Whenever the Dude and I plan our travels around Scotland there is almost always a conversation about where the closest golf course is. He likes to play different courses, and why wouldn’t he? It is a great way to develop new skills and get better at his game. Although I don’t play golf (yet), if you follow me on social media you will have seen that I do like to tag along on the golf course and enjoy the walk. Our recent visit to Islay included golf and a spot of lunch at The Machrie.
The Machrie Links Golf Course
A recently re-designed course alongside the impressive hotel and spa, The Machrie links course is a gem in Islay’s crown, for sure. The original course was designed by Willie Campbell with it’s own set of quirks and challenges, and has been here since 1891. In 2014 course architect, DJ Russell, set about updating and restoring The Machrie links making it more demanding and practical for the 21st century.
The morning we were due to visit, we left Port Charlotte in glorious sunshine and headed toward Port Ellen. It quickly became apparent that no-one had ordered the nice weather for this side of the island. We were confronted with thick pea-soup haar, not conducive with playing golf but when we arrived we realised there was no wind at all, so it wasn’t all bad.
For this post I thought it would be nice to introduce the Dude for his own wee golf review of this links course. I’ll let him describe to you the more technical pieces of playing here. Not a hole by hole account of his game but it gives you the general idea.
Out of the four tee boxes available I chose to play from the white tee boxes for 5953 yards.
Despite the mist coming in off of the sea the weather was actually in my favour and I was happy enough with little or no breeze to start my game. Obviously bright blue sky and some sunshine wouldn’t have gone a miss, but for March on a Links golf course – perfect.
All the way around the course the boxes were in good condition. Some of the tees afford some higher vantage points, showing off the course views and a shot at where you need to point the ball! It is easy to get distracted by the views in every direction.
There is a pureness to the course that leaves the fairways to follow the natural contours and although when I played the ball was running quite slow, this will only get better as the season progresses.
Even with the lovely wide fairways inevitably, I was to end up in the rough at some point (and more than once!) but in places was able to actually play out of my predicament without any problems.
With plenty of other obstacles on this links golf course, unusually, there are very few bunkers. In fact they are only on the 3rd, 6th and 7th holes but I’m not sure if this is how it will remain, maybe there are more to come?
The greens were in really good condition for playing in March and testimony to the hard work of the green keepers.
Each green has it’s own challenges and I imagine in the summer months they will run so slick just the most gentle of putts will see the ball glide across to the hole.
The staff in the Pro shop ensure there is no need for guessing where the pin will be on each day and let you know where it is for your game. As a back up and guide all zones are shown on the score cards too.
The Pro shop provides all the usual brand embroidered, good quality golf clothing as well as cold drinks to take out on the course.
The driving range is set aside from the main hotel and has bays for practice, warm up and lessons. We were given a tour by David Foley, Head PGA Golf Pro of the Machrie Links and his knowledge, enthusiasm and pride are all very obvious. David and his team have plans to get more women and children involved in the sport too.
We were shown rooms which are still a work in progress and told how they are going to become integral parts of the golf club. The indoor teaching facilities allow tuition in all weathers too. If you need to concentrate on your short game then you can practice that also.
Reading other reviews online and lots of people compare it to the original course. I’m not able to do this as I have never played it, however, as someone who hasn’t been playing that long I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I play off a 24 handicap and on this Par 72 course played 92 off the white tees. First time playing the course, I’m happy with that.
I think the Machrie Links golf course will definitely grow into a real beauty and I plan to visit again to see how it develops.
I was super impressed with the service also. I would like to thank one of the green keeping team who drove out to us on a buggy to hand us a towel just in case we needed to dry off from any rain showers/ to wipe my clubs. He also said if we needed anything else or to be picked up (if it rained), just to call the hotel. Now that’s service.
I would recommend if you are visiting Islay to play this course. You can hire clubs and trolleys so no need to bring your own bag.
Check out the video right here.
18 – Restaurant and Bar
As much as I had enjoyed walking the course with the Dude, filming him and taking photos as he played I was definitely ready for some good food, and I think I had earned it.
It is a beautiful open and light space with views, as the name suggests, over the 18th green and beyond (if the haar has lifted). Using colourful accents throughout the room it also becomes quite funky and playful.
By looking at the menu it is apparent that lots of produce used here are sourced locally and across Scotland.
We were booked in for 13:30 and there were still tables with diners all enjoying the food and atmosphere. The Dude is always a sucker for fish and chips but I opted for the butternut squash risotto for mains. But as ever we were divided for starters and desserts; with THE biggest BBQ glazed pork ribs we have ever seen arriving for the Dude’s starter I didn’t think he would manage all his main. Whereas I opted for sorbet – one raspberry and one lemon. The lemon sorbet was just like sucking on a slice of lemon, it was bloody lovely.
The bar had local Islay ales on tap which someone was pleased about (I’ll give you a hint – I was driving!) and strangely enough a good selection of whisky too.
There is a lounge type area, separate from the dining tables, with comfy sofas, plush cushions and a roaring fire for anyone just wishing to relax and have a beer. Like a snug, only bigger. It’s definitely a place you could visit even if you haven’t been playing golf or indulging in spa treatments.
We thoroughly enjoyed the views, the food and talking through the course and the Dude’s game again. I think he enjoyed himself! There is no doubt that we shall be visiting again and hopefully someone will remember to book the weather. I also think I should check out the spa facilities too.
The Dude and I would like to thank David and the team at The Machrie for their kind hospitality. We were invited to lunch on a complimentary basis and the round of golf was at a discounted rate in return for this blog post. All views on the golf course and menu choices are entirely our own.