years old it will taste much better, it is just there is less of it. So, that’s why it is more expensive. And I think they call it the Angel’s Share, when it is in a cast and it evaporates, and that’s obviously why, but yea, I’ve got a lovely collection at home, all different ones, and I have a great joke, actually, if I’ve got time.

Radio Host: As long as it’s clean.

Andy Mossack: I went to this apartment, and they had a very bold statement above the boxes that said they had every single malt ever created in Scotland. And I said to him, “Have you gotten a bottle of Glenhottle and uh, Glenhottle, is,

Radio Host: We know, yep,

Andy Mossack: He faces me, white as a sheet, and he disappears, he disappears, in the back office, and all I could hear was clashing and bashing and all kinds of stuff, and he came out, demented, and he came out, and says “I have not, I have not got it” It was hysterical, really, and I was on the floor, and I had to come clean eventually.

Radio Host: Leave him hanging for a couple of hours, though.

Andy Mossack: Yea, don’t worry about that! Don’t worry about that.

Radio Host: Stay there Andy, and we will come back, and talk a little more about the town, and the town itself,

Andy Mossack: And Mull again

Radio Host: Oh yes, and Mulligan.  Well in fact, it is funny you should say that, because we may as well have this now, of course. More Andy Mossack, who is in, this place. That is where he is in the world. Just shy of three million, and I feel bad now, because this is Christmas music, and here we are in June. Good stuff though. Andy Mossack, of course. We now found out where in the world he is, he is in Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre, and we have stories and plus one coming in soon, but we have a few more questions that I would like to be asking Andy. Now, aside from the whisky business, these days, in Campbeltown and whatnot, to get there, how easy is it to get there, what kind of stuff is there to do once you are there, are there lots of places to stay, good variety of different places to eat, what is the food like?

Andy Mossack: Well, goodness me, where do I start.

Radio Host: Pick one, there you go!

The Ugadale Hotel
The Ugadale Hotel
The Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel

Andy Mossack: Yes, well, um, all the usual local carriers come into Glasgow and, like I said, I got a car at Glasgow and I drove four hours to the lovely town of Campbeltown. And, um, there is a lovely story here now, because there is an American company, who has practically reinvented the town, and a lovely little town next to it, it is called Machrihanish, and, um, they’ve come in and taken over what was fairly run down hotels, and put, breathed life back into them, and the lovely Ugadale and the Royal Hotel are fantastic, beautiful 19th century buildings, which were really, had gone much to ruins. And they came in and renovated them all and built a fantastic course called Mach Dunes, which is a beautiful links course right next to the ocean, and have employed, what is in fact thirty to up to one hundred people, locals, so they’ve helped employment in the area, which I think was a fantastic thing for them to do.

Mach Dunes
Mach Dunes

Radio Host: So there is this bit of, you know, re-invigoration happening in the area.

Andy Mossack: Absolutely. Yea, yea, and what a great place to do it, in fact. There is a lovely old golf course here, at Machrihanish, which was designed by Tom Morris, in fact, who did St. Andrew’s. So they’ve got a lot of heritage there, but beautiful fish, obviously seafood up here. Great salmon. The food is wonderful, and the people here are just wonderful. The nice thing about it, I think, is in my opinion, is that it’s not that touristy at all. As you said, you can drive for hours without seeing a soul. But people here are genuine, they really are, and I just loved the place. And they talk a lot about Paul McCartney because he did very much joining in with the locals and he was down in the pub quite often, and they re-go the tales of the McCartney’s very much so.

Radio Host: So what you’re saying is Campbeltown Pipe Band, they are the ones doing the bagpipes and drums at Mull of Kintyre the record.

Andy Mossack: Are they? I didn’t know that. What a lovely story.

Radio Host: Yes and the Campbeltown Pipe Band, he featured those on it. I mean he has had a house there for a very long time. It’s like an estate really.

Andy Mossack: Yea, um, Hyde Park farm actually. The sad thing is he actually hasn’t been here in about five years, apparently. He’s been spending most of his time either in England or America. But they do talk of him very fondly, which is nice, and I did see the farm. I did drive by it. It is literally on the outskirts of Campbeltown. It is still there, but there is still a lovely, also, another story on a thin and windy road, if that is a clue, up from the mountainside to the farm. So it is a single chat road, literally, you drive along it, and when you get to the Mull of Kintyre, you walk all the way down to the lighthouse bottom, which is fantastic. These days you can rent that lighthouse as a bed-and-breakfast, wait, no, not as a bed-and-breakfast, but as a self-catering place that the visitors of Scotland have put together. So you walk all the way down, and you can park yourself there for a few days.

Radio Host: So lots of things to do, lots of things to see, of course. Even though it is Scotland, it classifies as a stay-cation so to be on trend you can go there. So what is left on the itinerary for you then? Is it maybe another round of golf? Another discovery? Maybe some fish and chips?

Andy Mossack: I will do that, but I am going to drive up a little bit north past Oban, and there is a very lovely old, Isle of Eriska, which is over that way, so I am going to check that out and then drive back though the Trossachs and come back to Glasgow.

Radio Host: Well, lots of good stuff. Well you have-

Andy Mossack: And the weather has been amazing, that’s kind of throwing a spin in it. Most people think the weather is terrible but it is absolutely beautiful.

Radio Host: Do you know that I’ve only been sunburned once in the last ten years and that happened on Olpendi? Believe me, I’ve been to some hot places, even 56 degrees in Egypt when I was in the Valley of the Kings and I, degrees Celsius, and I was in the Valley of the Kings, and my shoes melted it was so hot but I didn’t get sunburnt, and later that year we went to Olpendi and I burned. And I thought, and there you go, you never know. Scotland is unpredictable as ever.

