Machrihanish Golf Club
Designers: Old Tom Morris, JH Taylor & Sir Guy Campbell
“Far I have traveled, and much I have seen. Darkest of mountains, with valleys of green. Past painted deserts with sunsets on fire. As he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre.”
Were he a golfer traveling to Machrihanish, it’s easy to see how Sir Paul McCartney might have been inspired to song. As the crow flies, the links is less than 40 miles west of Turnberry. Thanks to the unique shape of the Mull of Kintyre, however, the same trip by car is nearly five times as long and over wildly rugged and scenic terrain. The ferry across the Firth of Clyde cuts the travel time dramatically, but the sense of isolation that comes with this odyssey only fuels the anticipation of what lies ahead.
Old Tom Morris made the journey to Machrihanish over 125 years ago, a feat of no small measure given our own efforts to get here. Upon arriving he quickly pronounced that the links before him was “specifically designed by The Almighty for playing golf.” A claim that is abundantly clear from the very first swing of the club.
The opening tee shot at Machrihanish is simply without equal. The drive across the corner of the sea, with the beach lining the entire left side of the fairway, is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Deciding how much of the corner to bite off is a daunting task right out of the gate, but there is some relief in that a ball found on the beach can be played without penalty. Of course, that’s assuming the tide is out.
Although the opening tee shot will make the strongest impression on our memory, the holes that follow are a delightful collection of exceptional links golf. The 5th is an all-world par-4 that is likely to test even the best of players. While ahead on the par-3 15th, the severely canted putting surface accentuates the most appealing attribute of Machrihanish: the imaginative and natural greens. Combined with the various humps and hollows, as well as the occasional snaking burn, the golfer is reminded that Old Tom Morris fashioned this remarkable course out of land almost entirely as he found it.
Given the extra effort to get to Machrihanish, and with the Springbank distillery just up the road, it’s important to allow time to linger in the clubhouse after the round to enjoy the view and local fare. The hospitality found inside will make this choice an easy one, especially if, as is often the case, one is lucky to have had a former club captain as a caddie. They’re proud of their club at Machrihanish, and for very good reason. From Old Tom Morris to the modern wandering golfer, there are few who take this road less traveled that don’t come away anxious to be “carried home, to the Mull of Kintyre.”
Major Basil Haversham, OBE