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Scotland - Kintyre Peninsula & Isle Of Arran

Instead of driving all down the west coast of Scotland we decided to then take the long ferry trip back to Oban on the mainland, drive down the Mull of Kintyre and then later ferry across to the Isle of Arran and then return to the mainland at Ardrossan just north of Ayr.

There are four courses to play on the Mull itself, namely Machrihanish, Machrihanish Dunes and Dunaverty down south  and Carradale on the east coast of the peninsula.

Ideally you should stay at Machrihanish  but if not then Campbeltown is not too far away. Until recently there was only B& B accommodation at Machrihanish but now there is the restored Uvadale hotel and cottages developed by the owners of the new Machrihanish Dunes.

Machrihanish is on my list of absolute favourites. Arguably, it has the most intriguing opening hole anywhere followed by some great holes like the par 4, 3rd hole and the magnificent par 3, 4th.  There is usually the feeling of tranquility- just you, the oyster catchers, waving grasses and first class greens. This would be in the top 10 anywhere were it not for a few less spectacular holes on the back 9.

As mentioned in my book, I was really not to sure how to rate the new Machrihanish Dunes. Parts of it I really liked but in other ways it suffers from being the first completely new links to be built on a SSSI site as this meant they were pretty much told where they could put tees and greens. The result is a very long and tiring walk - particularly on the front 9. It warrants a game but it is nowhere in the class of its older neighbour.

      (photo -Machrihanish Dunes).

At the very end of the Mull of Kintyre lies the village of Southend and the quaint links at Dunaverty. I didn't think it warranted a game on my visit in the wet summer of 1998 but on return in 2009 I was pleasantly surprised how much it had improved. They have done well to get 18 holes into the site but every hole is different and some of the views are superb such as the 5th green which looks out to nearby Sanda Island.

The B842 is a minor road that takes you to the car ferry at Claonaig where you head to Arran. On the way you should take the short detour to the pretty seaside course at Carradale. It is not a links as the soil is heavier farmland soil but the sea is in view all the time and there are some interesting holes - good holiday golf.

       (photo Carradale Golf Club)

Whoever described Arran as Scotland in miniature was right on the money. I recommend you spend at least 4 or 5 nights here. If it is raining then you just drive for five minutes to another side of the island and it will probably be dry. There are small hotels and B & B's in abundance here. Believe it or not, this little island has 7 golf courses -6 of which are worth playing.

The standout, and only real links course on the island, is Shiskine on the south west coast facing the Mull of Kintyre. Shiskine may be only 12 holes but it is worth the trip to Arran just to play this little masterpiece. Like The Machrie, I recommend you play it at least twice. After playing uphill to the semi blind par 3, 3rd hole, Crows Nest, you then need some camera time on the 4th tee which overlooks the whole course and surrounding wild coastline. When you are there say hello to Hamish Bannatyne and you will be made welcome in the new clubhouse.

   (photo  Shiskine)

We also played Lamlash and Brodick.

Lamlash is very hilly for the first  eleven holes but there are some great views from the high points of the course. It is worth a game but they were limited in land space when the 18 holes were laid out. Brodick Golf Club is just out of the town which is where the ferry leaves for Ardrossan on the mainland. You will enjoy Brodick. It is easy walking and has a good mixture of holes. From the 4th to the 7th you play in a lovely wooded area of the course and on the back 9 you are on flat land beside the sea with some gorse to keep you focused off the tee. The greens are small but good quality. You might also have a look at Whiting Bay but it, like Lamlash, is rather hilly.

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