The team behind the stunning Machrihanish Dunes course are planning a new multi-million pound links course on the west coast of Scotland.
The Ayrshire golf company has held negotiations with the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company to build a new 18-hole course with hotel and holiday homes next to Dundonald at Western Gailes. Work on the par-71 course, which will be known as The Ayrshire, should start this year once final planning permission has been granted.
The £60million project will be overseen by the same team who were responsible for Machrihanish Dunes. "The project is very exciting, it's the newest links course on the west coast of Scotland," said Brian Keating, director of The Ayrshire and founder/developer of Machrihanish Dunes.
"We see the project as a bookend to Turnberry. One of the most exciting things for me is that it is in Ayrshire. A lot of people forget that while St Andrews is the spiritual soul of golf Ayrshire is definitely the heart of golf.
"It's where the Open started and it's close to Prestwick Airport which brings in hundreds of thousands of European golfers every year to play in Scotland."
At Machrihanish Dunes developers worked closely with ecologists and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to ensure the course caused as little environmental disturbance as possible.
The course was redesigned to avoid several rare plants and other sensitive wildlife while the greens were all cut and laid by hand. Even the rough is managed by a breed of rare Hebridean sheep instead of using a lawnmower.
"The Ayrshire site isn't as environmentally sensitive as Machrihanish Dunes but it will still be a major consideration." said Keating.
"We will redevelop the land, which has had an assortment of industrial uses, and try to take it back to how it probably looked 150 years ago.
"Looking after the environment is vital when you're building an authentic links course. We are the only people who have built a golf course on a SSSI site so you could say we are the most sensitive golf course developers in the country."
It will be a pay as you to play course, not just another private members course insist the developers who estimate around 25,000 rounds of golf a year will be played there and which will be of major benefit to nearby Irvine.
If the new course is anywhere near the quality of Machrihanish Dunes then the developers are on to another winner.
Scotsman David McLay Kidd, who designed Bandon Dunes in Oregon as well as the Castle Course at St Andrews, has excelled at Machrihanish, which measures 7,175 yards and features six greens and five tees at the Atlantic Ocean's edge.
McLay Kidd chose his 18 favourite holes to make up the routing for Machrihanish Dunes. "We followed the lie of the land and unlike most courses around the world, we did not lay out the course and make the land change with it, we designed each hole around the natural terrain," he said.
"For maintenance we will do a little mowing, but will mostly rely on the wandering sheep to keep the fescue in check - just like the old courses used to do. We are returning golf to how it should be played."
He's right. There are blind shots, short par fours, devilishly cunning par threes, tiered greens and terrifying sand hills...it's terrific, wonderful golf with breathtaking views of the sea, the Jura mountains, the Isle of Islay and the northern coast of Ireland.
The same can be said of the nearby Machrihanish Golf Club which arguably has the best opening drive in golf and golf really doesn't come much better than these two courses. Machrihanish was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1879 extending it from the then 12 hole course to a full 18 holes when new land was secured.
He moved the first hole to its current position and the driver over the beach and incoming tide is a real knee knocker....just how much do you bite off? It's worth playing the course for his hole alone, but there are plenty more delights to savour.
It's not just a predictable nine out, and nine back. The classic links holes are the 1st, 5th, with a fairway like an elephant's graveyard, the dogleg par 5, 10th and the par3 15th.
Accommodation and access to both courses may have been a problem in the past but the development of the oceanfront Ugadale Hotel and Cottages has changed that along with improving transport links.
The Ugadale Cottages have been designed to mirror the traditional buildings in western Scotland. Each two-bedroom cottage is fully furnished and finished to the highest standard and are available to rent or purchase in four weekly fractions, which will be made up from a week in each season.
Owners have full use of a cottage free of charge for those four weeks and those who do not wish to use their entire four weeks can lease some of their time back to the management company.
The Ugadale Hotel, which is on the same site as the cottages, is being revitalised and will include 23 suites of four-star standards along with a bar and seafood restaurant. The Royal Hotel in the centre of nearby Campbeltown is also being renovated and will also 23 suites and The Kintyre Grill and will re-open next year.
Golfers can fly into Campbeltown Airport from Glasgow and Prestwick and also arrive by fast ferry from Troon and Ballycastle (in Ireland), but if you prefer to take you time, the three-hour drive from Glasgow is a scenic delight.
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