The Heart of Links.
Nowhere else can a golfer play six of the world’s top 100 courses (Machrihanish, Turnberry, Royal Troon and Royal Prestwick in Ayrshire, and Portstewart and Royal Portrush in Ireland) and a few of the hidden gems (including The Machrie, Western Gailes, and Shiskine), in a matter of days, and still enjoy the same accommodation each night.
From your home base at The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, you can enjoy easy access to world-renowned links courses of The Kintyre Peninsula, Isle of Islay, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire, and Northern Ireland for a links golf vacation unlike any other.
Our neighbor, Machrihanish Golf Club, laid out by Old Tom Morris himself in 1879, has long been regarded as one of the finest links courses in the world (a perennial Top-100 course ranked 39th on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses Outside the U.S.) and is always on the “shortlist” of serious golfers worldwide. Machrihanish Golf Club is known among other things for arguably having “the best opening shot in golf.” The first tee teeters on the edge of the mighty Atlantic Ocean and dares golfers to bite off as much of the corner of the Atlantic as they can stomach to a fairway that runs adjacent to the beach.
Machrihanish Golf Club is a joy to play and usually very quiet, allowing the visitor to relish the ups and downs of the fairways and the tussle with undulating greens. There are also arresting views across to the islands of Jura and Islay, which provide a delightful backdrop on an idyllic summer’s day with the firm Machrihanish turf underfoot, the majesty of the dunes, and wheeling seabirds providing the only sound.
It is a varied test for the competent golfer; the layout is not just a predictable nine out, and nine back. Some of its more memorable holes – in addition to the 1st – are the 5th, another par 4 with its fairway like an elephant’s graveyard; the 7th, with its blind second shot up and over the corner of a towering dune; the 10th, a clever dogleg par 5; and the 15th, a one-shotter that becomes quite difficult if the elusive green is missed from the tee.
Dunaverty Golf Club is located just 15 minutes south of Machrihanish in Southend. The course occupies a stunning setting on the south coast of the Kintyre peninsula overlooking Sanda Island to the south, Ailsa Craig and Ayrshire to the east, and Northern Ireland to the southwest. The course is a fun, 18-hole, par-66, natural links course with jaw-dropping views and a great mix of golf holes that will be enjoyed by both low and high handicappers alike.
ISLE OF ISLAY
Located just off the coast of the Kintyre Peninsula, the island of Islay (pronounced Eye-la) is probably best known for its famed whisky distilleries, which include the likes of Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore Distillery, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain, but it may be the links course at The Machrie that is Islay’s greatest feature.
Set in the dunes of Islay and designed in 1891 by Willie Campbell, The Machrie is an 18-hole traditional Scottish links that Planet Golf rates as a strong candidate to join its list of the Top 100 courses on Earth. The magnificent Laggan Bay is one of the most beautiful locations in world golf, but true links golf lovers will be more interested in the golf course than anything else. Although the yardage is not long by modern standards, holes vary in length according to the strength and direction of the wind and feature a number of blind shots that will test both your nerve and imagination.
ISLE OF ARRAN
The Isle of Arran sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre and features a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes that are home to no less than 102 holes of golf.
The most notable 12 holes of golf on the island may just be at the Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club on Arran’s west coast overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound and Mull of Kintyre. Built in 1896, this unique 12-hole layout is truly one of the hidden gems in the world of golf. It is unlikely that you will play at a course like Shiskine Golf Club anywhere else. One of Britain’s top 100 golf courses, it is an unusual course that has gained cult status and is not to be missed.
One of Shiskine’s challenging features is that many shots are blind, either from the tee, or approach to the green – or sometimes both. No wonder the starter gives a sheet of instructions on how to play every hole on this course with a minimum number of strokes! The undulating terrain dips and rises continuously, from the tee at certain holes, on the fairways or in front of the green at others.
Ayrshire is home to some of the finest golf courses in Scotland – and the world, for that matter. Below are just a few of the Ayshire courses you should play.
