How I Lost $1M on a Scottish Golf Holiday

As some of you may remember, last summer was quite exciting over here on the dunes of Machrihanish.  We held the Mach Dunes Million – the chance for four unsuspecting golfers to win $1 million without breaking a sweat.  All they had to do was ace a 167-yard hole!

The first golfers to take a shot at the $1 million were taken a bit by surprise.  They were just enjoying their golf holiday when they found a mysterious – well, you can see for yourself!  Watch the video below (just remember this was last year’s promotion!), then enjoy a first-hand account from Douglas McLeod, one of the first golfers to take a swing at the Mach Dunes Million.  

“My Shot at The Mach Dunes Million” 
By Douglas McLeod

It began as an ordinary day of golf — except for the fact that it was an unusually beautiful and warm day by Scottish standards and we were playing a golf course the likes of which we’d never seen before.  Over the first three holes, Machrihanish Dunes more than lived up to its billing as “the world’s most natural golf course.”  I’d never played in such a beautiful, natural setting, and the design of each hole was an invigorating new challenge.

When we came to our fourth hole of the day, the course’s 13th, there was a bit of delay.  A course representative was on the tee with a walkie-talkie and he told us that because it was a drivable par-4, we needed to wait for the green to clear.  So we admired the view and the smell of the sea for a few moments before teeing off.  When we did, I did not drive the green, but hit a good second shot, which left me with a 20-footer for birdie.  When my playing partner removed the flagstick from the hole, though, a strange golf ball popped out.  It was a featherie ball – a 100-year-old relic of a bygone era.  “Where on earth did that come from?” we asked each other.

We got our answer a moment later when a man dressed in a heavy wool waistcoat and plaid jacket came over the top of the dune and asked if we’d found his ball.  He then introduced himself as Old Tom Morris!  Now, we’d expected to see some magical things during our round at Machrihanish Dunes, but we didn’t expect to meet a Scottish golf legend – particularly one that, as he related, had been dead for 105 years!

Old Tom clucked as I missed my birdie putt, then he escorted us to the next tee, where he proceeded to tell us that the course was offering a “purse” on that hole – a prize, in fact, of $1 million for a hole-in-one!  I’ve played in some tournaments before where you could win a car for a hole-in-one, but a million dollars is a whole different deal.  I tried not to think about what I’d do with such a sum as I chose my club and took my turn on the tee.  Old Tom told us that the hole was playing 167 yards.  There was good breeze coming from left to right and partially in our faces.  I thought my trusty 5-iron would be the right club.

As I stepped on the tee, I noticed a cameraman out of the corner of my eye.  They were filming this —  as if there wasn’t enough pressure on me as it was!  At that moment, I didn’t want to think about what my swing might look like.  I only wanted it to result in the perfect shot!

The first member of our group had missed the green.  I was determined to give my shot a chance.  I took a moment to gauge the wind again, eyeballed my target line, and stepped over the ball – a Titleist, not a featherie.  I’d been hitting the ball well and hoped that my next swing would be equally solid.  Slowly I drew the club back, made a full hip and shoulder turn, and launched into my shot.  It felt good coming off the clubface – I hadn’t thinned it or hit it fat.  (Which would have been very embarrassing!)  I followed the flight of the ball toward the green with great expectations.  And for a moment, the shot had promise.  It rose into the azure sky as if determined to find the bottom of the hole, but alas, halfway to the green, the breeze caught it and started taking it to the right.  I didn’t give up hope, though – as there’s a hill to the right of the green that could yet kick the ball back toward the hole.  As the ball landed, we all urged it to kick to the left and dive into the cup.  But sadly, the ball didn’t listen any better to our words of encouragement that morning than it had on any other, and finally it settled into the short rough.  I’d given it my best shot, but I’d missed.  No million dollars for me.  But as I walked to the green, I marveled at the experience our group had just had.  Meeting Old Tom Morris (albeit in the form of a great actor) and shooting for a million bucks made an already special day one that I’ll never forget.

On the next hole, another par 3, I hit a beautiful tee shot that came to rest ten feet from the hole.  I missed the birdie putt there, too.  But all through the rest of the day, we couldn’t stop talking about our amazing encounter with Old Tom and our shot at glory.