A contrarian pick… though that says as much about my and my co-author’s personalities as it does about the quality of the golf hole!
After the long drive down the Kintyre Peninsula to Machrihanish Golf Club (five hours from St. Andrews), your reward is one the best and most famous opening holes in golf. Angling across the Atlantic and a sandy beach, the first drive is beautifully heroic. Yet Machrihanish’s 2nd might be the more compelling hole.
A 2004 Google Earth view of the 2nd hole at Machrihanish Golf Club
From the tee on the foredune, the drive toward a broad plane appears relatively straightforward. The hole angles inland, away from the waves, and the club has somehow squeezed in a practice ground between the 2nd fairway and the beach. In this low-lying area, the ground is springy. The burn known as Machrihanish Water cuts across the hole on a direct seaward path. It takes the west-coast rain—and your tee shot, if the prevailing wind is strong.
Just past the burn, an abrupt climb marks the beginning of the dramatic links land for which the front nine is renowned. Regardless of your position in the fairway, your approach will rely on a crooked red-and-white marker poll for guidance. (The high aerial shot you must play is generally more useful on the western shores of Scotland and Ireland than on the eastern ones.) Deceptively, though, after the crest of the rise, the slope feeds down and away. The green is tucked just beyond, so a fearfully strong or poorly controlled approach finishes nowhere close.
The 2nd green at Machrihanish might be one of the most beautiful in all of links golf. At the front, a central bowl disrupts entry into a banking saddle. This saddle sweeps in from front right to rear left to aid a drawn approach. It’s a true lay-of-the-land green; any artful intervention from man is barely recognizable.
At this point in the course, play has transitioned from pastoral land to the “real stuff” without a hint of dullness. It’s typical Scottish ingenuity, and a credit to the work of former Prestwick professional Charles Hunter (1876) and Old Tom Morris (1879).