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66 Strokes to Freedom: An Evening at Dunaverty

66 Strokes to Freedom: An Evening at Dunaverty

The fourth of a five part series highlighting Erik’s travels in Scotland.

Ryan Sather

At this point in our exploration of the Scottish Isles, we have hit two truly iconic courses on the Mull of Kintyre. The third leg of the Kintyre trio takes us down to the southern tip of the Isle, to a course not commonly found on trip itineraries. The Dunaverty Golf Club was founded in 1889, by a small group drawn from the surrounding farms and community of Southend. The course reflects the name of Dunaverty Rock, a large outcropping that looks over the course and holds a bloody footnote in Scottish history books. Dunaverty Rock once held a Scottish castle inhabited by the MacDonald clan. During the Civil War of Scotland in 1647, the castle was besieged by supporters of Oliver Cromwell. The ensuing battle saw 300 MacDonald clan members massacred, earning the nickname of “Blood Rock”. During the years of World War II, the course fell into disrepair, like so many other Scottish links. But once the ashes of wartime had settled, Colonel Taylor, son of a founding member, championed a restoration of the course.

Dunaverty skirts the Kintyre coast between Dunaverty Bay and Brunerican Bay, on what appears to be farmland with 18 flagsticks peeping from over the mounds. The welcoming drive up to its unassuming clubhouse signals that this course is not surrounded by a pristine resort. There is no one to take your bags from your car or mix you a post-round cocktail. Similar to Shiskine, the no-frills operation exists for the game of golf to be the focal point. The course is a perfect marriage of the two souls of Kintyre, farming, and golf. The two coexist here at Dunaverty, with cattle commonly “playing through” the manicured fairways and greens while groups patiently pause. Electric fences circle many of the greens to keep the bovine brethren from causing damage to the short grasses. Speaking of the putting surfaces, Dunaverty sports a unique set of square-shaped greens. Throw in a handful of blind tee shots and the Scottish breeze spreading that “farm fresh smell”, and you have a rare combination of charm and character.

Standing at a Par 66 and a pace under 4,800 yards, Dunaverty does not take on the prize-fighter persona of the Machrihanish duo. The course includes seven Par 3s, only one Par 5, and half of the par 4s measure under 300 yards. At times it can feel as though you are playing a round on a farm. But the grounds blur the lines of sport and livestock, and they occupy the same space as they have for over 100 years.  Most would not mistake it for a championship-caliber track where crowds have gathered, and claret jugs have been hoisted. However, its quirky, natural presence on the stunning Southend pastures evokes a vibe of blissful simplicity. The famed golf writer Tom Coyne gushes when speaking of Dunaverty, asserting that “no one would build a golf course like this, it’s just the way the land is.” Mr. Coyne speaks a unilateral truth in that fond recollection of his first time on the grounds. Dunaverty does not try to be something it is not, a sound lesson we could all translate into our own existences. There is immense beauty in being ourselves, what we were created and destined to be from the moment our feet found the earth. Instead of wishing into existence what we estimate our lives should be, our true soul always shines when we let go. Dunaverty knows who it is. The gently sloping terrain littered with lingering steers was pasture long before it first felt the thud of a dimpled ball. But the course sews the farms, the people, and the game together into a wonderful experience of golf that makes all of Kintyre proud.

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