Wild & Natural
In 1879 Old Tom Morris journeyed to Machrihanish to expand the local course from 12 to 18 holes.
In doing so he moved little, if any, earth and created one of the most natural links anywhere....
Golf architect David McLay Kidd, of Bandon Dunes fame, was very familiar with Machrihanish as his family owned a holiday house overlooking the course, and he spent his summer holidays caddying there.
So it was almost inevitable that when Machrihanish Dunes GC was proposed in 2007, that Kidd was invited to bring the project to fruition.
Backing on to the existing course Machrihanish Dunes is sited in a beautiful dunescape right on the coast.
The land carried the most environmentally sensitive designation allocated in Scotland, and the routing of the course, and placement of tees and greens was only possible after considering endangered species of marsh orchid and Burnet moth.
Not only did Kidd and his team work with these restrictions, but they embraced the concept of a natural course much in the spirit of Old Tom years before.
The course is not irrigated.
No pesticides are allowed.
Instead a flock of 80 or so sheep graze the fairways in the off season, eradicating ragwort.
The theory is that the tramping of golfers and constant mowing will over time allow the fine fescues that links golfers love to dominate.
Kidd moved little dirt in creating the dunes.
With due consideration to the environmental constraints, teeing grounds and greens were tweaked based on the natural topography.
But the fairways remain essentially untouched.
Playing the Dunes really does feel like you have gone back in time.
The greens have a lot of movement, and are true but slow.
The fairway grasses are largely good to play off, but are some years off being a pristine cover of fescue.
At present there is a mixture of broad leaved grasses and weeds in with the fescue, and occasionally a poor lie will present.
It is all just so natural, and uncontrived.
There are multiple teeing grounds at The Dunes giving so many different perspectives on the same hole for returning golfers. I would argue this is a positive.
But because of the aforementioned environmental concerns the trails to the tees are both prolonged and circuitous.
Personally I don't mind a good walk through some lovely dunes, but many feel the walks from green to tee are just too long and detract from the enjoyment of the game.
The front nine starts relatively quietly as it heads through lower lying land to the bigger dunes in the southwest corner of the property.
I particularly liked the short driveable par 4 fourth hole with its lovely protected green in the dunes.
The par 3 fifth hole is also a photo hole and a joy to play.
However it is the back nine that impresses most at The Dunes.
The terrain is much more undulating throughout the nine as the holes move through bigger dunes, closer to the sea.
In fact I liked all the holes bar 17 which I thought a bit dopey.
It has a totally blind tee shot to a violently rolling fairway split by a gully, followed by a big carry to an elevated green. It was all a bit too much...
Hole 10 with elevated tee box and green down in a bowl in front of the larger dunes was my favourite.
Machrihanish Dunes is an interesting course and great fun to play.
It will be interesting to see how the course matures over time. I played in 2014 and I am sure it will have already evolved considerably
Combined with the older course at Machrihanish it makes a delightful golfing destination.
The renovation of the Ugadale hotel and apartments also ensure that golfers will be very comfortable in what is really an ideal place for a short golfing getaway
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