The Machrie Links Course Review

When renovation work at the ruggedly natural Machrie inks went beyond the original remit, the result was a truly breath-taking transformation

The Machrie Golf Links
Photo: © Phil Inglis
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

When renovation work at the ruggedly natural Machrie links went beyond the original remit, the result was a truly breath-taking transformation

The Machrie Links Course Review

Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 - 52

Previous Rankings 2019/20 - 90 2011/12 - 95 2009/10 - 89

Summer Green Fees

Round: £130wd, £160we

Visitor Times: No restrictions on tee times

Medal Tee: Par 72 – 6,309 Yards.

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The Machrie Links Course Review

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 attention.

Related: Top 100 Courses UK and Ireland

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.

The Machrie Golf Links

Make the most of your visit to Islay with a stay at The Machrie's hotel (Photo: © Phil Inglis)
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

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.

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.

The Machrie Golf Links

Several holes play close to the beach (Photo: © Phil Inglis)
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

A dream setting

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.

The Machrie Golf Links

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

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.

Assessor Feedback

The sound of the sea waves is an almost constant companion, with the really good views starting from the 3rd tee. The one from the 9th, where you tee off directly towards the sea, takes some beating.

Wild and desolate, The Machrie is a wonderful modern interpretation of the classic links game.

GM Verdict

When renovation work at this ruggedly natural Islay links went beyond the original remit, the result was a truly breath-taking transformation.


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 across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...

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