Machrihanish Dunes, Scotland
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Machrihanish Dunes
PA28 6NU
ArchitectDavid McLay Kidd
Head Professional/Director of GolfNone
Telephone+44 (0) 1586 810000
LocationBefore entering Campbeltown, turn right off the A83 at sign for 'MOD'
Websites Golf Club Website
Club Secretary/ ManagerKevin Lewis

Visit for a golf holiday at Machrihanish Dunes


Exactly 130 years after Old Tom Morris journeyed from St Andrews in 1879 to the southernmost tip of the Kintyre peninsula, extending the world-famous Machrihanish course from 12 to 18 holes, a new golfing layout has emerged from the sand hills that lie just to the north of the venerable old links. 

The vision of Australian businessman Brian Keating, the property at Machrihanish Dunes extends to over 270 acres and, quite remarkably, only seven of these acres were disturbed by architect David McLay Kidd and associate Paul Kimber when they laid out the holes. 

Machrihanish Dunes sits within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (monitored by Scottish Natural Heritage) and because of constraints imposed to protect selected wetland areas and dune formations, the routing avoids a number excluded zones on the property leading, as a consequence, to several lengthy walks along grass paths between holes. 

Fairways have been mown but they are far from manicured because the use of fertilizers and installation of drainage or irrigation is forbidden. In fact, the fairways remain virtually untouched here so expect very few even lies on any of the holes as the heaving landform often rises and falls dramatically between tee and green – this is basic, no frills golf in as natural a setting as you could imagine. 

The club, after listening to golfers who complained about excessive blindness, long walks between holes, length of the rough and severity of the greens, decided in 2011 to carry out some remedial action to address these problems. Several tees were repositioned, new paths created and a program of rough management was undertaken. A number of bunkers were reshaped, and the large, hidden bunker on the par five 17th was removed. More importantly, half a dozen greens were altered (at holes 1, 2, 7, 12, 14 and 18) and the putting surface at the 8th hole repositioned 40 yards closer to the fairway.
The rough remains uncut (there are two roaming flocks of sheep to keep the grass down) and bunkers – some of which are absolutely enormous – are located in all sorts of unlikely places, having originally been formed by burrowing animals over the years. Greens are described in the course yardage guide as "audacious" but some may feel that they reflect, rather than complement, the testing topography of the site. 

The 392-yard 1st hole sets the tone for the round at Machrihanish Dunes. A downhill par four, it plays towards the dunes that front the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean and the blind approach to a hidden punchbowl green will be the first of many such shots to be played during the round. Hang onto your hats as this golfing roller coaster ride has another seventeen wild and wonderful holes to go. 

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This was my first visit to Machrahanish Dunes, and I have to say I really enjoyed the memorable experience! It is a great piece of rolling links land with many Swales and mounds to make you play different types of shot, and is ideal for chip-and-run approaches at the greens. The turf is beautiful to play on, and it felt like walking on a springy carpet at times. The day was not busy so I took my time to enjoy the day and the gorgeous scenery.

The 1st hole is a gentle dogleg opener of 260 yds. and I sent a blind 4 iron shot with hope in the direction of the green. My second shot required a good 9 iron which I played on to the correct level of the green for opening par. That got my mood set for the day. The putts were all tricky, and an interesting challenge, as the green surfaces follow the contours of this heaving links land. After a slog on the long par 5 3rd, I enjoyed the challenge of the shorter dogleg 4th. It is a truly lovely golf hole, and you have to find the fairway,which I did, running at an angle to your tee shot. The green is tucked away in a secluded dune, but I used a wedge to get the ball to within 6 feet for a great birdie. The par 3 5th and 6th are lovely holes too - one hitting towards the sea, and one away from the sea. No more than a 9 iron or perhaps a wedge is required here. A good drive on the 354 yd. 9th left me in the centre of the fairway, but facing a blind shot approach over a huge ridge. I played a strong 6 iron, which glanced the top of the ridge and went spinning forward to the fringe of the green, where I was relieved to make par for an outward 43.

