The Machrie Links: Golf Course Review, Green Fees, Tee Times and Key Info

Renovation work at the ruggedly natural Machrie Links on Islay went beyond the original remit to create a breath-taking transformation

The Machrie Golf Links
The rollercoaster landscape of the reinvented links at The Machrie on Islay
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

Top 100 Courses UK & Ireland 2023/24

(Image credit: Future)

The Machrie Golf Links Key Information

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Header Cell - Column 0 Header Cell - Column 1
AddressPort Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7AN.
Phone Number+44 (0)1496 302310
Websitethemachrie.com/
Emailreservations@themachrie.com
Green Fees£180 per round April to Oct; £115 hotel residents
Visitor TimesNo stated restrictions - green fee includes use of the Wee course
ParMen: 72 black, blue, white; Ladies: 72 white, yellow
Slope RatingMen: 136 black, 126 blue, 120 white; Ladies: 132 white, 122 yellow
Opened1891
Designed byWillie Campbell, DJ Russell
Golf Monthly Verdict

The Machrie Golf Links

(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

The Machrie is a wonderful modern interpretation of the classic links game. The sound of the sea waves is an almost constant companion, with the most stunning of the sea views starting from the 3rd tee. The one from the 9th, where you tee off directly towards the sea, takes some beating.

It is simply a magnificent place to play, and thought-provoking too, with several strategic choices to be made as you make your way round. Magical green settings abound, with the 2nd, wedged between river and beach, standing out.

REASONS TO PLAY THE MACHRIE LINKS

- Simply getting to Islay, whether by air or sea, makes it an adventure

- An amazing assault on your visual senses pretty much from start to finish

- There may only be one golf course on Islay, but a disproportionate number of distilleries for whisky lovers

RANKINGS

UK & Ireland Top 100 Golf Courses 2023/24 - 52

Golf on whisky-rich Islay in the Inner Hebrides dates back to Willie Campbell’s original Machrie Links in 1891. This had long been a highly regarded golfing outpost in UK&I golfing circles. But it is the recent developments here that have been attracting ever-more worldwide acclaim for what remains the only island course in our Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland rankings.

Tour pro, DJ Russell, was initially tasked with making a few tweaks, but the term “a few tweaks” soon took on a whole new meaning. The project gradually expanded into a wholesale upgrading of this famous links on the island’s west coast along with a major redevelopment of the hotel into a first-rate 47-room facility.

Yes, just three greens remain from The Machrie’s previous incarnation, which may grate with some purists. But DJ’s new masterpiece plays over a rumpled, landscape of unending drama with several front-nine tees set right beside the beach. No wonder it sits right at the top of most people's lists of the best island courses in the UK&I.

It is quite simply a magnificent place to play golf, and thought-provoking too, with several strategic choices to be made as you make your way round. Magical green settings abound, with the 2nd, wedged between river and beach, standing out along with the gorgeous, short par-3 9th with its ocean backdrop.

And those purists will be relieved to learn that just enough blind or semi-blind shots remain – one of the original course’s trademarks - most notably on the approach to the clever risk-reward 7th along the shore.

Add in a fine short-game area, the superb six-hole Wee course and three putting greens, including the 4,500m2 rollercoaster ‘Hebrides’ creation (think Himalayas at St Andrews) and you now have one excellent golf facility worth the trek to Islay alone even without the allure of the many distilleries.

If you’ve not been to The Machrie for some time, it’s time to take another look. If you’ve never been, just go.

The Machrie Golf Links

Only three greens remain from the original links (Photo: © Phil Inglis)
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

What The Top 100 Panel Said

Gordon Ross UK&I Top 100 panel
Gordon Ross

The Machrie presents a wonderful fun challenge in a fabulous setting. The course is very playable for people of all abilities if you select the appropriate set of tees. The fairways are very generous despite looking quite tight from the tee, a very good optical illusion. It took me hours to get there and I didn’t want to leave!

Sheila Diamond UK&I Top 100 panel
Sheila Diamond

The old course was infamous for having 17 blind holes. However, the new DJ Russell 2020 redesign retains three or four blind shots (depending on your height), which adds to the challenge and excitement. The natural beauty of the dunes and mountains behind, accompanied by the sound and view of the waves on the beach, makes for an extremely enjoyable round. A real oasis of beauty.

The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links location

The Machrie Golf Links Green Fees

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Row 0 - Cell 0 VisitorHotel resident
April to October - 2023 - round£180£115
April to October - 2023 - day£250£170
Golf breaksRow 3 - Cell 1 Row 3 - Cell 2
Winter - 2 nights, 3 roundsfrom £147.50pppnRow 4 - Cell 2
Summer - 2 nights, unlimited golffrom £225pppnRow 5 - Cell 2

Enquire about a booking at The Machrie

The Machrie Links scorecard

The Machrie scorecard

(Image credit: The Machrie)

Best Courses Near The Machrie Links

MACHRIHANISH

MACHRIHANISH
There are no other courses on Islay but you won’t be disappointed by this Old Tom Morris classic on Kintyre in a remote corner of Argyll. The front-nine links terrain ranks among the purest you’ll encounter, with the exhilarating run from the 3rd to the turn accompanied by captivating views out to the Inner Hebrides. A perfect example of fitting a golf course into the natural terrain.

MACHRIHANISH DUNES

MACHRIHANISH DUNES
David McLay Kidd designs have a reputation for ‘interesting’ green complexes and there’s plenty of those from the off here, although some have been considerably softened, just as they have at the Castle Course in St Andrews, another McLay Kidd design. Like the Castle Course, the Dunes has a magical setting; unlike the Castle Course, very little earth was moved to create this mind-blowing links arena.

Best Places To Stay Near The Machrie

Machrie Hotel & Golf Links -  Book now at Booking.com
The Machrie, just outside Port Ellen, has its own excellent four-star hotel. Each room has a desk minibar, safe, flat-screen TV and private bathroom fitted with a shower and free toiletries. Many bathrooms also have a bath. The hotel restaurant and bar are available for lunch and dinner, serving a variety of Scottish and British dishes. Afternoon tea is also served in the Stag or Courtyard Lounge.

The Trout Fly Guest House, Port Ellen - Book now at Booking.com
The Trout Fly Guest House lies in the centre of Port Ellen, minutes from the ferry terminal and just three miles from the airport. There is a resident's lounge for you to relax in with a TV and tea/coffee making facilities plus free WiFi throughout. The local distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg are close by as is the local RSPB reserve.

The Machrie Links Gallery

THE MACHRIE LINKS HISTORICAL TOP 100 RANKING UK&I

  • 2023/24 - 52
  • 2021/22 - 52
  • 2019/20 - 90
  • 2011/12 - 95
  • 2009/10 - 89

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is The Machrie Golf Links?

The Machrie lies on the western side of the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, close to the island's airport. There are daily flights to Islay from Glasgow with Loganair that take 25 minutes. Or you can take the ferry from Kennacraig on Kintyre into either Port Ellen in the south or Port Askaig further north, from where you can also get a short ferry crossing to Jura.

How many golf courses are there on Islay?

Sadly, just one these days at The Machrie. There were several more in the past, among them a nine-hole course at Gartmain in Bowmore, which closed shortly before World War II. There was also a course at Uisguintuie, which closed in the 1920s, as well as courses at Gesgeir, Kilnaughton and Scanistle. There is now a very high-end golf course at Ardfin on the neighbouring island of Jura, which opened in 2015.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response