By Cameron Reid
Vice President, Sales & Operations
The Machrie on the Island of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland, had always been a favorite of mine having visited it many times since the 1990’s. Islay is famous as the source of world class malt whisky due to its heavily peat soil which creates a very distinctive flavor of whisky. The golf course was as traditional a Scottish links as you could find with as many as 8 blind tee shots and 8 blind approaches, a throwback to a different era. You had to play it on several occasions to learn the correct lines and how to play in the different conditions that face you. It wasn’t a long course but it didn’t need to be, however you had to find the fairway and that is where the difficulty lay. It was a special place to play golf, the feeling of isolation, just you versus the course and the elements. It was however not for everyone, you could say the course was too hard even for the average player, the blind shots combined with rough so thick you rarely found a ball that missed the fairway.
By the 1990’s the hotel was rundown, in need of significant refurbishment and had struggled financially for a number of years. In 2011 the Machrie once again fell into liquidation. It was subsequently bought by Gavyn Davies, the former Chairman of the BBC, together with his wife Baroness Sue Nye who was ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s former Downing Street gatekeeper, and it lay dormant for several years.
Eventually the owners created their vision for the Machrie and work began. I have been following the renovations on social media it was with great anticipation to finally see to the “new” Machrie. Visiting on a glorious October weekend, any fears the character and solitude of the golf course would be lost were quickly put to rest. The redesign is truly excellent, moving a number of holes through different dunes and playing to seven existing green locations but in a different way. Occasionally using higher ground for improved views and hole routing but with increased playability for the modern game. The course retains many of the links characteristics it was famous for but now vastly improved that will see it climb the rankings for sure. It is a course which if it was on the Scottish mainland would be very highly regarded…it is truly a hidden gem. DJ Russell was the course architect who rebuilt the Machrie. Previously, his most recognized design was Archerfield, near Muirfield in East Lothian.
The 47-bedroom hotel with spa is now open having retained a small portion of the original structure as part of the new facility. It sits in a great location overlooking the 18th green. Rooms are modern, spacious, light and airy. The upstairs lounges and restaurant have stunning views over the course to the sea. A 6 hole “wee course”, short game area and putting green make up the resort facilities. Be sure to fit in time to visit one of Islay’s famous whisky distilleries to cap off a truly memorable experience.