Scotland is known for links golf, that goes without being said, it’s a treat to play this style in the country where it all began. Another great style of golf that Scotland is a world-class destination for is island golf.
Grabbing your clubs and boarding a ferry has a special feel to it, it’s not something most of us experience often. The main challenge is not getting a club and ball out to fire one into the water during your crossing.
You arrive back on dry land at your destination and it is time to play. This build-up adds a whole new dimension to the experience, it’s like being on a floating clubhouse before you play your round.
Off the coast of Ayrshire, two islands spring to mind as golfing destinations straight away. Arran and Millport, the former a well-known haven for golf and the latter somewhere you may not have played before.
Millport may normally be known for family holidays and cycling, but it is also somewhere to take the clubs. Golf has been played here since 1888 and in 1913 was redesigned by James Braid. The heathland course has a testy start with OB awaiting bad shots on the first seven holes.
The views you get from Millport GC are beautiful, from the 5th green you can see for miles around. You get similar views throughout the round on this short but tricky course. This is a good wholesome and testing round of golf.
With seven courses, Arran is as good a golfing destination as any. It is worth booking yourself a hotel or lodge over there and making a proper trip of it. You will want to sample the local whisky while you are there too.
Starting with Lamlash, this course by Willie Fernie and Willie Auchterlonie is a great opener for your trip. The rolling heathland course maybe short, except for two long par threes, but it demands tactical and accurate golf to navigate it well.
There is a sense of stepping back in time when you play here, the course hasn’t changed much at all since it was finished in 1908. Part of the challenge is concentrating on the golf and away from the distracting views of Goat Fell and the Holy Isle.
Another place where you can play your golf and feel at one with nature is the nine-hole gem at Lochranza. The course sits beside the Arran distillery and is often bathed in the smell of the beautiful whisky. You may also see some of the famous red deer that graze on the land at the course.
Lochranza has some unusual water hazards that you will want to avoid during your round. If you expect to come here and overpower the course with big drives, bring a lot of golf balls. This is a tactician’s course, you have to carefully plot your way around.
Some say that nine holes is enough, it definitely can be when you have a golfing experience as all-consuming as a round at Corrie. This is easily one of the prettiest and most dramatic golfing landscapes you will ever play on.
Nestled between the hills to the north of the island, this course may keep your phone camera as busy as your clubs. With a mix of long and short holes, this course cannot fail to delight you.
Sitting high above the town of the same name, Whiting Bay is a short and picturesque eighteen holer. This feels like a mountain course and the views down toward the Firth of Clyde are spectacular. It’s a tight and tricky course that requires patience and accuracy.
The deep green pines, purple heather and yellow gorse create a sumptuous colour palette around this course through the year. This course is in great condition year round and is a great challenge for golfers of all levels. Enjoy island golf from on high.
The next stop is the west coast of Arran and down to the waterfront for a glorious nine- holer, Machrie Bay. Looking the Kilbrannan Sound and toward the Kintyre Peninsula, Machrie Bay is a flat course that is perfect for families. It is pure unadulterated golfing fun.
Machrie Bay almost feels like a mini championship links. It has all the character of some of the best seaside courses just on a smaller scale. If nine holes isn’t enough for you here then you are encouraged to double-up and make it eighteen.
Last, but absolutely not least is the pièce de résistance of golf on Arran, Shiskine. This twelve-hole masterpiece proves that you don’t need eighteen holes to be celebrated, it is in the top-100 courses in Scotland. This is island links golf like you’ve never played.
The dramatic and rocky terrain frames the holes beautifully, at times the course looks like something out of a computer game. The work of Willie Fernie and Willie Park, Jr. encapsulates Scottish golf perfectly in less than eighteen holes. Every golfer must play this golf course in their lifetime.
Island golf around Ayrshire is rich and plentiful. You can’t go wrong booking a few nights and hopping island to island and course to course. If you want to blitz it you could even challenge yourself to the Arran Golf Marathon. Island golf is waiting for you when you’re ready to get back to exploring our local courses.