Image by Kevin Murray.
To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
Machrihanish Dunes, affectionately known as Mach Dunes is fast gaining a reputation. Few courses get us as excited as Mach Dunes. And this is why.
Scotland is the home of golf etc (you all know that) so when people come to play Scotland they do so in the knowledge that they’re getting that little bit nearer to the real authentic origins of the game.
We’re occasionally asked the question along the lines of ‘which is the nearest, of all Scotland’s courses, to the real beginnings of the game?’. Well we know the game started on links land, and we know we have some candidates from the 19th century that have remained relatively untouched by time. North Berwick, Cruden Bay, and Prestwick, retain many of their Victorian age quirks. Then there are the ancients, St Andrews, Crail, Montrose, and Aberdeen. Our answer tends to shock people however…. Machrihanish Dunes, built AD2009, albeit we should acknowledge Askernish, another credible candidate
|Yardage||Championship course 7082 yds|
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
The Course itself
When assessing the merits of Machrihanish Dunes, we need to pause and reflect on how golf developed. If you don’t take the time to try and understand this narrative, then you’re doing yourself and the course a tremendous disservice
The game was born on the erstwhile useless scrub-land that ‘linked’ the shore with the more fertile farming land behind it. No one had any use for these barren strips, dominated by a mixture of dunes, long wild grass, and burns draining into the sea. Solitary souls consequently came to devise the game of golf for personal pleasure, and here-in lies the very symbiosis that binds the golfer and the landscape.
The pioneers made use of what they found in the landscape to devise their own personal challenges. It was about interpreting a hazard and finding a way to negotiate it. In most cases these were natural obstacles, and woven into personal tapestries. Over time of course the games pioneers would compare notes with each other regarding what challenges they’d conceived, and how to overcome them. With this move towards consensus it wouldn’t be long before identifiable courses were charted out and adopted. Ultimately modern design paradigms, reinforced by the scope afforded by the earthmoving machine age would be brought to bear, and a little bit of this connection with the natural was inevitably lost.
Originally though, courses were designed by nature, and framed by man. They had to be. This is what Machrihanish Dunes did. Of the 270 acres, only seven were subject to earth-working. It was only the greens and tee boxes that were sculptured. Course architect David McLay Kidd, embraced what he’d been handed and set to work weaving. Australian businessman Brian Keating backed the romantic notion and Mach Dunes was born. There is, we believe, a touch of genius at play here.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that the team inherited 20th century restrictions and met them with traditional solutions. The dunes are a designated ‘site of special scientific interest’ (a triple SSSI = wildlife conservation). Rather than go down the planning appeal route, call in the attorneys, and later the bulldozers, they worked out how to build nature into the course. Just as they would have done centuries ago.
The use of fertilizers, and artificial drainage is forbidden in a SSSI. Fairways are permitted to be mowed, but for the most part they were inherited as found and much closer to how nature intended. They will consequently present you with all sorts of ‘interesting’ natural lies to negotiate. The rough management policy is even more original. Two flocks of roaming sheep are deployed! Bunkers crop up in strange places because they’re the legacy of burrowing animals. Starting to ‘get it now’? The course is built round the landscape, not the landscape round the course.
Machrihanish Dunes encourages thought, creativity and imagination. For the golfer who accepts the invitation and the challenge, the reward is a truly unforgettable experience. It’s an instinctive, intuitive course that requires you to adapt to the conditions. The fun starts at the very first, a blind shot into a punchbowl green. It sets the tone for what follows. The fifth hole has more than just an echo of the signature hole at Portrush about it, but any allegation of plagiarism is easily met with the retort that this is what we found. In any event, Machrihanish is only 12 miles across the sea from the Northern Irish coast, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to discover that it shares the characteristic high-dunes and longer wild grasses of an Irish links
At one level you might say its pastiche, and contrived, but how can we put this? It isn’t!. It’s actually not just much more faithful to the 19th century golf experience, but arguably nearer to the 16th century. Mach Dunes is presented as the “world’s most natural course”, it’s not an idle boast.
The final thing we ought to dwell on though is that Machrihanish Dunes has possibly become the short-term victim of its own focus. Somewhere in amongst the message of being golf’s most natural course, has been lost the fact that it’s actually a damn fine golf course in its own right. Our understanding is that course-raters are returning with increasing frequency today, recognising that perhaps they could have been looking in the wrong direction slightly, and wrongly under-rating it as a novelty. It isn’t. It more than stands on it’s own two feet as a golf course. We expect to see the regard in which its being held increase significantly in the coming years
FOR A GUIDE TO MACHRISHNAISH DUNES, CLICK ON THE CLUB CREST BELOW
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving range available||Yes|
|Caddies||Request in advance|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|