With a quick type into your favorite search engine, the term revival yields the definition of “a return to strength or importance”. An Elvis tune drifting through the summer air, a MASH rerun on the television, or a Twain novel falling out of our child’s backpack kicks us right back into the “good ole days”. These works of art seem to be forgotten most days, but for brief instances, nostalgia knocks on our door and brings us back to a simpler time. It’s funny how the smallest facets of life can conjure up fond memories of the past.
On the Isle of Islay, our links-seeking duo approach the culmination of their journey among the finest golf the Scottish Isles has to offer. Tales have been told, laughs have been shared, and strangers have become comrades on this twisting tour of the Scottish coastline. Our two Americans have added their footprints, and footnotes, in the history of these courses where so many special moments have been captured since the 1800s. But something unique has taken place on Islay. The revival of the iconic Machrie Golf Links, the only course on the Isle.
The Machrie was designed in 1891 by Willie Campbell, just before he left for America to become the first golf professional at the Country Club of Brookline. During Campbells’ layout of the course, he purposefully made the course longer than the norm to lure people to Islay. Most courses in Scotland are carved along the dunes, while The Machrie rebelliously moves over them. The Machrie enjoyed decades of praise and prestige among Scots and travelers alike. However, the course fell into financial woes in the late 20th century which ushered in new ownership in 2011. The new administration had a modern vision for the property and immediately set out on a quest to bring The Machrie back to center stage. DJ Russell, a former European Tour player turned architect, took the reins on a full redevelopment of the course. With only 7 of the original greens left intact, and a new routing of the course that sported wider fairways with minimalized blind shots, the new Machrie was unveiled in May of 2017. In addition to the course facelift, the hotel was rebuilt, and a par 3 course was added along with a full practice facility. When the Machrie reopened its gates in 2017, the Revival on Islay was complete. Droves came to play Russell’s modern version of the classic links. The architect, along with the new owners, had breathed new life into the hallowed grounds.
The redesigned course has received astounding reviews, renewing Campbell’s original intent to pull travelers to Isle of Islay for more than just its fine whiskeys. The Isle now boasts 11 distilleries and is known for providing a large chunk of the spirit to all areas of Scotland. But in between rounds of the brown, nowadays golfers are stealing away from the distilleries to lose themselves in the sandy dunes. The warmth of the liquor is being married with the warmth of the Scottish sun on their back as they walk through the broad fairways.
The setting sun on The Machrie Golf Links coincides with the conclusion of our Scottish saga. After days of dunes, doglegs, and driving winds, we have learned so much from the most famed courses strewn across the Scottish Isles. Not all lessons can be taught, some must be experienced by taking a leap into the great wide open. Sometimes you must take the road less traveled, past the blacktop and into the gravel. Meet a stranger and go walk 9 at his home track, to see why that course makes him who he is. From Shiskine all the way to the Machrie, we have learned about community, the overwhelming beauty of creation, and the rich history of the game we all love. Golf is more than just a game played for joy. It is a historical movement being revived every time a new player is welcomed into our collared fold. It is a never-ending dance of passion and spirit that runs its bloodlines back to the shores of our journey. The Scottish links beckoned, and our duo came running. The real question is, when Scotland comes calling, will you answer?
The fourth of a five part series highlighting Erik’s travels in Scotland.
Ryan is a writer currently living in Atlanta, GA by way of Augusta. His writing evokes his passion of golfing throughout the south with friends, family, and total strangers. The people who have crossed his path inspire each piece, aimed at peering into the beauty of the game and its untold tales. He prefers his coffee black, on a first tee, in the Georgia pines. It is rare to find him without his Ray-Bans and a witty quip to lighten the mood. His approach to writing, life, and the game made him a perfect match for the Lang team.