The Ailsa Championship course is a legend in the world game. Before designer courses, before manicured greens and major championships, these lands inspired local Scots to play the game of golf. Beloved since its first formal course was built in 1901, Turnberry’s fairways have been shared by the game’s elite and casual enthusiasts from around the globe. Turnberry’s three courses are both part of golf’s legacy and part of its future. A round on The Ailsa, The Kintyre, or The Arran is the kind of extraordinary experience that changes a player, professional, or amateur.
Founded in 1878 by a few enthusiasts, Royal Troon Golf Club has outgrown its purely local reputation and is now consistently ranked as one of the world’s best links courses. Royal Troon is a classic links course in every respect; the golfer is eased into the challenge with each hole appearing to get progressively tougher. The inward half of Royal Troon is widely accepted as the most demanding of any course on the Open Championship rota. Narrow fairways lined with trouble make tee shots critical, bunkers are punishing, and Troon’s small greens require touch and imagination.
In 1860, Prestwick became the birthplace of the British Open Championship. The first 12 Open Championships were held at Prestwick; in all, it has hosted 24 Opens – the last in 1926. Prestwick is an old-fashioned links course in the true sense of the word, a wind-swept, desolate area, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Designed by Old Tom Morris, the course is built on an undulating sandy stretch that links the beach to the inland. Its 6,544 yards follow the natural contours of the terrain and feature some odd twists and turns and even some devilish blind shots. Prestwick is a wild kingdom where heather and gorse rule over all and which, in combination with the seemingly statutory, cavernous Scottish bunkers, can play havoc with what might otherwise promise to be a respectable score.
Prestwick’s fairways are narrow, its greens small and undulating, the approaches interesting. On a calm day, Prestwick can be forgiving, but when the wind blows in off the Firth of Clyde, you’d better lower your expectations, for in times like these, good scores are hard to come by. But don’t let Prestwick’s daunting nature put you off.
Western Gailes is recognised as one of the finest true links courses in Scotland. The course has played host to the Curtis Cup, PGA Championship, and prestigious Scottish Amateur Championship. It is also one of the final qualifying courses when The Open is played at Turnberry or Royal Troon. This natural links course offers undulating fairways, occasionally interrupted by three meandering burns. Greens are cleverly located in naturally folded ground, some protected by burns, whilst others are guarded by sand dunes. The course is highly rated at 35th in the Top 100 courses of the British Isles.
The advent of the Kintyre Express’ regularly scheduled high-speed ferry service out of Campbeltown Harbour has made the dream of combining Northern Ireland’s famed links courses with the links of Southwest Scotland into a reality. The voyage from Campbeltown to Ballycastle is a quick 90-minute ride aboard the 12-passenger high-speed RIB with a fully-enclosed heated cabin.
Royal Portrush Golf Club is home to one of the best and most challenging links golf courses in the world, the Dunluce Links, and the hidden gem, the Valley Links. The only club in Ireland to have hosted The Open Championship, Royal Portrush is a members’ club which welcomes visitors all year round to face the challenges of its courses and to brave the testing conditions.
The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club ranks amongst the world’s greatest courses. Voted number 12 in the world by Golf Magazine, it is a masterpiece of golf course architecture. Unimaginable rough and testing greens, combined with the unpredictable weather of the roaring North Atlantic make this course an admirable test for even the most seasoned golf aficionado.
Situated on Northern Ireland’s magnificent Causeway Coast, Portstewart Golf Club presents a difficult but fair game. The Strand Course is indisputably the jewel in Portstewart’s crown for both quality of game and scenery. The course is set in classic links country amid towering sand dunes with views at every turn of the Donegal hills, the Atlantic, and the River Bann. The opening hole with its elevated tee, dogleg right to the green and sandy strip on the right, is a particularly memorable opening hole.
For something a little less challenging, the Riverside Course stretches from the clubhouse down to the River Bann. And if you like a little heritage in your game, the original Old Course, situated at the eastern end of Portstewart along the rocky shore, has tested players since 1889. Without doubt a course with a championship pedigree, Portstewart has hosted the Irish Amateur Championship in 1960 and 1992 and held qualifying rounds for The Open in 1951 and the British Seniors in 2004.