Links Heaven: Scottish Golf’s Best 1-2 Punch?


The neighbouring links of Machrihanish make a strong case to be the very best of Scotland...

There's an old exprssion that good fences make good neighbours. But as with most adages, the exceptions prove the rule. Scotland is blessed with a number of wonderful golf courses that sit side-by-side and beg to be played back-to-back. Royal Aberdeen and Murcar. Lundin Links and Leven. Archerfield and Renaissance. A round on any of these esteemed courses is always time well spent. 

The chance to play both neighbours on the same summer day? Irresistible. But as good as each of these colossal links combos are, it's arguable that the twin titans in remote Machrihanish do them all one better. Golfers have been making the pilgrimage to play Machrihanish Golf Club since horse-and-cart days. Its delightful Old Tom Morris design, with that famous opening tee shot across the strand, is a World Top-100 track for good reason. 

Many good reasons, in fact. And the much younger but every bit as compelling links next door, GB&I Top-100 Machrihanish Dunes, makes venturing down the long and winding road to Kintyre doubly worth the journey. 

The courses share similar topography – and by topography we mean gigantic dunes. The front nine at Machrihanish GC and almost every hole on the Mach Dunes course challenge you to judge distances well, as a preponderance of shots will be uphill or downhill – often from sidehill lies. (Nature can be a mother!) Memorable holes abound on both courses. Machrinahnish Old's knee-knocking opener gets lots of acclaim, but the course's serpentine 5th hole, Punch Bowl, and its 7th, Bruach More, with its blind second shot over a towering dune, show just what kind of magic can happen when the course follows the lay of the land.

Macrihanish 5th hole 

That's what Mach Dunes' designer David McLay Kidd did at neighbouring Mach Dunes, as well – in part because the course was routed through environmentally protected shoreland. Holes like the driveable par-4 4th ('Shepherds Cross'), with its green set back in a secluded dell, and the mighty 17th ('Rest and Be Thankful'), a brute of a two-shotter calling for a blind tee shot and a long iron that's typically dead into the onshore wind, might never have existed were it not for the restrictions placed on earth-moving during construction. You really feel like you're doing battle with nature when you tackle these two tracks. But it's a war well worth waging.

Each summer, members of the two clubs delight in staging an event called 'The Shepherd's Cross', during which both courses are pressed into use. Groups start on the 1st at Mach Old, play through the 9th hole, then literally jump a rusty livestock fence to play an assortment of nine other stunners on the Mach Dunes side before finishing at the Dunes' charming wee golf house. If you can finagle your way into this tournament, rest assured that you'll enjoy every moment.

Debates about which of these two 'Big Macs' earns top honour are likely to go on well into the night. And the good news there is that unlike in Old Tom's day, excellent lodging and dining can now be readily found in the area – especially at the four-star hotels and luxury cottages associated with The Village at Machrihanish Dunes.

For golfers, the resort's award-winning Ugadale Hotel & Cottages are a great choice since they're literally crawling distance from the 1st tee at Machrihanish GC. Also within crawling distance is The Old Clubhouse Pub, with its excellent pub fare, and the Ugadale's Kintyre Club restaurant, which offers some of Scotland's best seafood and steaks. Golfers who like to sample the local nightlife will probably opt for The Royal Hotel, which is situated on nearby Campbeltown Harbour.


Also affiliated with The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, The Royal's stylish rooms all offer harbour views, while its Black Sheep Pub and Harbourview Grille restaurant are favourites with locals and visitors alike. Like the two nearby courses, these twin hotels are top-drawer all the way. Machrihanish Dunes offers stay-and- play specials throughout the year – and guests of the resort's hotels and cottages enjoy discounted green fees at both Machrihanish Dunes and Machrihanish Golf Club.

There's a full slate of open events, as well, including the Campbeltown Open and Ladies Campbeltown Open, slated for 30 June-1 July. Whether you arrive via car, via LoganAir from Glasgow, or via CalMac ferry from Ardrossan, you'll find a very warm welcome awaiting you in Machrihanish. Along with two links courses that share not just a name but a pedigree. They're world-beaters both.

The Royal Hotel 

Want to find out more? 

t: 0800 151 3701