Smart New Look For a Scottish Resort

Revamped rooms and reimagined holes

BY T.J. OLWIG — Summer 2019

hile we look out over the short par-3 ninth hole, head golf pro David Foley tells our group, “This is your picture shot right here.” Even on a gray day with blistering winds that demand a stocking cap and multiple layers of golf attire, this signature hole shines. Engulfed by fescue and undulating dunes, the large amphitheaterlike green is punctuated by the sight, and sound, of Atlantic whitecaps crashing onto Islay, a secluded Hebridean island off mainland Scotland’s west coast.

Last September, the Machrie Hotel & Golf Links reopened after a multiyear renovation. Each of the hotel’s 47 rooms — including the split-level Ben Hogan Suite and four stand-alone luxury cottages — provides unobstructed views of Laggan Bay, the links, or the isle’s signature peat fields. Inside the restored Victorian structure, the aroma of smoke from wood-burning fireplaces trails me from one cozy lounge to the next, where guests can sip afternoon tea, Champagne, or one of Islay’s famously smoky whiskies, a spirit I liken to “a campfire in the mouth.” Nongolfers unwind at the spa, catch a flick in the 30-seat movie theater, or hike 7 miles of windswept coastline.

Willie Campbell designed the links course, which opened in 1891, with an excess of blind shots that has always made it a difficult play. But now, after a rerouting and modern refresh by DJ Russell, a former assistant captain on the European Ryder Cup team, it’s far more fun while still being a proper links test. Playing 6,800 yards from the tips, the distance might seem meager, but plenty of knee-deep fescue and heather await the errant swing. The real showstopper, however, is the sweeping landscape, home to grazing sheep, trickling burns, and vibrant yellow gorse blooming in every direction. Less-serious players can do their shot-making at a putting course or the six-hole, par-3 Wee Course.

Once you tally up your scorecard, stop by the 18 Restaurant & Bar perched above the 18th green. Head chef Darren Velvick plates seasonal Scottish fare to the tune of fresh-caught Islay brown crab and oysters from nearby Loch Gruinart. Velvick himself often forages for wild garlic and morel mushrooms. For a nightcap, a single-malt whisky from Islay’s Kilchoman Distillery delivers the perfect peaty finish to a charming Scottish getaway. From $305. 

Getting there: Daily flights are available from Glasgow to Islay as well as daily ferry service. For private hire, the Machrie offers its own aircraft.


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