One of modern golf’s most natural courses, Machrihanish Dunes was the first built anywhere in Europe on a site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI). This SSSI designation prevented large-scale earthworks on the property, and forced designer David McLay Kidd to build the course in the old-fashioned manner. Native grasses were simply mown shorter over a period of time to create fairways and minimal shaping was done to build the tees and greens. All told, only 7 of the available 259 acres were disturbed during construction.
As a result of this truly minimalistic approach to design, the entire course at Machrihanish Dunes feels both natural and antique. It also feels slightly compromised for the fact that a couple of pristine dune areas were unable to be incorporated into the routing. While not a criticism of Kidd’s design, some of the walks are uncomfortably long and through divine areas that would have made for superb golf.
On the positive side, most of the layout flows beautifully from hole to hole and the general design philosophy and aesthetic ambience is quite charming. Set amongst the same stretch of duneland as the wonderful old Machrihanish links, the course enjoys views over the Kintyre coastline and is a genuine pleasure for those who love their golf raw and adventurous. Beyond a handful of terrific dell green sites and genuine high-quality half-par holes, the most pleasing aspect of Mach Dunes is the manner in which this sensitive site has been carefully managed since opening. The cutting back of native roughs and the softening of a number of problematic green contours has further improved a course that was never going to perfect on day one. Those who dismissed it early for a lack of playability might be surprised just how fun the links has become.
Given its modest green fee, superb accommodation, improved conditioning and romantic Kintyre Peninsula location, Machrihanish Dunes comes highly recommended and should be an automatic addition to the itinerary of anyone travelling here to play the Old Tom Morris links next door.