Andy Mossack: I thought you were going to tell me what it is twins with.

Radio Host: Oh, no. I don’t think Campbeltown is twins with anywhere I would say. Because you know I like to find out where places are twins with but no, as I can tell, it is not twinned with anywhere, which I think you need to get a word with the mayor and see if they have some sort of a twinning program.

Andy Mossack: I think so! Why not twin it with radio leads.

Radio Host: We could do twinning with the BBC here so in some way it can be a bit more glamorous. Twinning with Los Angeles or San Diego or something like that. I think it would go down well. Andy, you take care and have a fabulous evening. Always nice talking to you.

Andy Mossack: Great.

Radio Host: Great. Thank you. Take care. Bye-bye. And there he goes. Andy Mossack. And now we know where he’s been. Campbeltown and all around Mull of Kintyre. Easy to find these things. If you ever want to go on a holiday to Scotland visit Scotland’s main tourist site. Find it online, weigh up your options, and honestly — go. It is a fabulous place to go on a holiday, anywhere in that particular nation. We’ll be catching up with him again soon I’m sure.

All About The Grass at The Dunes


After all my whining in previous reports about the slow start to the season, we have recently been graced with some decent temperatures and a good mixture of weather. Although we saw some days of heavy rain over the last month that has kept the water table unseasonably high, the fine turf areas on the course actually dried out considerably during June, and the greens and tees required an average level of additional irrigation. The work we undertook earlier in the season to plant a mixture of fescues containing creeping red and hard varieties into our tees has proved worthwhile in many areas, with the new mix competing well within the established turf and helping to increase overall drought resistance and maintain grass cover. The tees at Machrihanish Dunes have light, sandy bases and are always going to be prone to drying out, so while we are waiting for natural processes to conspire over time to build us a more drought resistant and organically rich rootzone, what we are aiming to do is to integrate the fine-leaved grasses that require the very least inputs from fertiliser and water into the sward. It would be nice to think that in years to come all we will have to do to maintain a dry and grippy surface of indestructible and visually appealing fine grass on our tees is to go out a few times a week and cut the grass. That`s the nirvana we are always working towards!


The greens have been quite predictable and relatively easy to manage during June despite the inconsistent nature of the weather, and I have chalked that up to a change in our wetting agent program. Greenkeepers use wetting agents to control water movement in the soil, ensuring that deposits from fungi and deposits of organic materials cannot turn sand particles hydrophobic (thereby inhibiting water from entering the rootzone and making it very difficult to re-wet the surface evenly). If a rootzone is allowed to become hydrophobic, it will be as difficult for us to re-wet it as it would be for you to wash the grease off a plate without the help of washing-up liquid. Historically we have had two types of wetting agent to choose from, penetrants and matrix agents. If we apply a penetrant, water under the power of gravity will travel easily through the rootzone but will keep going right through to the subsoil and beyond. While this is very useful if you are trying to flush salt or undesirable minerals from your soil, it also flushes every other mineral to a depth beyond where it can be utilised by roots and can cause rootzones to dry out scarily quickly. Matrix wetting agents have been formulated to allow water to penetrate into the rootzone and then to be held there, ensuring water and nutrients cannot escape to the subsoil where the plant cannot utilise them. The downside to these products is that surfaces can become easily waterlogged and airflow can become inhibited to the point where roots die off and beneficial soil bacteria start to get out-competed by anaerobic bacteria and disease pathogens. The wetting agent we have been using this year on the greens at Machrihanish Dunes has been specifically developed to form a very thin bond with individual soil and sand particles rather than forming a bond with the rootzone as a whole, which means that water is still held in suspension as it would be by a standard matrix, but does not sit in the pockets which would otherwise have been filled with air. The results we have been seeing while using this product are encouraging.  We have found that the greens have dried out quicker than they did when using a standard matrix wetting agent, but we have also noted that during periods of relatively wet weather we can produce a dry, relatively fast surface much more easily and we have definitely seen more days when we could provide optimum playing conditions than we ever have before. We are also noting a positive benefit from extra root development beneath the sward, which we are putting down to the roots being made to work harder to find available water and those roots having enough oxygen to allow them to develop and retain optimum health. Longer and better established roots will increase drought resistance and allow better uptake of available nutrients, which will in turn limit the need to apply additional water and fertiliser.  This will decrease incidences of turf disease and promote better grass coverage from a sward that is better prepared to promote the health of the fine perennial grasses that will be cheaper and less stressful for us to manage, as well as provide a faster and more uniform year-round surface for you to play golf on. This makes the wetting agent appear to be one of those catch-22 products that can make or break a greenkeeping program, a simple addition to our arsenal that can tip the balance back in our favour and allow us to allow nature to do the job of maturing our young greens for us rather than trying and inevitably failing to fight a force that we will never get the better of.

It is still early in the season.  Time will tell whether we have enough water at our disposal to use this product throughout a prolonged hot, dry spell, but I would imagine that the longer we use it and the deeper and more developed our root systems become, the less dependant we will be on artificial irrigation anyway. An annual greenkeeping program is all a big balancing act, really!


