Golf has been played at The Machrie since 1891, writes John Huggan. First conceived by Willie Campbell, the course was famous, some might say infamous, for the number of “blind” shots incorporated into the design.
More than perhaps any other course in the world, The Machrie needed knowing.
All of which contributed hugely to the charm and challenge of the original 6,254-yard lay-out.
Creativity, shot-making, imagination and feel for distance were the golfer’s biggest assets. Sheer power had its occasional place, but golf at The Machrie was more about subtlety than strength.
In that respect, nothing has changed. At The “new” Machrie, course architect DJ Russell has maintained the need for artistry amid the inherent randomness that is such a diverting feature of all seaside golf.
The blind shots remain too. But with a twist. On almost every hole, the ideally placed tee shot will now allow the golfer an unimpeded view to the green and the flag. But anything less than perfection will see that advantage removed.
“If you are out of position off the tee, only an exceptional shot will have a chance to finish near the hole,” says Russell.
So The Machrie we play today is one that combines the best of both worlds. Highlighting width, strategy, firm greens and short grass, the course allows players of all standards to fully express themselves and have fun.
The broad fairways encourage thought and decision-making in order to identify the most advantageous routes to the greens. You, rather than some faceless committee member, can determine how best to play each hole. Choices are everywhere. (One piece of advice: Only occasionally does the middle of the fairway represent the ideal spot).
More often than not, a missed green also brings a multitude of chipping choices and challenges. Here and there, it is even possible to putt from as much as 100 yards off the green.
“The Machrie is a wonderfully natural piece of ground for golf,” continues Russell. “These days, too much of golf is played through the air. But here it’s very different. Most of the game is played on the ground, or at least with the ball low to the turf. It is a throwback to how the game used to be. It’s not the ‘crash-bang-wallop’ stuff we see so much of these days. Some people will no doubt argue that is ‘old-fashioned’. And it is, but only in the best sense of the word. It’s a more skilful form of golf.”
In other words, and in every sense, The Machrie is a proper links. But one with an atmosphere and aura all its own. The rich solitude of the place is a beautiful thing and just one more aspect of the overall course experience that will never change.
Enjoy your game.
With thanks to John Huggan