The new holes at The Machrie Golf Links are shaped and seeded and if all goes well will be ready for play in the summer of 2014, according to head greenkeeper Simon Freeman.
Because the course has no irrigation, it is difficult for Freeman to be more precise with an opening date.
David J. Russell of RAW Golf Course Design is overseeing the significant changes to the course that is located on Islay, the southern most island of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.
The Russell design for the 10th should be one of if not the most photographed new holes once it opens.
Golfers will walk to the right off the ninth green and up a dune to the tee that is behind the existing 11th tee. The stunning scene is of Laggan Bay and the western portion of Islay that wraps around into view. Playing at about 155 yards from the back tees, golfers will hit down to a large putting surface on which the back edge rises and melds into the dune grass.
The existing par-3 10th will be eradicated.
When golfers complete the new hole, they will head right off the green to the right for the the new 11th tee. The ensuing shot will play over the old 10th green and down the existing 11th fairway. The angle change as a result of the new tee will do away with the need for internal out of bounds on the right side of the hole, which abuts the 13th.
As far as the second hole, the existing tee behind the first green will be abandoned and replaced with a tee to the right of the first green. The current second green will replaced by one that is 40 yards beyond it.
Freeman said that when heavy winds are ripping directly at the existing second tee, shorter hitters cannot reach the landing area. With the new hole that should not be a problem. Also, from the new tee the farthest landing sought after by longer hitters hoping to reach the putting surface in two shots, narrows as the result of dunes on the right and a burn that runs on the left that runs almost the entire length of the hole. The burn will also come into play on approach shots as it edges in towards the putting surface on the left, then wraps around behind it.
The 1891 Willie Campbell design was altered significantly in the mid 1970s after the farmer leasing land to the club that was home to parts of the second, all of the third—the legendary Mount Zion hole—and part of the fourth holes, opted not to extend the contract so he could gain access to the burn.
Architect Donald Steele was brought in with the assignment of adding and reconfiguring holes to make up for the ones lost. Unfortunately, much of what Steel came up with does not fit with the Willie Campbell design, especially the existing 10th, a mundane par-3.
(Photos: Anthony Pioppi. Graphic: Courtesy The Machrie Golf Links.)