Many of you will have played in our annual Campbeltown Open on the 27th June, and I hope you all played well and enjoyed the competition. I was asked recently how long we would make specific preparations for before a date when we would host an event like that, which is an interesting and pretty open-ended question. In reality, I suppose we always tailor our program in the hope that we can have the course playing at its very best when our “majors” roll around, so the truth is we are always preparing for them in some way. Even when we are turfing in mid-winter, we hope that the tee or bunker we’re working on at that time will be fully integrated into the course by the time next year`s Campbeltown Open is played! Although the weather and other vagaries will keep us on our toes during the weeks before the event and force us to make spur of the moment decisions on things like cutting heights and fertiliser applications in the weeks and even days leading up to the competition, we will use our experiences from previous years to develop a base template from which to plan our cultural practises to attempt to produce optimum playing conditions at that time. Obviously, we would avoid topdressing or aerating the greens in the immediate run-up to the weekend preceding at tournament, but we would also hope to time our nutrient and chemical applications perfectly in order to ensure that our surfaces were healthy but relatively lean. As always, we have to be careful not to push things a little too far, as it is so easy to tip the health of the greens over the edge, which can lead to sudden outbreaks of disease or a quick scorch on a hot day.

Trying to get the balance right can be pretty frustrating – this year the greens were relatively dry right up until a couple of days before the tournament and then we had a lot of rain which released some stored nutrients and slowed the greens right up. Although this ensured that we would definitely not suffer any residual damage from our increased mechanical inputs, it did lead to us having to make a snap decision to lower the cutting heights, factor in extra cuts and bring out the roller in order to produce a speed anywhere close to what we would have hoped to provide. Of course, having the necessary machinery and manpower at our disposal to enable us to be able to do this at the last minute is a massive bonus for us and this did allow us to get somewhere near the mark, although we would have preferred the course to have been as fiery as it had been earlier in the week.

campbeltown open 002.jpg
Desperately searching for green speed…
while desperately trying to hold a straight line!!

Hopefully by next year, the wetting agent will have helped us to develop our young root systems to the point where nutrient applications will have been reduced further so that there will be no flush after heavy rain and we can run the greens leaner and drier all the time, meaning preparations for competitions as well as daily play will be a more predictable science.  When you`re dealing with nature on a daily basis, every single thing you do is connected!

Pin placements are carefully planned in advance for events like the Campbeltown Open. Most authorities suggest you should try to have 6 easy ones, 6 of medium difficulty and 6 that really make golfers think. But how do you do that on a course like Machrihanish Dunes, where the severity of the contours make the links so much fun to play but also mean that a pin can be pretty easy or brutally hard depending on where a golfer hits his or her ball?! The general consensus was that there were at least 18 hard positions at this year`s Open…but this one at the back left of the 11th doesn`t look too bad to me. I wouldn`t want to be chipping back to it, though!

campbeltown open 005.jpg

We hope you enjoy your golf during July, and look forward to seeing you out there!


Turf Nurseries & Keeping the Greens Their Greenest

Many of the people from other clubs I’ve recently spoken with have been bemoaning the slow start to the season, with little or no growth so far to aid the recovery from any turf damage that may have been sustained over the winter months. While it’s true that temperatures across the country have been down a degree or two from the seasonal average, the clubs in Kintyre have been more thankful than ever for the comparatively high winter temperatures that the warm flow of the Gulf Stream send in our direction. While this geographical anomaly undoubtedly brings its own issues (destructively windy, salty issues!) during the shorter days of December and January, there is no doubt that if we follow a sensible and protective off-season maintenance program, we can make the most of the higher ground and air temperatures that we get through these months and hit the ground running at the beginning of the golf season. The consistent putting conditions we saw on all but a couple of our most exposed greens during April and May showed that this policy can work, and we now have the opportunity to build on that progress through the remainder of the season.

We have undertaken a considerable amount of overseeding, aeration and topdressing work on our tees over the last few weeks, and the majority of them have responded well. I felt the condition of the tees let the course down last summer – there was no doubt that we could have made more out of our nutrition and water resources, and as a result, a number of them were very poor going into winter!  The new tees we constructed over the winter have settled in really well, and it’s good to see our recent hard work on some of the others improve them to the point where they can now complement the new ones. We did bite the bullet and patch turf into one or two of them, which was a bit brave considering the dry weather we’ve experienced during May in previous years, but it looks like we have got away with it as these areas have knitted in very well. I really wish now that I had been brave enough to turf the bare areas on the men’s tee at the 6th  at the same time, but in truth I bottled it and will now have to live with it for the rest of the season. We have a plan in place to dramatically increase the size of this very exposed tee which we will implement this winter, as it is far too small to accommodate the hammering it gets from short irons and from the worst of the winter weather.


orchid1 2
Our 1500 sq.metre Turf Nursery.

The headline is an actual question from one of our Mach Dunes GC members, and I’m so glad he asked. That would be our turf nursery, situated behind the bank across the road from the carpark. This was one of my first jobs when I started working at Machrihanish Dunes last year, and was a project that Keith Martin had been keen on implementing for a while.

