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!
Now, 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.
Of 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! There’s no doubt that naming the holes of a golf course is a great responsibility, and some clubs have been a lot more inventive and successful with this process than have others.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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 that has likely been completed by the this email reaches you. 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!
Mach Dunes Golf Club