Photo courtesy Corrie Golf Club
“Scotland in Miniature” offers the adventurous golfer the opportunity to play amidst some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Read more on Bryan Dearsley’s list of the top Isle of Arran golf courses
There’s an excellent story you’ll be told when you start talking golf with the locals on Scotland’s beautiful Isle of Arran. It goes like this:
Back in 1937, Walter Hagen, once one of America’s top golfers, decided it was time to play a few rounds in the birthplace of golf after hearing from his friend Tommy Armour (aka “The Silver Scot”) about the wonderful course at Machrie. Setting off with trick-shot artist Joe Kirkwood, Hagen arrived at Glasgow’s Central Station, hailed a cab, and asked the driver to take them to Machrie Golf Club.
Upon being dropped at the Ayrshire coast, they took a steamer to what they assumed was the right island. Met at the club by a couple of unlikely challengers (one clumsy, the other a bit of a contortionist) and a crowd of 200 locals, Hagen went on to play the course twice, in the process setting a club record of 53 strokes that stands to this day.
Upon his return home, Hagen reproached Armour for having sent him so far just to play a nine-hole course sprinkled with farm animals and wildlife. Armour’s response is legendary. “You should,” he told his friend, “have been on the Isle of Islay, not Arran!”
Great Courses in Scotland that are Fun to Walk
It’s a great anecdote, even if it doesn’t do this incredible little island much justice. Arran is in fact so picture-perfect that it’s been dubbed “Scotland in Miniature,” and with only 5,000 full-time residents it lays claim to having one of the world’s highest ratios of golf courses per capita: That’s a total of 95 holes waiting to be played.
In addition to the already mentioned Machrie Golf Club, still only nine holes (2,278 yards, par 33), but plenty challenging on a blustery day, the island boasts a further six golf clubs, each with its own unique charms. And each is a throwback to a time when golf was something one did for relaxation, rather than competition, a fact that makes Arran the perfect couples golf destination.
To get the best out of your Arran experience, plan on spending at least a few days on the island. Better still, purchase an Arran Golf Pass, a handy pass that includes a round at each of the island’s seven courses. It can be purchased at the courses themselves.
To help you plan what could well be your most-memorable Scotland golf trip, here’s our take on the extremely fun and adventurous Isle of Arran Golf Courses.
The Top Isle of Arran Golf Courses
Brodick Golf Club
A must-play on Arran, this 4,747-yard par 65, 18-hole course has been around for over a hundred years. The course has a long history of exhibition matches featuring many of Scotland’s top players, including such notables as Jack McLean, Ronnie Shade and Charlie Green, and is a delight to walk thanks to its lowland layout.
The course isn’t without its challenges. The par-three 8th hole is cause for concern. It’s a 167-yard dogleg destined to cause headaches for big hitters but get it right and you’ll be talking about it for weeks. And don’t let your guard down too early: the 18th is a tight 222-yard affair bordered by water and woods, seems hell-bent on keeping you out of the clubhouse bar.
Visit their website at www.brodickgolf.com.
Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club
Possibly the best known of the Isle of Arran golf courses, Shiskine is also the busiest, its unique 12-hole layout (yes, you heard right) seeing some 20,000 rounds played a year. Opened in 1896, this 2,996-yard, par 42 course is one you’ll want to play more than once.
With its panoramic views of the spectacular Kintyre Peninsula (cue Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre), it’ll keep you on your toes with challenging blind shots like ‘Crows Nest’ and the hilly ‘Hollows’. There’s even one called the ‘Himalayas’, a large gorse-covered hill located bang smack between the tee and green.
Learn more at www.shiskinegolf.com.
Corrie Golf Club
At 1,915 yards, this 9-hole par 31 course is also a charmer. Like the others, this nine-hole course makes the most of the one thing that Arran has in abundance… hills. Before you know it, you’re heading up and down links that aren’t shy about making the most of the terrain, or about making you work.
It’s a unique way of handling what nature has provided, and each time you reach a green, you can’t help feeling a sense of wonder that anyone would have attempted to build a course on such terrain, let alone have done it so well.
Visit their website at www.corriegolfclub.com.
Machrie Bay Golf Course
Located on the island’s west coast, this 9-hole course is one of the most level on the island, making it ideal for casual golfers, couples and those travelling with youngsters.
Built in 1900, it’s particularly popular for its delightful tearoom, a real treat for golfers and non-golfers alike.
Check out their website at https://machriebay.com for further information.
Lamlash Golf Club
This 18-hole is a must-play, and a good workout. Built in 1889, this 4,510-yard par 64 course will have you puffing all the way to the 11th tee, the aptly named ‘Last Climb’.
But once there, the commanding views of the neighboring Holy Isle make it all worthwhile.
Learn more at https://lamlashgolfclub.com.
Whiting Bay Golf Club
Whiting Bay Golf Club is another good workout. Situated high above the town of the same name, you’ll need the rest of the day to recover once done here.
But it’s a treat to play. And take your camera for the wonderful views of across to the Ayrshire coast.
Visit their website at www.whitingbaygolf.com.
Lochranza is an 11-hole, par 3 course located adjacent a campsite, and so offers quite a unique opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while playing a round or two. Marketing itself as a “pitch and putt” course, it’s certainly fun to play.
It’s a great wee course for beginners, too, with a pitching iron and putter, along with golf balls, all being included in the green fee. Great value indeed.
Visit their website at /www.arran-campsite.com/index.php/lochranza-golf
Bryan Dearsley is Editor-in-chief of Riley International Media. He’s a graduate of Stirling University, and a big fan of the beautiful Isle of Arran.
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