Initially, we scraped and flattened a large 1500sq.m area of sand with a 15 tonne excavator before importing approximately 200 tonnes of sandy topsoil from Langa Quarry next door. We mixed this material with the top layer of sand and spread it evenly over the area, creating a 6-inch deep layer of what we in the industry vaguely like to call “rootzone material.” The physical and nutritional make-up of rootzone material has been discussed in greenkeeping circles at length over the years, with some experts extolling the virtues of lighter, more free-draining soils while others favour heavier mixes with higher levels of nutrients and bacterial colonies. Having a turf nursery at Machrihanish Dunes gives us the opportunity to not only experiment with different species of grass, but also different mixes of soil. If we lay one mix and one species together and it doesn’t work as well as we hoped, then we will lift it, use it for patching fairways and rabbit holes and start again. Before we started this project, we visually analysed what we were seeing out on the golf course by focusing on the areas that performed really well and then attempting to replicate the physical conditions that produced those results. We simultaneously analysed the areas of the course that were not performing so well and tried to pinpoint why these sites saw proportionally less growth of healthy perennial grasses than we would hope for. In almost all cases, the quality of the indigenous rootzone material could be cited as a major factor in the successful growth of the plants we wish to encourage. Molehills are a brilliant way of analysing this; if a mole digs in a weak area where grass growth is sparse, the molehill will almost always be very sandy, whereas the mole that tunnels under a site naturally populated by agricultural meadow grasses and ryes will inevitably excavate a hill of overly moist, nutrient rich, slimy black soil. The mole that produces a mound of light, airy free-draining and sweet smelling “rootzone” mix meanwhile, will quite often have had to muscle his way through a mat of healthy fescue and bent roots to get to the surface! This is flippant of course (and seemingly very obvious), but it is just an example of how we try to step back occasionally and see how we can use natural processes to our own maximum advantage. Fighting against nature will inevitably lead only to expensive failure.


An area of turf has been lifted to patch tees and fairways, and has been replaced with a new layer of rootzone. This has again been seeded with Bar Trio fescue seed.

Having an area of nursery at our disposal that we can use to experiment with rootzones as well as with grass species and their cultivars will prove to be highly beneficial, and will increase our chances of guaranteeing future success when we undertake construction projects out on the golf course. This will hopefully keep our construction costs down as we can use materials indigenous to the site and local area that we know to work from our own experimentation, rather than buying in expensive materials from the Central Belt on the basis of laboratory analysis alone.

We currently have three species of grass growing in the nursery in a comparatively rich rootzone mix. There is a very small strip of A1/A4 creeping bentgrass at the Easterly end, which was seeded at 15 grams/sq.m into a sandy mix that we used to try and replicate the rootzones under the existing greens and tees. As we headed West, the next 20% was seeded out with a dwarf perennial ryegrass, something we have used previously in tees and under the mats on pathways. Ryegrass is extremely hard-wearing, but in its original, agriculturally beneficial form was very wide-leaved, ugly, and difficult to integrate into sportsturf. If you’ve ever been to a course where the green aprons are full of tufty “hedgehogs” of seemingly unmown, unkempt grass, then you know what I mean.

Although this dwarf variety is a massive improvement over any rye I have tried to grow before and seems to grow healthily at 10mm on a relatively weak rootzone without much input from fertiliser and water, I have been a bit disappointed by its sparse growth and anaemic colour. Granted, I could feed it a bit more, but that kind of defeats the purpose of our experiment.  I would not do that on large areas out on the golf course for budgetary reasons. What I have done with this patch now is seeded some hard fescue into it, as I want to see whether the two grasses can integrate better to form a closer-knit turf. I have had a lot of success growing hard fescue on tees and fairways in past years, and there is a lot of it naturally occurring in the fairways at Machrihanish Dunes, which proves to me that there is potential for me to use it here to my advantage. Time will tell whether this mix could mature into a really bulletproof turf for patching tees and fairways, or whether the rye will aggressively crowd out the fescue and take over. Again, I could not experiment with this out on the course, as I know that turf managers have tried in the past to integrate perennial ryegrass into links fairways in order to thicken up the sward only to find they have integrated countless hedgehogs instead!

The remaining 50-60% of the nursery area was seeded with good old creeping red fescue, the finest links grass money can buy. This particular batch is Bar Trio – three cultivars specifically chosen by our suppliers at Barenbrug for their salt resistance and dark year-round colour. It is the mix I would automatically use to overseed greens at Machrihanish Dunes, but having the ability to experiment with it on different strengths of rootzone in a nursery has already given me more of an understanding of what it needs to grow at an optimum level. We had such immediate success growing this mix of fescue cultivars on the rootzone we mixed that we used a similar sand/Langa soil mix under the tees we constructed last winter, and the nursery turf itself has matured so quickly that we are already using it for patching fairways and tees even though it is not yet a year old. We will continue to bring it to maturity over the course of this season; topdressing and overseeding whenever we have the opportunity, and will then use all of it this winter and start again next spring.

The nursery is always cut at the same height as the tees (10mm), so I would not envisage any of our own turf ending up on the greens. We could grow turf for greens, but the maintenance and input requirements for greens turf is much higher than it is for tees and we would therefore need to spend a lot more time and money on the nursery than we actually feel it is financially responsible for us to do. Mowing the nursery 2-3 times a week and adhering to a similar fertiliser and topdressing program to the tees has given us a good happy medium, allowing us to replicate on-course conditions and providing us with a useable resource while avoiding escalating costs. This has been, and is continuing to be, a worthwhile project.

(or, How to Impress Your Friends and Look Smart!)

Creeping red fescue, the grass at the westerly end.

Dwarf ryegrass with some hard fescue in the middle section.

A1/A4 Creeping bentgrass at the easterly end.

Anybody who wishes to have a closer look at the turf nursery at any time is absolutely welcome – it is fenced from the rabbits, not from you! We will keep on experimenting with this and taking the things we learn from it out onto the golf course, ever hopeful that we can improve the surfaces we can provide for you on a daily basis. We hope you all enjoy your golf during June. Maybe this will be the month when summer finally arrives!

