The unspoilt Kintyre peninsula hides some beautiful and challenging courses
Stats: par 72, 6,349 yards
GF: £75 per round, £95 per day
My return to Machrihanish Dunes, and David McLay Kidd’s ever-challenging putting surfaces, was eagerly awaited, for on my last visit, the course had suffered at the hands of severe winter storms, with some areas and greens out of play. Arriving in the early evening to an empty car park, I was delighted on several counts: firstly, that I would have this fabulously natural links all to myself; secondly, that the nines had been reversed eliminating the long trek to the 1st tee; and thirdly, that the course had been fully reinstated and was now in rude health.
The stunningly natural dunescape gets close to the beach in several places, asking searching questions throughout. To enjoy it all in the kind of evening sunlight that lengthens the shadows and accentuates the drama was an added bonus. I remember struggling on the green of what is now the 3rd last time, but found the pin much more accessible this time. The 4th is risk-reward personified, for if you make solid contact towards the marker pole, the tiny, bowl-shaped green gathers in for a potential eagle chance.
It was a joy to play the 5th – one of the weather-damaged greens last time – as McLay Kidd intended: a super par 3 towards the beach protected by two deep pot bunkers. The 10th is still one of the highlights, playing over a crest to a punchbowl green nestling in the dunes, and if I could offer one parting word of advice, it would be to avoid the cavernous bunker 20 yards short left of the 17th green. Seve himself would have had his work cut out from where I found myself!
Stats: par 70, 6,235 yards
GF: £65 per round, £95 per day
The Old Tom Morris course at Machrihanish became a ‘must-visit’ links for me when I first saw photos of it many moons ago. It took me a while to get there, but anyone who has made the journey will testify that it is a pilgrimage worth making, and for way more than the chance to finally stand on the famous 1st tee and gaze across the beach to the fairway beyond. The links terrain is among the most natural you will encounter, with a stretch of truly memorable holes from the 3rd to the turn. The 16th is a sometimes unreachable par 3, but the short par-4 finale will often bring a chance for redemption.
Stats: par 66, 4,799 yards
GF: £28wd per round, £30we per round
Dunaverty provides a delightful links experience with its unusual square-shaped greens and excellent views, whether of the imposing Dunaverty Rock, or further afield to Ayrshire and Northern Ireland. You’ll be sorely tempted to take on certain holes, among them the short par-4 3rd from a tee enjoying a glorious outlook over the beach. But the course can look after itself too in places via rocky outcrops, gorse and the odd blind shot. Then there’s the 17th… a tough late test with out of bounds right and a potentially long approach to a shallow green beyond a burn. Club up would generally be the advice here!
Stats: par 66, 4,460 yards
GF: £15 per round, £30 per day
I had the course to myself here ahead of my afternoon ferry crossing to Jura, and had great fun on a pretty little layout where several holes enjoy elevated views out over West Loch Fyne. The 1st features a table-top green close to a lovely row of white-painted cottages, with the 3rd then climbing away from the road. The par-3 4th continues the climb: a tough 160-yarder from where you’ll enjoy the best views… once you’ve got your breath back. Much of the descent comes on the 5th and then the 8th – a precipitous par 3 where you could be some way towards the green before your ball has landed if you so desired.
Stats: par 64, 4,518 yards
GF: £20wd per day, £25we per day
The weather was unkind at Lochgilphead, just north of Kintyre, but I was glad I ventured out anyway, for this community nine-holer has some intriguing holes. You have to contend with a steeply sloping fairway on the 2nd, before playing straight up the slope on the 3rd – the most uphill par 3 I’ve ever played! The 5th is then an excellent mid-length one-shotter with the green cut into the slope, while the 8th, with its delightful approach to a green beyond a free-flowing burn, was probably my favourite. The target on the 9th takes the small-green theme to new levels, proving highly elusive from 163 yards.