The Machrie Islay.

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Jacko_G

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Jul 13, 2015
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After a few years of anticipation I finally made it over to play the "new" Machrie Links on Islay. Firstly I have to admit I was a HUGE fan of the original Willie Campbell layout, blind shots, putting over and through massive swales in the greens, playing over 60 foot dunes to hidden fairways and greens, there was something historical and magical about it all to me, all made from the land with next to no earth moving. The course evolved from the natural land.

There seems to be two distinct camps with the new DJ Russell designed Machrie. The "old school" don't approve and are quite vocal in their criticism of the layout. The "new school" love the layout, the playability and the challenge of the layout. Myself, I am still undecided and sit firmly in no mans land at this time. That may sound like a cop out so I best explain.

Did I enjoy the course? 100% yes, it is absolutely fabulous. It is a brilliant layout and test of golf. The fairways are generous and while they still need more time to bed in they are generous and fast running. The greens are outstanding, genuinely amongst the best surfaces that I have had the pleasure of putting on in a good number of years. True and slick, what more can you ask for. So why am I sitting on the fence when I admit to having loved The Machrie and also have to admit I like what DJ Russell has done and achieved? Well, for me I feel that a few changes have been made for the "sake of change". For example, I don't think the first works. Its played to the same green site as the original opening hole but it's played from another direction and it just didn't "work". I find it hard to explain it further than that so its possibly just a personal thing. I also feel that other holes have been changed/altered and question have they been improved? Yes they are still good holes but what has been achieved? Maybe someone more educated, or with a greater understanding of course architecture could explain it to me and I'd see the reasoning better. I have to mention the par 3 14th as well as I really just couldn't take to this hole, it feels so out of place and doesn't "fit in". Again I accept that it could just be personal and others may love it. The 17th, well that hole was the original marmite hole. The new 17th, personally I think its dreadful. Sorry Machrie, just didn't get it and much preferred the original creation.


Anyway, enough of the negatives as this course has so many more positives than negatives. I think they have greatly improved the 4th hole, its fairer and not as severe an uphill approach, the 5th is a tremendous hole and while we now don't hit over "The Maiden" what has been done is very good. The 8th is a good hole and while I enjoyed playing it, it is one that has me thinking, is it better than the previous hole along the shore? I think the 18th is a brilliant finishing hole and its a better finishing hole than the previous Machrie had.

I have to mention the staff at the hotel as they are simply superb. Genuinely world class staff and a great credit to the place, they couldn't do enough for you and were so polite and attentive. The pro shop staff were also excellent, extremely helpful and great banter. The facilities themselves are WOW!!!

Obviously these are just my views and I would like to hear what others think, I know Dave and IanG played at the weekend so maybe they'll disagree.

Will I be back? Absolutely I can't wait to go back.
 

IanG

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Jan 29, 2013
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North Berwick
Just back from a trip West which included a few days in Islay. The entry to the 36 hole open includes the possibility of a practice round on the Friday so we arrived at our (fabulous) self-catering accommodation on the Tuesday just as the weather got really nice. I played a solo round on Friday morning behind a visiting 4 ball so had plenty of time to savour the new design, the surroundings and the sunshine (and yes they did offer to let me through on the 2nd hole but I declined).

I too had played the old layout twice about 10 years ago and have very strong memories of enjoying it a lot, but less clear detailed memories of many of the holes. I do remember many of the green sites were very natural and flowed from the fairway beautifully (in the same way as Elie for those who know that course.) There were a lot of blind shots, but that only jarred on the first play, and by the second play it bothered me not a jot. The dunes are large and they didn't have machinery in them days to move things - play the course as you find it. The old girl set a high bar and I was a little nervous they might have 'ruined' a lovely old beauty.

To cut to the chase I thoroughly enjoyed all three rounds on the new course. It sets a fair and modern test while remaining true to the spirit of the site. It is eminently playable with wide fairways in the main and lots of interesting green sites nestled in the dunes. We played it in winds in different directions and that changed the nature of the challenge on many of the holes (as it should do). Greens were quick and smooth with some tricky pin positions which rewarded good lag putting (something I managed on practice day and failed miserably at on the competition days). I have little or nothing negative to say about the course, it could do with a bit more growing in but that will come. So a really great course deserving of its place on the top 100 list. Through my rose tinted spectacles however I’m still beguiled by fuzzy memories of the old layout and the new one didn’t stir me in quite that way.

As mentioned above, the locals, while acknowledging that the Hotel (who are owners of the course) have been very good to the golf club, are split on the re-design. Some of the older guys feel it is too long with some forced carries which have made it hard for them to compete in medals. There are a few carries off the Blue tees (6300 yard) which the Open is played off where when the wind was in your face the shorter players would struggle. The case for gender neutral tees ( which they have – no mention of ladies tees there – just red ones) gets stronger by the month. The economic reality is that without the new investment from the new owners the old Machrie would be struggling by now instead of being on the up.

Following on to the comments on the course from Jacko. I know what he means about the 1stnot being a standout hole – but it offers a benign start to the round (a bit like TOC and North Berwick ) and I kind of liked that. I really liked the stretch to and along the coast from 5thto 8th. The holes used interesting land contours to force you to work your way around the course. There is some good fairways bunkering to get your attention too. After the turn the holes move inland and for me a highlight was the “drivable” par 4 12thwhich is a delightful risk-reward hole. The green is small and has plenty of slope so short-side yourself and getting par is a challenge. The par 3 14thI thought was ok, but nothing special – just don’t miss right as I did on day 1 – the up and down is a toughie.

The 17thI actually enjoyed, once you know what the landing area looks like it is a nice shape for a slicer like me! 18 is a good strong par 5 with a challenging green site so even if you lay up the 3rdshot is no picnic.

I can only reinforce what Jacko said about the hotel and the staff - all first rate, friendly and very helpful – first rate.

All in all a fantastic weekend and I’d recommend it to everyone. My wife tagged along and had such a great time on the rest of the island that apparently we’re going back. Here are some pics. IMG_0436small.jpg IMG_0433small.jpg IMG_0431small.jpg IMG_0428small.jpg IMG_0426small.jpg IMG_0425small.jpg IMG_0423small.jpg IMG_0422small.jpg IMG_0421small.jpg IMG_0416small.jpg
 
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Jacko_G

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Jul 13, 2015
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Where did those clouds come from?

My heid is like a beetroot!

Fantastic weekend. I made buffer on Sunday but putted dreadfully for two days. Two trebles on Sunday is a tale of what could/should have been.

Glad you enjoyed it.
 

Liverbirdie

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Jul 14, 2011
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liverpool
Good write up, chaps.

Deffo gonna try and get up there next year and do the Machs, as well.

Me and gary from Derry were considering getting over there this year, and I found out that there is a little 12 seater passenger ferry that goes to Islay from NI, which would have helped him.

Is there only one ferry per day from the mainland?
 
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