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper
Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club

Keeping it Natural at Mach Dunes

Spring is here! Well…it’s here a bit. It has been typical April…

Oh, wait a minute, I wrote that last month, didn’t I!  It`s true, though – despite last week’s fine weather (April 21-25) there has been precious little new growth so far. Course definition and recovery from what little winter damage the course endured have been in short supply, but at least we’ve been able to rely on the decent coverage of grass that emerged from the dark months to provide golfers with some firm and relatively true surfaces to play on. Hopefully this will give us a good base to start improving on as the season progresses.


Our Kintyre Team Challenge competition in conjunction with Dunaverty Golf Club turned out to be a great success, with both courses providing decent playing conditions considering the early date in the golfing calendar. We are very hopeful that this competition can be played on an annual basis and that it will become a firm favourite as we develop it further.Speaking of tournaments, we have our Monthly Member Medal on 31st May, and our major tournament of the year – The Campbeltown Open on 27th June – is fast-approaching!  Enquire at the golf shop for more information on both of these tournaments – we’d love to see you there!


The week after the Kintyre Team Challenge we took delivery of some new machinery, and we now have a powerful Kubota tractor and 3 of the very latest Toro Flex 21 handmowers at our disposal. It will be obvious to regular visitors to Machrihanish Dunes that I am a big fan of handmowing greens whenever possible. Although it is more labour-intensive, there is no doubt that handmowing will provide a better ball roll and superior presentation. We are very grateful to have been given what I consider the best mowers on the market to help us make the very most of our long morning walks! The surfaces at Machrihanish Dunes are not as undulating as they once were, but greens like 2 and 14 still provide a big challenge for even a professional grade conventional mower. The distance between the front and back roller is critical when mowing over severe contours at cutting heights as low as 4mm. The Flex 21s are cleverly designed with two forward rollers directly in front of and behind the cutting cylinder on a unit which articulates separately from the main rear roller, meaning there is far less discrepancy in the height of cut through hollows or over high spots than there would be if the mower had a fixed frame with only two rollers. Not only does this have a positive impact on the consistency of speed over the surface of the entire green, but it will also result in less stress for plants which may previously have been unable to survive the regular scalping they received from mowers. We already mow the greens down to the lowest height we think we can get away with without compromising the health of the plant, so it stands to reason that anything we can do to minimise inconsistencies in this height will help us immeasurably.

mowersOur powerful new tractor and three of the best mowers in the business.

Delegates from Scottish Natural Heritage visited us for their West Coast conference during the week of 21st-25th April, and much mention was made during the week of the environmental credentials of Machrihanish Dunes. As I am sure you are aware, the course was the first 18-hole links to be developed on the West Coast of Scotland for 100 years and the entire site is protected as a site of special scientific interest. While this restriction does to a certain extent govern what we can and cannot apply to outfield areas, it is not as prohibitive as some people might expect. This is mainly due to the fact that links courses actually provide their best playing characteristics when they are maintained in harmony with the land that they are laid out over. The grasses that make up our fairways require little or no fertiliser or water input to provide optimum golfing conditions, and even the greens and tees are at their best when they are left relatively dry and hungry. While the farming community seeks optimum yield and productivity from their grassland in order to maximise their income, the greenkeeping community actively seeks the exact opposite. While high yield will give us the opportunity to present green, attractively striped surfaces, it would also inevitably lead to rising costs, aggravated outbreaks of turf disease and, worst of all, slow greens and soft tees and fairways. Although the management team at Machrihanish Dunes is rightly lauded for its conscientious approach to maintaining the integrity of the site and the diversity of the species that we inherited from the previous custodians, it actually suits our greenkeeping purpose to maintain the links in this responsible manner. As long as we continue to carefully consider the short and long term impact of our every move and maintain the good working relationship that we have with our environmental partners at SNH, there is no reason why the environmental impact of running a golf course over the site should not be a positive one for all concerned – including those of you who enjoy playing on it!orchid1

In recognition of the positive work that has been done at Machrihanish Dunes since its inception to maintain the integrity of the site and its indigenous flora and fauna, the course received the honour of becoming the first to be awarded accreditation by the Golf Environment Organisation in 2012, and we were recently delighted to learn that we have been considered worthy of re-accreditation following a further application in 2014. Although it is obviously our commitment to ensuring our surroundings are not compromised by our actions that is considered worthy of accreditation, the true satisfaction comes from knowing that we are leaving behind the most minimal negative footprint we possibly can on the land. Every time we see the fabulous display of orchids sprouting in the rough or a wheatear nesting in one of the boxes we made to ensure their continued habitation of the site, we will be able to appreciate the contribution that we have made to preserving their continued existence. It won’t be long now before the rough is full of these orchids once again!orchid2_square
We hope you enjoy your golf during the next month!

Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper

Why Use Topsoil at Machrihanish Dunes?

