Machrihanish Dunes

74 (white)
David McLay Kidd
Natural, challenging, links with untouched fairways and fine green complexes.
Mull of Kintyre, near Campbeltown. Postcode: PA28 6PT
Keith Martin
01586 810000
Green Keeper
Kevin Lewis
Access Policy:
visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Welcomed in summer
Open Meetings:
Autumn Pairs Classic - Oct.
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


The ‘Village at Machrihanish Dunes’ provides a hotel, self-catering cottages and pub, nearby the world famous first tee of Machrihanish Old.  

Machrihanish Dunes was opened in 2007, 128 years after Old Tom Morris had expanded Machrihanish Old course from 12 to 18 holes, moving little earth and using the natural lie of the land to create one of golf’s legendary links lay-outs. 

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Entrance to Machrihanish Dunes

Dunes is not a ‘modern international’ type course, David Mclay Kidd, the course architect, working closely with the environmental body, Scottish National Heritage (because the duneland site of 275 acres is a Site of Special Scientific Interest), borrowing Old Tom Morris’s approach, ‘disturbed’ only seven acres where the tees and greens were. The incredible natural movement in the fairways has been left untouched, unlike the Trump course that was also built in a SSSI area, where the fairways, I guess to please the professional game, have been evened-off. There are nonetheless at Machrihanish Dunes still only a few blind shots but plenty of idiosyncratic ones. 

I have spoken to people who played the course in the early days and with the rough being not allowed to be cut, what was legendary was the amount of balls that were lost! 

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Jimmy Kidd in bunker on 15th

The environmental authorities have now taken a more sensible approach, trust having been built over time and though there are plenty of low wild dunes particularly on the first nine holes, (that return to the clubhouse) closest to the sea, among which one plays, the fact that I did not lose a single ball is not purely because I was having to concentrate hard to try to keep in touch with my opponent Jimmy Kidd (father of David Mclay Kidd and once head greenkeeper at Gleneagles for some 20 years), somebody who is quite happy to be called a competitive individual and who took great exception to my remark that he was doing quite well for an ‘older man’, playing 36 holes of his own ball in a day, in a 30mph wind! 

Interestingly, the twenty or so wind turbines overlooking these two wonderful seascape Machrihanish links courses, had been turned off (I guess a three-to-four-club wind is too much for them) when we were there and so were not quite so threateningly obvious. 

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2nd green, wind turbines behind

To play across the tumultuous fairways where no hillock or undulation has been touched by a bulldozer, and avoid the expertly positioned ‘wild’ fairway bunkers, so reminiscent of holes dug by sheep for wind protection, (a classic design also used at Castle Stuart), gives this a real traditional feel, though the downside is that balls tend to collect in undulations on certain holes creating a plethora of divot marks close together.

What is less traditional, are the longish walks between some greens and the next tee, required in order to avoid parts of this SSSI status land. 

This course is now attracting many visitors, but there is still plenty of room for everybody and no one is going to be hurrying you along while you engage with nature and the beauty of the walk. It is worth mentioning, unusual for an American owned development, that buggies are not encouraged.


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winter sheep on the 7th

Jimmy introduced me to Machrihanish Dunes by playing the second nine first and having heard vaguely that one nine was more dramatic that the other, coming off the eighteenth green I was honestly expecting for our second nine to be less daunting only to discover a gradual build of creshendo across our second nine, that is more among the higher dunes closer to the sea .

Hole after hole requires imagination, cunning and a clarity of strong hitting.

As the surrounding aprons and fall-offs from the greens (some annual meadow grass –Poa annua– has invaded, as the immediate surrounds to the greens were grazed by cattle & sheep for many years and hence are naturally more fertile and prone to Poa annua) improve and firm-up in time, delicate bump and runs will be required.

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The audacious eighth

I will remember my drive and four iron for many moons at the audacious eighth hole, into the easterly storm where I didn’t need the short putt across a predominantly browntop bent grass green to win the hole and it epitomises the ‘joy to be alive’ feeling that the total experience gives.

When considering the quality of the grass across this course, that was originally seeded with fescues on the greens and tees with some later browntop bent overseeding, what must be remembered is the west coast gets much more rain than the east coast of Scotland and to grow fine grasses in the west is more difficult. The last two summers have been particularly damp, which have not helped the young fescues and bents at Machrihanish Dunes. Their greens are now an amalgam of fine grasses with some annual meadow grass (Poa annua) invasion. Though presently somewhat inconsistent, particularly with the damage of salt water spay on greens like the fourteenth from an Atlantic storm in 2012, golfers are being given the managed surfaces and the ‘running’ game experience for which they are looking and with the course in good hands it should only improve with time. 

The whole feel of The Village of Machrihanish Dunes fits in with the historic Old course and indeed makes a journey to Campbletown on the Mull of Kintyre whether by car, boat, aeroplane or more recently the Calmac Ferry from Ardrossan, an even more attractive pilgrimage for fine golfers. 

Reader Comments

On June 3rd, 2014 Vincent Carney said:

I am heading there in August with a group of varying ability golfers from Dublin (Ireland). It is a journey that I have been planning for quite a long time…Will let you know our view afterwards…roll on August

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