Golf in Islay
The Machrie Golf Links
Islay is famed around the world for its beautiful landscape and distinctive whisky. Many a visitor will pop over to one (or more!) of the many big named distilleries on the island, immersing themselves in the whisky making process, which has been happening here for hundreds of years. Now there is an even better excuse to stay, with The Machrie Golf Links re-opening in 2017, it is reason alone to visit!
There are couple of ways to get to Islay, by air or sea. I opted for the latter, with Loganair running twice a day return flights from Glasgow. An early rise is needed, but well worth it. When flying such a short distance on a clear day, you climb very gradually and to a cruising height where you can really take in the west of Scotland’s beauty. After landing, it is a short transfer to the hotel and golf course, along a quiet road with more beautiful Scottish scenery.
On arrival at The Machrie Hotel you are welcomed by a cosy reception and seating area, a perfect place for a hot drink (or something stronger) by the fire. There is also an excellent courtyard area, should the Scottish weather be kind during your visit. This area can be utilised for larger groups who wish to host a barbecue or a pizza night. Just off to the side is a small snug room, utilised for board and card games usually, or a quiet spot to read a book.
Upstairs, you will find the “18” restaurant, where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served daily, whilst you enjoy beautiful views of the golf course and beyond to the sea. Dining is a relaxed affair and staff are on hand to inform you about the menu, strewn with local produce from land, sea and air.
On the upper floor, there is also a large meeting room, with seating an TVs for watching the golf, as well as a small cinema!
My favourite spot was the Stag Lounge, which boasts maybe the best view of the golf course, through a huge window, facing west to make the most of sunsets too. I can imagine many conversations, stories and disputes being started and ended in this room at the end of a golfing day.
Back down the stairs to very well stocked professional’s shop, where all of your needs will be catered for. The team will help to look after your clubs and any wet clothes in their specially created airing room for your next days play. Attention to these small details is everywhere at The Machrie.
Time for golf! My rounds of golf always start very enjoyable, teeing off at The Machrie Golf Links in blue skies and a light coastal sea breeze ensured that this was one of those days. The opening stretch of holes is super interesting straight off the bat. With dog legs right and left and some changes in elevation to make sure you are on your game straight from the word go. You are then treated to gorgeous sea views all the way on your left side as you play 6, 7 and 8, finally arriving at the 9th tee, where The Machrie presents its own postage stamp par 3. Measuring only 143 yards, but littered with nasty pot bunkers around the edge of the green, hitting the putting surface is the only aim here and par is a score to be proud of!
The back 9 is where my enjoyment level is usually tested, with the inevitability of finding out your front 9 score and what you need to claw back in the remaining holes. At The Machrie though, I didn’t much worry about this, as the West of Scotland weather had been tuned on it’s head and it was survival mode. The wind had picked right up and the rain started to come down (or sideways, to be more accurate). I wasn’t to be deterred though, as the course stood up fantastically over the remaining holes, which play in all different directions. This tested out every club and shot in your bag, or “proper golf” as I have heard it be described. Each hole on the back 9 sits neatly between the tall dunes and gives the feeling of being the only golf group on the course - which with the weather, we likely were!
Holes 17 and 18 are the perfect finish to the fantastic layout, playing to a split fairway on 17 seems inexplicable if you haven’t checked the map of the hole, with the longer carry down the left side opening up the perfect angle to the green. Opting for the shorter safer line to the right means having a completely blind second shot, where you will need to trust your line and yardage. The 18th hole is a testing par 5 playing back towards the hotel and again offers a benefit to playing down one side of the hole. The left side has a number of sneaky pot bunkers, guaranteeing that you will be laying up in 2 and trying to get on with your 3rd shot. Finding the putting surface is by no means job done, with some large swales and a plateau at the very back edge for a Sunday pin position.
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