Spring is here!! Well…it`s here a bit.  At least the days are getting longer now, and the average temperature has come up far enough for the grass to actually start growing.  We’re certainly enjoying the start of the new season, especially with the course looking remarkably healthy after this brutal winter – but that doesn’t mean we have time to slow down!
I always refer to this time of year as a transitional period, when we seem to rush around preparing the course for the season ahead while simultaneously finishing off the rough edges of our winter projects. It`s an exciting time for a greenkeeping team, as we can enjoy putting all our freshly painted furniture back out on the course and admiring the work we’ve done to improve the course over the winter.
All the tees we built this winter seem to have rooted really well into the rootzone we mixed up (local sand mixed 3 to 1 with good quality indigenous topsoil sourced from the quarry alongside the 10th tee), and the work we have done to the paths has dramatically improved some of the weaker and more hazardous walkways on the golf course. I`m particularly pleased with the contouring work we did to the 17th fairway as it dramatically improves the visibility of the green from the fairway, but looks entirely natural.  It leads into what I think is the best new path on the course, which directs players over Craig and Sebastian`s huge extended boardwalk. The greens look pretty strong going into the season, with some good root development and a decent coverage of healthy grass which should let us produce a good early season putting surface for you all to enjoy playing on.
Course Conditions
Post-winter course conditions are the best they’ve been in years!
Why We Topdress the Greens
There are certain crucial applications which we make around this time of year which can make or break a season before it has even got properly started, and timing of these is always critical. Having curtailed the leatherjacket invasion last month, and timed an application of penetrating wetting agent perfectly during the first week in March, we were keen to get our first topdressing onto the greens this week (I write this on March 24th). When I say keen, I mean we were keen to do this as part of the program, not because we enjoy this job. In fact, I would go as far as to say I really don`t like topdressing at all. Not because I am shy of a bit of hard manual labour (everybody knows that`s not the case!) but because I know how much it disrupts everybody`s game. I actually had somebody ask me once in all seriousness whether we put sand on the greens just to annoy the golfers, and – to be honest, if I put myself in the position of that golfer, I can clearly see that covering a perfectly good golf green in sand might seem like a strange thing to do.
So why do we do it? Truth be told, because every set of greens is different, every greenkeeper has slightly different goals he wants to achieve when he goes topdressing. Our common aims, though, are to fill in surface imperfections, improve ball roll, and, most importantly of all, to keep the upper portion of our rootzones relatively dry, lean and oxygenated. If we allow debris from decaying plants and other organic matter, such as spilled clippings from grass boxes, to build up on the surface, we will very quickly come to regret it as a soft thatch layer will build up in the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil profile which will inhibit root growth, harbour disease pathogens, encourage the ingress of annual meadow grass in preference to perennial bents and fescues and produce a spongy surface which is slow and inconsistent to play on.
After many years of poor agronomic practice and poor advice, many courses already have greens like these, and thanks to the inactivity of their predecessors, the greenkeepers who work on these courses need to battle hard to produce even average surfaces outside of the mid-summer months. Here at Machrihanish Dunes, we are blessed with brand new, light, sandy rootzones which we have the opportunity to protect and even improve by using good quality materials and following proven methods to ensure that thatch layers are not allowed to build up and that we retain the excellent, naturally firm greens that we inherited from the construction team. This is why we endeavour to favour the growth of slow-growing perennial grasses which require minimal feeding (which links well with our overall environmentally aware mission statement), and why we regularly apply sand to the surface to dilute any thatch which does build up.  This ensures that there is sufficient oxygen in that upper profile to protect the health of beneficial bacteria which feed on any organic material which is deposited, producing humus and carbohydrates that are returned directly to the plant`s food chain. We must endeavour to do whatever we can to make sure this chain of events is not interrupted, because it is incredibly difficult to link it back together again.
So unfortunately – as  much as we all hate it – the topdressing of greens is a necessary evil that is here to stay as part of every greenkeeper`s maintenance regime. I hope that now you have an understanding of why it must be undertaken.
How We Do It
Step 1:
Sebastian spreads sand as evenly as he can onto the surface of the green. We must wait 10-15 minutes for this sand to dry before we can begin to brush it in. This is usually the 10-15 minutes when several 4-balls that we were not expecting arrive on the tee! We do have a custom-built spreader that we can use to apply the sand to the green, but because it is early in the season and the fully loaded machine is very heavy, we chose on this occasion to apply the sand using a more laborious and time-consuming method…completely avoiding the potential for leaving deep ruts that would be aggravating to putt over. If there`s an easy way and a right way to do a job, we will always choose the right way!

Step 2: 
The sand has dried and I have run over it in two directions with a specially designed brush which I tow behind a greens triple. Although the surface isn`t yet playable, you can see that the brush has pulled the sand into a uniform layer over the whole green.

Step 3:
After I have brushed the sand as evenly as I can over the whole green, I use a flexible switch to flick the dry sand from grass leaves into the profile below and to remove as many small stones from the greens surface as I can. Actually looks quite playable now, doesn`t it! A shower or two of rain to wash this in and you would hardly know that Sebastian and I had even been here.
Enjoy your golf in April, we look forward to seeing you out there!

Golf Course Pest Control at MDGC

Our prime objective for February this year was to retain or even improve the health of our fine turf areas, and we were definitely helped in this regard by a great couple of weeks of weather. Longer days, a bit of sunshine and a prolonged break from the relentless winter rain can cheer up golf greens, but only if they are maintained sympathetically and given the correct inputs. While temperatures remain relatively low, we must be constantly wary to avoid damaging plants that will take far longer to recover than they would if they sustained similar damage during periods of good growth. Sustained pressure from any of a number of different stress factors can easily lead to bare patches in turf that will only increase in diameter when faced with spells of wet and windy weather.

One thing that greens on the southwest coast of Scotland are prone to suffering from at this time of year is root damage from leatherjacket infestations. The larvae of the crane fly (daddy long legs) have a voracious appetite for grass roots and can cause issues for turf managers anywhere in the country during a mild winter (how many times have we seen even Premier League football groundsmen naively lose their 18 yard boxes because of this underground curse), but in this part of the country where the south-westerly winds driven in by the Gulf Stream warm the coast and temperatures remain relatively high throughout most winters, crane fly larvae are a constant threat that need to be carefully monitored.

