Machrihanish Dunes – Ugadale Hotel

Machrihanish Dunes – Ugadale Hotel

When I first listened to Paul McCartney sing Beatles’ classic The Long and Winding Road, I had no idea there was a world-class golf resort at the end of it. The road is the scenic A83 from Glasgow and it leads through Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park and all the way to Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula on Scotland’s west coast. Near to this seaside town, you’ll find Machrihanish Dunes resort, which opened in 2009.

Machrihanish Dunes golf course was designed by local Scotsman David McLay Kidd who worked with the Scottish Natural Heritage to retain indigenous flora on an undulating piece of land that was formerly grazed by cattle and sheep. The tees and greens were the only parcels of land that were manipulated – the fairways and roughs were cut down to produce a links course that flows with the land, bumps and all. It is billed as “the world’s most natural golf course” *. While you may not always see the fairway, you’ll have a good view of the Atlantic from most positions on the course.

The combination of great golf, warm resort service at Ugadale Hotel and Cottages, and fresh local fare makes this one of the most highly desirable golf destinations in the country. The course itself was ranked No. 23 in Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Courses in Scotland in 2015 and No. 24 by’s Top 100 Courses in Scotland in 2017.
Once there, you’ll want to play neighbor course Machrihanish Golf Club, which was designed by legendary Scottish champion Old Tom Morris in 1879. Golf Digest ranked it 91 in its list of The World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – 2016-17.
The challenges:
Unsighted approach shots, rough that is mowed by a flock of sheep, and bunkers in unlikely places. This is links golf ‘au naturel’ but best to keep your clothes on and the ball low, to deal with the wind coming over the dunes from the Atlantic Ocean. The greenkeeper’s advice – pay attention to the signage: “Maps are provided on the walk between every green and tee that give players a perfect opportunity to study the hazards that they will encounter next.”
When to play:
“Because Machrihanish is warmed by the waters of the gulf stream, it is among the warmest places in the UK,” said Head Greenkeeper Simon Freeman. “The course drains very well, and we therefore have no problem keeping it open for play all year round. The weather can occasionally be very wild in the depths of Winter (December-February), but conversely it can also be surprisingly good.”
Par: 72
Yardage: 7082 yards, 6476 meters
Slope: 132
Standard scratch score: 71
Best hole:
The par-3 hole 5 plays from an elevated tee to a green perched on a sea wall. There are beautiful views of the village of Machrihanish.
The greenkeeper says:
“Like all links courses that are laid out over rolling topography, Machrihanish Dunes has a lot of exasperating hidden surprises that can catch out the unwary player!” – Simon Freeman, Head Greenkeeper
The resort experience:
A variety of fine accommodation is available in a resort that is spread out between the golf course and nearby Campbeltown. The Ugadale Hotel and Cottages are closer to the first tee, in a beautiful natural setting by the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel is an historic building that has been carefully restored. It features the Serenity Spa, where you can indulge in a massage and beauty treatments. The stone cottages add a level of privacy and increased space for larger golf groups. You can also choose to stay in town at the Royal Hotel, another restored building that offers harbor views from every room plus a shuttle service to get you to the course. Golf Tourism Scotland named Ugadale Hotel the “Best Hotel (21-50 Rooms)” in 2015 and 2016.

Dine and wine:
Golf Tourism Scotland gave the Village at Machrihanish Dunes the Best Catering award in 2015 so you can expect excellent cuisine here. Each hotel features its own restaurant and pub, each with a unique menu. The Royal Hotel in Campbeltown has the Black Sheep Pub and Harbourview Grille where you can enjoy fresh seafood or seared steaks. The Ugadale Hotel and Cottages features the Old Clubhouse Pub, where I can envision myself enjoying a pint of local beer and telling long tales about my round as the music plays. For those opting for a more refined setting, The Kintyre Club offers gourmet cuisine and fine wines to members of the golf club and Ugadale guests.
The accommodation:
The Ugadale Hotel hosted captains of industry and their families in its day but there is a homely and cozy look to the rooms. You’ll find Classic Rooms with an interior of brown and red colors, with walnut wood and antique brass furniture. There’s a flat-screen TV, a writing desk and you can have a king-size or double bed. The suites come with a living room, sitting area, bathtub and views of the Atlantic and the first tee at the Machrihanish Golf Club.
Other activities:
Cambeltown is a famous whisky-producing town. After my sports massage and facial at the Serenity Spa, there is no doubt I’ll be signing up for a whisky tasting tour. The Ugadale can arrange a visit to Springbank (Scotland’s oldest family-run distillery), Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery (home of Kilkerran single malt scotch) and Glen Scotia. There are also nature walks to the Kintyre beaches and Machrihanish Playpark for the kids.
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