Climbing to the top of the hill, you come to the 10th tee, which points downhill, giving a great view towards the entire coast, with Islay and Jura on the western horizon. The down hill tee shot is hit towards a lovely hidden punch bowl green, sheltered by a high dune, and here my chip and run shot luckily ended up 4ft. From the pin! The 11th -14th holes are strong, and take you south along the coast and offer plenty of challenge for straight driving,and accurate approaches. The bunkers are so natural looking, with their irregular shapes and long overhanging grasses. I only visited two, and got out of these ok. The par 5 16th is a long beast of 500 yds. running in an alley straight between two dune systems. It takes three good blows to reach the sloping green, and well done if you can get par - I took 6. I did not particularly like the closing two holes, as they cross confusing ground which is quirky to say the least, and difficult to judge because of lay up areas and blind ridges, but I stuck with it, although I bogeyed both for a closing 45 which gave me a round of 88. I left the course with a feeling of satisfaction, and having been challenged to play many different shots. I did enjoy the majority of this layout. I hope to return in the future to try and beat my score.
05 February 2016 See other reviews from this reviewer
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I finally made the journey to Argyle to take in the courses at Machrihanish. I can only think with the development of The Dunes it can only enhance the golfing landscape in the area. Taking in the two courses at Machrihanish and add in Dunaverty, a fun course just down the road makes the pilgrimage to this remote part of Scotland well worth it. We had a fantastic welcome from everyone at The Dunes, the American influence and feel to the place was what you would expect. We stayed and patronized many of their properties in the area. I would certainly recommend staying in any of their Hotels.

On to the course itself. Thankfully Peter the Starter gave us instructions on how to play certain holes which was much needed. The 1st, a gentle start once you’ve got the right line off the tee, but the green gives you a taste of what’s to come. Having played a few David McLay Kidd courses you can see straight away his designs. I’m aware some of his green structures are not admired by some, but at The Dunes, while tough they were playable.

Holes 2, a Par 4 and hole 3 Par 5 require strong drives to set up chances of scoring well. Hole 4 is a quirky short Par 4 which is drivable. You can see this hole being designed 130 years ago and quite refreshing to see one being built today. Unusually you have two Par 3’s back to back on Holes 5 & 6. Both tee shots need to be struck well to the sensible parts of the green. Being a little brave could cost you.

Good holes remain for the rest of the front 9 with a very long challenging Par 5 on hole 8. Back 9 starts with an elevated tee shot followed by blind green, depending where you hit your tee shot of course. It is from this tee that you get a feel of the rugged landscape and how the course simply fits in. If you were to criticize, I won’t, but comment was made of the odd long walk from green to tee. Hole 11 to 12 was one such walk but not a problem to me. You do have a chance to catch your breath before commencing the challenge of the later holes, after all what’s the rush, this place is to be enjoyed.

The course continues to impress throughout the closing stretch and finishes with 2 of my favourite holes on 17 & 18. Both require strong tee shots and equally good approach shots.

This place will only improve with age when conditioning and a few tweaks here and there take effect.

Overall we came away wanting to play it again sometime soon. I loved to natural rustic approach to the layout, how golf was meant to be many many generations ago. Marty Brown
29 July 2015 See other reviews from this reviewer
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This is the first completely new links course to be built on the west coast of Scotland for a century and it is the first ever course to be allowed to be built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Only seven of two hundred and seventy nine acres were given over to the design team for preparation other than being left to nature.

The course had to be set back ten metres from the top dune ridge and they were pretty much told where they could site tees and greens. Herein lies the first problem – there are very long walks from green to tee on many of the holes, especially on the front nine.

The round commences with a cracking opening par four that runs downhill and straight toward the sea and a receptive green that nestles amongst the dunes. There are some very good holes to follow with the 2nd, 6th, 7th, 14th and 15th being alongside the sea from where you look out to the islands of Gigha, Islay and Jura.

For me, the real fun part of the course was in the furthermost southern corner, starting with the driveable par four 13th, which requires a long fade into the bowl shaped green. The two consecutive par threes which follow are an enjoyable challenge with the wind coming off the adjacent shoreline making shot selection tricky.