How, though, do you monitor a pest that lives the majority of its life under the surface? While we can use our years of experience to assume that certain weather patterns can combine with the known life cycle of the pest to either maximise or minimise the potential for an outbreak, there are several visual indicators that we can also use to decide whether or not to break out the insecticide. Flocks of birds congregating in one area for long periods of time is a classic sign. I don`t know how crows and seagulls know can accurately locate infestations, but they have an undoubted intelligence that I don`t question – just learn from! Checking bunkers on a windy day is another favourite tactic of mine – any leatherjackets that are actively operating in the turf around bunker edges will eventually reach the lip and fall into the sand, then blow into a heap in the middle. I found this collection in the greenside bunker at 15 last week (circa 15th February), and went spraying the next day with great success.

The final indication that leatherjackets are present under a golf green is the sudden re-opening of aeration holes. The insects will utilise a tiny hole to clamber to the surface under cover of darkness, where they will nibble all the grass before returning to the rootzone at dawn. Although this nibbling does not do terminal damage to the grass, further erosion can occur if this damage is inflicted before periods of significantly windy weather. You can see in the image below how the hole has been re-opened by the insect. If you had thousands of leatherjackets operating in one area on a sheltered green, the cumulative effect could be at best disruptive to surface smoothness – and at worst catastrophic to the root structure. I have experienced in the past an incident where the roots of a green I was in charge of were so badly damaged by leatherjackets that a group of crows managed to peel the turf right off a large section of a green to get to the grubs below, needless to say I have been wary of these infestations ever since!

It is easy to assume during the wet winter months that no damage from pests has occurred, but when spring comes and the easterly winds bake the greens with warm sunshine the damage to root systems and the ensuing weakening of our precious plants becomes suddenly apparent, with greens becoming inexplicably patchy and very intolerant to drought stress. We will always spray our greens and tees for leatherjackets as a matter of course, but using the simple visual indicators helps us to time our applications for maximum impact. This close-up image of the 4th green, taken the day after I sprayed last week, shows how effective a single asphyxiating application of Chlorpyrifos can be if it is timed to coincide with frenzied feeding activity- imagine how many of these were actually lying on the surface of the whole green that day! There are now lots of fat crows and seagulls hopping lazily around the Dunes, I`m pretty sure some of them have eaten so much they are physically unable to fly!!


We have been steadily working our way through our Winter program of works, and we have turfed the tees that I posted pictures of in last month`s report. This is the newly re-modelled mens tee at the 5th hole.

Among other things, we have also been renovating some of our worst pathways. These have been levelled, re-turfed and have had rubber mats laid on them to improve their wear characteristics and safety. The path from the bridge at the Golf House to the yellow tee at the 1st has made the biggest single difference. To my eye, it is a vast improvement to the first impression. I don`t have an image of that pathway unfortunately (you`ll have to come out here to see it for yourselves!), but I did take some pictures of the pathway alongside the 11th tee.

As I write this, the golf season is fast approaching. We are looking forward to the longer evenings, a bit of sunshine, and to getting the mowers back out so we can start manicuring your golf course once again. I hope you all have your games in shape…it has been a bit quiet out here recently so we are really looking forward to seeing you all out there enjoying our course again!

Golf Course Irrigation Systems and Course Update

From Mach Dunes Golf Club’s Head Greenskeeper, Simon Freeman:

MDGC_Membership_forEmailI`ll freely admit that I spent most of 2014 telling people who complimented us on the condition of the golf course that “we had been lucky with the weather.”  I think it`s safe to say our luck ran out this past January –  strong winds and heavy rain combined with some very high tides and huge fluctuations in temperature have given our links turf a proper hammering.
At critical times like these, it is imperative that we keep nutrients at an optimum level to ensure that the plants don’t uptake too much sodium and the grass leaves remain structurally strong enough to withstand the battering from the windblown sand. I`ve described before in these reports how we use analysis reports to research where our rootzones’ weaknesses lie, as well as help gauge which nutrients we should consider adding to maintain optimum health.  Sometimes, though,  it can be just as useful to take a considered look at what we can see with the naked eye before making any decisions that may ultimately turn out to be counter-productive. It`s thought provoking, this greenkeeping lark!

Thankfully the recent poor weather hasn`t hampered our efforts in working towards the completion of our winter program. We will be turfing several newly constructed tees over the next couple of weeks, and also covering the new pathways we have shaped at the 1st and 17th holes. We have re-shaped the bunker short of the ridge at the 8th, and this has already been turfed. The bunker steps at the 15th have been replaced – we did this to make the bunkers safer to access, but we have also made them more aesthetically pleasing. We will be replacing all the bunker steps before the start of the golf season.

New 4th Tee at Mach Dunes 
A newly constructed Medal Tee at the 4th, awaiting turf.

