MACHRIHANISH, Scotland -- It takes a sense of adventure to discover Machrihanish Golf Club and Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club.
It's a scenic three-hour-plus drive or a two-hour-plus ferry ride from the Ayrshire coast to reach the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre. Such isolation gives Machrihanish and the neighboring port of Campbeltown a "lost-in-time" appeal. Paul McCartney fell so hard for this land he bought a home and wrote a hit song about it.
Southworth Development rejuvenated the destination by renovating the 22-room Ugadale Hotel as the centerpiece of its Village at Machrinhanish Dunes and the 23-room Royal Hotel in Campbeltown. The Royal Hotel's Harbourview Grille is the best restaurant around, and The Old Clubhouse Pub in the Village offers excellent comfort food in an intimate atmosphere.
The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, home to luxurious cottages built in 2009, actually sits adjacent to the Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club and the beach that straddles its famous first hole. The 6,491-yard course dates to 1876, when Old Tom Morris designed the original 12 holes.
It's a 10-minute ride to Machrihanish Dunes, a more scenic links that continues to evolve since opening in 2009. Architect David McLay Kidd fit holes naturally into a dunes-scape where no machines were allowed to go. The 259 acres are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), an environmental designation protecting five rare types of orchid. There are plans to reverse the nines next season, and a new green continues its grow-in on the current sixth hole.
Dune erosion remains a long-term concern, so play it now in before some holes are forced to move inland. The most memorable stretch of golf begins with No. 13 (No. 4 next year), a drivable par 4, followed by back-to-back par 3s along the water. It's these holes that remind golfers why they worked so hard to come.