Machrihanish Dunes – A Fantastic Natural Links

There is a certain indescribable feeling that you get when you first step on to a mature golf links, land that appears to have been untouched since the course was shaped through the dunes, centuries ago. 

The Old Course in St. Andrews gives you that feeling due its history and how well you know it through TV coverage. Other famous historical links also give you that feeling and when WBGD visited Machrihanish Dunes, that was the feeling we got, which is strange and unexpected, as its a relatively new course.

Although the course only opened in 2009, the land that Machrihanish Dunes sits on is almost exactly the same as its always been.

The course has been laid out on the land as the architect found it. Designed by David McLay Kidd, it is as natural a golf course as you will come across and it promotes itself as course which is as one with nature, the greenest golf course in the world!!

No large machinery was used in its construction, the tees, fairways and greens were always there, just now they are defined by the grass being shorter. 

If you are looking for manicured fairways and greens that run at 12 on the stimpmeter, this course is not for you but if you love nature, being challenged on every shot, and love links golf then this is as great a test as many more famous links courses. 

Even now, the maintenance consists of hand mowing tees and greens and the fairways are kept short by an influx of sheep in the winter months, hence the Clubs logo with the black sheep on it!!

The course is protected as sits on a site designated as of Special Scientific Interest, which means it cannot be altered as it would endanger the natural habitat.

Many of the tees and green complexes are built on natural high points. They vary in size from quite small to enormous, with multiple slopes and elevation changes meaning that once you are on the green, 2 putting is always a challenge.

Lots of the greens have run off areas and they sit well below the putting surface which means getting up and down for your par will test your short game skills on every occasion.

The fairways are undulating with humps and hollows and it was not uncommon to be in the middle of the fairway, with a downhill lie and a big mound in front of you so getting any distance of your next shot is down to luck, or ingenuity in your shot making. 

With holes called The Watchtower, Nimrod, Minefield and Rifle Range, you can probably guess that there is a military influence in the area with the Campbeltown airport adjacent to the 2nd and 3rd holes being a former RAF, NATO and US Marine Corps base.

The first hole has a blind tee shot, you can aim at the marker pole on the hillside or take the tiger line over the hillside bunker. Negotiate that and you will have a short pitch to an undulating green. Its a relatively easy starting hole, if you get your tee shot in position. The 2nd and 3rd holes are difficult, a strong par 4 followed by a 550 yard par 5. Both greens require you to hit your approach shots to pin high, do that and you have a chance of making par.

The 4th is a short par 4 and has a blind tee shot but if you aim right of the marker, you have a chance of hitting the green in one. 

Interesting greens dictated by the shape of the land.

Holes 5 and 6 are par 3’s, going in opposite directions. Both are challenging even though they a relatively short, the wind does play havoc with your club selection. You cannot be short on either hole if you expect to make par.

The front nine finishes with 3 strong holes with the 8th, a par 5 at 560 yards.

The back 9 begins with a downhill par 4 with a blind 2nd shot to a green that slopes front to back and tilts right to left.

The 11th is a straight away par 4 with the green perched on top of a dune!! The 12th is the last of the par 3’s and then there are two strong par 4’s before you turn to head back along the coast line towards the Clubhouse.

There is a fantastic view of the beach from the 15th tee as you turn.

The 16th hole is a straight forward par 5 and is on the card as the most difficult hole on the course but we reckon the 17th is harder. A dogleg 400 yard par 4 with a gully, its a challenging 2nd shot to a green that sits above you. take an extra club for that uphill carry.

The back 9 finishes with a short uphill par 4 and if you get a decent drive away, its a great birdie chance to end your round.

Machrihanish Dunes is an outstanding natural links course as is its neighbour, the more famous Machrihanish Golf Club. If you get to play both courses on your trip, you will have fantastic memories of an authentic Scottish golf links experience.

Yes, its off the beaten track, but its worth the journey and if you are driving from Glasgow, you also get a wonderful scenic road trip thrown in. What’s not to love about that?

Our thanks go to Lorraine Griffiths of Machrihanish Dunes for hosting us and to Lorna in the Clubhouse for all her help and advice.

Header photo taken by Jim Callaghan for Worlds Best Golf Destinations. Course photos courtesy of Machrihanish Dunes

Machrishanish Dunes Info

● 3 hours drive from Glasgow City Centre, follow the signs for A83
● Designed by David McLay Kidd, designer of Bandon Dunes and many other renowned courses.
● 4 Tee choices ranging from 5130 yards to 7082 yards
● For more information, visit