With the new season approaching rapidly, we have a checklist of things that we need to complete in order to ensure we are properly prepared. One of the things which must receive a thorough overhaul at this time is our irrigation system. It is easy to forget about the need for watering turf when we are going through a period where flooding, rather than drought, is the real concern.  But experience has taught us that weather conditions can go from one extreme to the other very quickly should we get a prolonged spell of easterly winds at the end of March.  
At Machrihanish Dunes, we have a very modern system which starts with a line of bore holes near the Golf House. Water is pumped from there to a pair of large tanks (total capacity is 250,000 litres) at our maintenance facility, which feeds a pump that holds water in a closed circuit at just under 10 bar of pressure. Each green and tee complex has a central control box with a hand hose connector and decoders that receive signals from a computer in our office that gives us the ability to program individual sprinklers to undertake specific programs at a pre-determined time. While it is brilliant to have such a modern system at our disposal, we are always aware that it is relatively complicated and we need to keep it in optimum condition in order to be able to rely on it.  This is why we contract the experts to come in and give our whole system a thorough check over before we need to use it each spring.  This annual service gives the contractors an opportunity to apply any available updates to improve our system still further, and also gives us the opportunity to have them set up specific programs for us that we can use to save ourselves water and electricity wherever possible.

Pumping water from here... 
A large pump draws water from a row of these well points…

...filling this massive tank at our maintenance facility, which supplies water via gravity feed for....
…filling this massive tank at our maintenance facility, which supplies water via gravity feed for….

 the pump  sends water around the golf course to these boxes
...this pump to send water around the golf course to these boxes…

Inside the Golf Course Sprinklers
…which are situated close to every green and tee complex. In the box you can see the coupling point where we can attach a hose, and wires running to electrical decoders, which operate as on/off switches for the sprinklers under command from…


 This computer runs the golf course irrigation system
 ….this computer in our office. Although there is a lot that can go wrong with a system like this, you can`t help but marvel at the ingenuity of it all!



Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper

Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course Update – January, 2015

Our monthly golf course update from our Head Greenkeeper, Simon Freeman:

First off, best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015 from everyone here at Mach Dunes!This course has been getting even better with every passing year, and with the recent and current renovations, MDGC is sure to offer the best playing season yet. 

The bunkers we were re-constructing at the 8th last month have now been completed, and we are now focusing on extending some tees. We have lowered the yellow tee at the 2nd, creating a considerably less lethal walkway in the process, and have also worked on the tees at the 3rd and the 5th. We also plan to alter the playing angle of the white tee at the 4th next, and to extend the yellow tees at the 15th and 17th. Hopefully, as a result of this work, we can spread the wear and tear on the tees more effectively and avoid the smaller ones from wearing out before the end of the season.

We are seeing an increase in the levels of play at Machrihanish Dunes with every passing year, and this work of extending the tees which see the most play will help to increase year-round enjoyment of everybody in the years to come. Our work with the digger hasn`t been confined solely to the tees – we have also lowered and re-contoured the ridge before the gully at the 17th to allow for a better view of the green from the centre of the fairway. A new bridge has also been constructed across the gully, which provides a more direct and less steep access to the green than was previously afforded. The path that connects this bridge has not yet been completed, but we will be fitting rubber mats to both sides of this bridge to further aid traction and safety for foot and buggy traffic.

Course Conditions
As always, our main priority for the month of December has been to keep the greens as healthy as possible, which is not an easy task when the days are so short and sunshine is in short supply.
We all learned at school that plants can utilise available carbon dioxide and water via the photosynthesis process to produce natural sugars like glucose, energising themselves and emitting oxygen as a bi-product.  But to do that they must be able to convert light energy from the sun into chemical energy, and this becomes a lot more difficult to achieve when it’s light for only a few hours a day.
Making the most of the photosynthesis process becomes even more crucial when you are growing fine-leaved grass plants on a sandy rootzone that contains only minimal traces of the nutrients which form the building blocks of the chlorophyll molecule.
Compared to thicker-leaved meadow grasses and ryegrasses, the fine perennial fescues and bents that we would ideally like to have as the sole inhabitants of our greens struggle to photosynthesise simply because they have less surface area to soak in and store the light energy and smaller chloroplast sites where the photsynthesis process can take place.
This is why it’s essential for links greenkeepers who wish to maintain their populations of fine leaved grasses through to the spring to raise their cutting heights in the autumn and again in winter, for if leaf area is reduced still further by mechanical removal at a time when photosynthetic ability is already impaired by reduced volumes of sunlight then further decline will be inevitable and opportunistic annual meadow grass plants will take advantage of the gaps and populate the greens further.
Accurate soil analysis is vital in our battle to make the very most of the plants’ ability to photosynthesise during the relatively short window of opportunity afforded by the December weather, as the chlorophyll molecule is made up of several key nutrients which must all be available in suitable amounts for healthy and effective photosynthetic reactions to take place. We have found that although the free-draining, sandy Machrihanish Dunes rootzone provides an ideal platform upon which to play golf, it is also extremely deficient in magnesium – a key component of the chlorophyll molecule – so we have been regularly adding this nutrient for the last few months.  We also use a liquid product called Protesyn, which contains many of the amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and carbohydrates which are required by the plant to allow it to produce mature proteins and the sugars which energise it sufficiently to go about its daily life-preserving functions.
The manufacturer of Protesyn markets the product as “sunshine in a bottle.” A bit cute, perhaps, but accurate.  The product allows the plant to more easily produce its own chemical energy and subsequently retain its good cellular health despite the low levels of sunlight we have to endure during a West Coast Winter. So impressed have I been with the performance of Protesyn that I`ve occasionally pondered whether it might be a welcome tonic for a greenkeeper on a wet December morning!

This time of year is always a tough challenge for us greenkeepers, but that doesn’t mean the course can’t be a welcome challenge for players as well.  The winter weather may not make for ideal conditions, but the course is still ready for players who anxious to try and conquer it.
That said, we hope you to see you out there soon! If you have any questions or suggestions then please feel free to come and see us anytime, or leave a message for us. 


Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper