“An un-aged whisky…”
Machrihanish Dunes is a David McLay Kidd design. The course is extremely remote and is located directly next to Machrihanish Golf Club.
Machrihanish Dunes is very new, having been built in 2007-9. Herein lies the biggest problem with Machrihanish Dunes: It is too young. The course had an unfinished feel and many attribute this problem to a pre-mature opening on the part of the developers and owners. The course was opened in 2009 with the implied purpose of catching the tourist rush accompanying the Open Championship at Turnberry in Ayrshire. This is said to have been a year or so before the course should have been opened. The course is like an un-aged whisky that has spent too little time aging in the barrel. Mach Dunes is rough, but you know there is something special there.
The design of the course is enjoyable and impressive. There is ample land for the golf course, and this presents both benefits and negatives for the golfer. The journey between green and tee is very long on most holes. According to the starter, this is because there are rare and endangered plant life and animals that inhabit the system of dunes. Laws and regulations protecting the dunes habitats inhibited the designer and a strange course routing. This strange course routing is both interesting and, honestly, confusing. At one point, I turned to my partner on the golf trip, Matt, and said, “This is beautiful, but I have no idea where we are or where we go next…”
The benefit of the open expanse of land is the ability to make a very long golf course. The tips are over 7,100 yards. A course of this length is rare in Scotland. The 17th hole is a par 5 of over 620 yards. Dundonald Links is the only other course in Scotland that I have played which has similar length. David Kidd offered many different teeing options in his design, so despite the course being so long, it is manageable for golfers of all skill levels.
Bad golf course conditions are to be expected in Scotland during November (just look at Gleneagles), but Mach Dunes had a truly “unfinished” feel. The course felt as if it hadn’t completely settled into its skin. Three greens were being re-done due to salt-water damage, which was caused by close proximity to the beach. One must assume that if due diligence had been performed and not rushed at Mach Dunes, developers would have better anticipated the problems that have arisen.
Jim Kidd is the father of the course’s designer David McLay Kidd. He is also his right hand man in the golf design business. Jim was at Mach Dunes helping with the re-design of the aforementioned greens. He had participated in every Kidd design from the St Andrews Castle Course to Bandon Dunes in Oregon, USA. We were able to share a pint with Jim Kidd and then receive a ride back into Campbeltown with him at the end of the day. It was extremely interesting to speak with this design master about the golf the course and the thought that went into some of the routing decisions.
If you are on a golf trip to the Mull of Kyntire, play Machrihanish Dunes. However, make sure that you play the course in addition to Machrihanish Golf Club. Unfortunately, it is this juxtaposition of golf courses that makes Mach Dunes feel inferior to its older neighbor. When you play Mach Dunes, don’t expect an ancient links with a tons of history. Do expect an enjoyable design set within beautiful dunes that features as much length as any golfer could want. If I am able to play the course again when I am 60 or so, I will expect an incredible and settled links course hidden in western Scotland.
I feel this page needs updated. This is now one of the finest golf courses in the country and I have had the pleasure of playing this course many times. Completely changed over the last few years and worth another visit.
Hi Andrew, thank you for taking the time to read my review! There’s no question that I’d like to get back to Mach Dunes to play it again and it’s definitely on my to-do list. My review was written in 2011, and I tried to make clear in the article that there was a lot of potential, but it just hadn’t reached it yet. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to update the review! Unfortunately I can’t update it until I see it again.
Perhaps you should delete this review until you do return to play the course again, Graylyn, as it is woefully out of date and doesn’t reflect at all the experience one has playing Machrihanish Dunes today. The course is now 10 years old and its greenkeeper has it in superb condition. Some of the best greens in Scotland. The walks between holes have been shortened, as well, and the punishing rough the course had when it opened has been all but eliminated — as have some of the blind tee shots. You really should see it again — you won’t believe what a different course it is now from its early years. But in the meantime, this review is very misleading and won’t help any reader make a informed decision about going to Mach Dunes.
Thank you for your feedback and for the update on Machrihanish Dunes. I certainly hope to return to the course sooner than later – as you know it’s a long journey out there. As reviews age on my site I try to update them after subsequent rounds, but I’m yet to return to Mach Dunes.
Fortunately for readers, just beneath the title of the article is the date it was published. They can see that this review was published in 2011 and can see my references to the course’s age in the review itself. I stand by everything I wrote because it accurately reflects my experience seven years ago. I don’t think the review is misleading and I disagree that the review won’t help readers make informed decisions.
I’m very happy to hear that the course has made changes and has continued to settle over time. I’m sure it will continue to get better. When I next get out to the Mull of Kintyre I’ll play it again and update this review. In the meantime, if you have a place online where you’ve written a recent review, I’d be happy to link to it from this article.