This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
08 April 2015 See other reviews from this reviewer
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Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course - Photo by reviewerAn R&A member once said “this is another example of David Kidd ruining a golf course”. This golf course is a slog and too extreme for the majority of golfers. If you’re not a single digit player, I wouldn’t rush here. A parade of Elephants is buried under every fairway and green. You’ll stand on tee-boxes and not have a clue where to hit the ball which gets frustrating as you can’t even see fairways or landing areas. Too many blind shots and a very difficult walk due to the punishing terrain.
19 June 2014 See other reviews from this reviewer
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Chance Balkmeyer25 March 2015
I totally disagree with these characterizations of Machrihanish Dunes. This course is an absolute delight. No, it isn't flat and featureless and easy. It is a TRUE links, with all the requisite quirks that makes links golf so delightful. The greens are FUN. The blind shots add mystery. The walk is one of the most beautiful on any Scottish course. If you're looking for an easy walk or lazy buggie ride around an ordinary course, go elsewhere. But if you're ready to embrace the real virtues of links golf at its best, you must play here. I would rate it in the top 5 links courses I have ever played, and I have played more than 100 of the world's links courses. Whichever R&A member made that statement should have his membership revoked. Take a caddie, play the proper tees for your handicap and you will have the best time you've ever had on a golf course. One further note -- I played the course last weekend (mid-March 2015) and it is in superb shape for this early in the year. The greens were double-cut and rolled very true. The rough was very manageable (and I was in it fairly often!) and for this time of year, the course was quite dry, as well. Expect great conditions if you go there this spring or summer.
Crawford Kilpatrick11 November 2015
I assume someone has had a bad round. This review couldn't be further from the truth. A wonderful course in an outstanding area of natural beauty, tough but rewarding and maturing into one of the best courses in Scotland. A must play in my opinion.
Hugh12 November 2015
Surely everyone is entitled to an opinion? Mach Dunes is like Marmite and I don’t like either product.
Having played Machrihanish and Dunaverty several times I really look forward to getting the chance to get onto Kintyre to play golf whenever I can, with this in mind I was very excited to make my first trip to Machrihanish Dunes today. The weather was looking pretty poor with heavy rain and string winds, but undeterred we set off from Arran and made the drive down. A on arrival we were warmly greeted and told we could tee off early if we like, a quick putt later and we were on the 10th tee ready to begin in a howling North Easterly wind. Right from the off I was in love with the course, each hole was consistently great, with some massive contours on fairways and greens only adding to the occasion. I really enjoyed all the par threes, especially the 14th and 15th, of the longer holes I thought the 17th, 1st and 8th stood out but the rest were of a very high standard. It probably clouds my judgement that my scratch score was only +5 but I think I might actually prefer the dunes to the old course, but to be sure I'll just need to play them both a few more times to be sure!
18 October 2013 See other reviews from this reviewer
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Philip Horemans08 May 2014
Mahchrihanish Dunes did not deliver up to my expectations. The scenery is great, the hospitality is warm, but the course is not in a good condition. Especially the greens were in a real bad shape. No consistency at all between the greens, too long grass or grass mats, brown spots, areas with no grass. normal putting was not possible at all. on top of that a difficult pin position, which makes a normal 2-putt rather exceptional than normal, which can't be the objective. perhaps in 5 years time, this will change. The potential is there, but far off the level of the Championship neighbour.
Four years after I first played here, I returned yesterday to see if the course had fulfilled the early promise it had undoubtedly shown back in October 2009. I suppose the fact that it now sits high in the Scottish Top 100 rankings AND it has entered the Top 100 listings for GB&I tells its own story. Nonetheless, I wanted to see for myself just how well the place had matured and Machrihanish Dunes certainly didn’t disappoint in any shape or form. Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course - Photo by reviewerIndeed, the course was, if anything, even more impressive this visit. Like last time, my notes made reference to the thrilling 8th, one of the more heroic holes on the layout, which is as difficult to play today as it was in its previous, slightly longer incarnation. And the short par four 13th, which has one of the most imaginative greens I’ve ever come across, is still an absolute delight to play. Those for me were again the highlight holes on the two nines but there were plenty of other memorable aspects of the layout to be savoured: the downhill opener (played blind to a punchbowl green), the tiny putting surface on the short third hole (which is nigh impossible to hit and hold) and the wonderfully taxing closing three hole stretch (where net pars come at an absolute premium). I did notice there’s still no Standard Scratch Score indicated for the five tee positions on the scorecard. Is that an oversight I wonder? Or maybe the club doesn’t want to unduly alarm visitors; although Mach Dunes is a beauty, I suspect it can also be a bit of a beast! In yesterday’s blustery wind, it’s an animal that I didn’t tame this time around but I sincerely hope I don’t wait another four years to play it again. Jim McCann.
30 September 2013 See other reviews from this reviewer
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Played the Dunes course 3 times over 4 days, in combination with the nearby Machrihanish Golf Club. The first round was in heavy rain and wind and it was frankly too difficult to enjoy. And for some reason we decided to play from the white tees. But the next day the sun came out, the wind died down to a stiff breeze and we moved to the yellow tees. Then the Dunes was a joy to play. Tiny teeing areas are the only flat areas on the course, the undulations are sometimes enormous making a trolley sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. But the course is spectacular, the views are stunning and the greens entertaining (small, often blind approach and huge breaks). Downsides are the rather ugly buildings on the adjoining airfield and the remote location. You need a car or to take the shuttle bus from Machrihanish Village to get there. But overall well worth the effort and the combination with the "old course" is perfect.
26 September 2013 See other reviews from this reviewer
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Great fun and very testing. A long drive to get to from Glasgow, but well worth the journey. The course design is as you might expect of a course 100 years ago, with large irregular bunkers, some blind shots and few flat lies. Lots of wildlife and natural fauna. Much of the course was brown, and very fast, from the recent dry weather, which accentuated the experience. Clubhouse a little basic yet staff friendly and eager to please. A truly great day out!
23 July 2013 See other reviews from this reviewer
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While on a 10 day trip to Ireland and Scotland in July 2011, we took a boat from Northern Ireland over to the Mull of Kintyre. The first round played there was Machrihanish in the morning, and we headed to Machrihanish Dunes for an afternoon outing. The weather was perfect, but we were in a 15 to 20 mph wind the whole round. You would have to see this course to believe it. It looks like the surface of Mars, except it is beautiful. The whole property tosses and turns wildly, iincluding the greens. Some of the greens are struggling to survive as the ocean spray apparently is killing the grass, but they say there is a plan in place to correct it. The most extreme green was coined by our group as a double helix, which was very appropriate. The views are spectacular, blind shots prevail, and well struck shots can end up in bad places. This resulted in a spirited yet comical discussion with the caddie on one hole, but some of these fairways are almost impossible to hit. But if you will just take it for what it is, an all natural piece of terrain with a golf course on top of it, you can have a great afternoon like we did. No one shot their lowest round, but we were all glad we were there that day. On the last hole, I struck a good drive, which landed in the fairway and then turned and rolled backward down the dune. This could be despised by some, but we just laughed it off. If you are at Machrihanish, you definitely should take in the Dunes course, and just flow with it. Our van driver told us that few had played both in one day and survived. We survived, and will always remember the Mach's.
21 August 2011 See other reviews from this reviewer
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We played this course a couple of times last week and absolutely loved it even despite the rain on the second time out. It's not easy and the high number of blind shots combined with fairways like a rumpled duvet make keeping your ball out of the rough very problematic. Hats off to the previous poster who kept the same ball all the way round. The course is exhilarating, remote, echoing to the crash of the waves on the beach and the cry of oystercatchers and curlews. The rough is a mass of yellow, purple and white wildflowers and an absolute picture. The greens, despite one or two having problems settling down, are great fun. The bunkers are all natural and, though in fairly random locations are visually stunning. The whole course is natural, wild and memorable. If you want a pristine parkland course forget it. If you want a round unlike anything you've experienced before you've got to play it. Enjoy.
24 July 2011 See other reviews from this reviewer
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