Sheep on the 14th green

by LINKS75 on August 27, 2013

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One hundred and twenty years ago, at the time of the development of rail travel, Old Tom designed links courses one after the other all along the Scottish coast. Nature itself was permitted to form the game’s challenges and enjoyment. Over the years these links courses have become what they are today – wind, sand, rain, the sea and thousands upon thousands of footsteps and strokes have continued to form these settings for the game of golf. The only thing not visible is the enjoyment. David McLay Kidd spent his childhood summers with his grandparents in Machrihanish and in 2006 was asked to lay out Machrihanish Dunes in the same way as Old Tom. Today it is one of the most authentic, archetypal courses you will see. What it will look like in 100 years remains to be seen. Fairways and greens follow the landscape. Bunkers have been dug out of sand dunes where the rabbits have already been at work.

In the suitably designed clubhouse cottage the locker room is of extremely modern vintage divided between men and women. The course has 5 tee placements and full of confidence we choose the white ones. The Starter tells half the history of Kintyre and the modern fairy-tale that is the incredible £300 million that has been invested in the course and nearby hotel before indicating 300 yards up a slope to the first tee. An important piece of advice – there is an arrow marked in the ground that indicates the direction of each hole.

Find your way at Machdunes

Find your way at Machdunes

What have we in store in front of us? The 1st tee – a par 4 has a marker post, and a long, undulating fairway down into a dip. LINKS75 tees off and the white gold makes its own way inspired by nature. An approach towards another marker post and a naturally- contoured green well-hidden behind sand dunes – birdie. The course completes the treble – the missing link between Royal West Norfolk and Trump International. To play here at the end of our journey is like a summation of all our love and appreciation for the ground between the land and the sea – the pleasure is indescribable. We move on over the links landscape where there is hardly a flat surface. LINKS75 ends up in new positions with every stroke. The greens are incredibly undulating – sometimes near impossible to play as our white gold bounces and rolls unhindered, as if it was out grazing. In front of us a group from Ljunghusen are playing in traditional plus-fours. For ourselves we prefer the Johnny Miller-of the late 70s . The first nine – closest to the sea are a test of endurance and skill even though it’s totally calm. Oh to experience driving rain and a howling sea. We take on board new energy from the links gods and our refreshments before with bold steps we play though our compatriots, who retire for a quick Guinness before the last nine. We go out on a new adventure – the homeward nine plays inside the opening nine and there is more of a marshland character to some holes, but they all have the same bubbly fairways and greens creating challenges and enjoyment. Suddenly we find ourselves on the 13th tee, a 253-yard par 4 and land our balls on the green – but what a green! – parallel parked by nature between two imposing sand dunes. Unique, classic links does not begin to describe it.

13th green, Machdunes

13th green, Machdunes

With a birdie and a smile like the Joker in Batman, we climb up to the 14th tee – a par 3 – and a view across the sea. On the green, a photo-shoot for Visit Scotland is on-going with 20 well-behaved black sheep in a classic links grouping in the background. Fashion! Shoot! Play! – the sheep are led off the green and LINKS75 lands its white gold next to the flag just like on TV – birdie. With a repressed need for more classic links we follow our white gold and bounce onto the 18th green – a unique experience.

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