Monday, December 13, 2010

The Machrie in Serious Financial Trouble

The Machrie Hotel and Golf Links has gone into administration it was announced to members of the Islay Golf Club last week. What that means, for my non-UK friends, according to the website,, is "When a company is in financial difficulty, it can be put into 'administration' which means control is passed over to a separate company – the administrators. They will assess whether the financial problems are serious, if they can help the firm get back on its feet, or they can decide to sell off the business (in whole or in parts) for assets, or completely close it down (this is called liquidation)."

For years, the Willie Campbell layout has been struggling for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that other than flying to Islay, which is off the Southwest coast of Scotland, the only way to get there is by a three-hour ferry ride. The golf course has always been in wonderful condition, the restaurant is fine, but the hotel is not up to a level that it needs to be to entice golfers. Since there are no other courses on Islay, it took dedicated players to make the trip, most of who combined it with an excursion to the Kintyre Peninsula to tee it up at Machrihanish Golf Club and, more recently, Machrihanish Dunes.

I played the Machrie last year with Machrihanish Dunes head greenkeeper Keith Martin and his first assistant Kevin, that's him hacking out of the rough. It is a remarkable true links layout that dates back to 1891 and one of my favorite courses in the world. Simon Freeman is the head greenkeeper there and he maintains some of the finest turf on which I have played, all without the aid of an irrigation system. Not a single head can be found on the 18 holes.

The course is somewhat changed from the original layout. In 1979, the farmer who leased the property on which a portion of the golf course sat – an arrangement dating back to its inception – decided he wanted the land to once again become the domain of bovine and ovine. With that pronouncement, five of the original holes were lost, including Mount Zion, a dastardly creation that ended at a green site possessing many qualities but forgiveness was not among them.

Architect Donald Steel routed current holes 10 through 14 to replace the lost five.

The ocean can be seen from nearly every hole. Looking away from the sea, golfers can gaze upon the hills of Islay. As would be expected, the wind is relentless for the entire round


  1. Played there a couple of years ago and have raved about it ever since returning to NZ

    Hopefully it will survive this issue but if not I suggest golfers go there before it no longer is accessible



  2. Great Golf course, infact wonderful golf course, the hotel needs updating and investment and their pricing needs to be looked at.

    Fingers crossed they get a buyer who wants the place to succeed.