Thought provoking changes to Machrie course

The very windy conditions last Sunday did not invite many golfers to venture on to the golf course in spite of the bursts of bright sunshine.

Even the hardy ones would have surrendered to the weather as trying to hit a golf ball into that wind or chase a putt blowing across a green is not to everyone’s taste. So there you are, my excuse for not being able to thrill you with the usual golf results. However I did hear of one brave four-ball that did play round the Girvan course, I do not know who won and I will not divulge their names as they may not wish to be known as being so desperate to play even under those conditions.

Mind you Ayr United did well last Saturday beating Airdrionians despite having only ten men for most of the second half. Retaliation is what caused the players red card, quite unnecessary, you would think that a professional footballer who depends on the sport for his livelihood would know better.


Abba Eban a former Israeli Ambassador on the game of golf ‘Playing the game, I have learned the meaning of humility.

It has given me an understanding of the futility of human effort’. I leave you to sort that one out as it is beyond me. Follow this with a pronouncement by a former President Taft of the US. ‘I don’t know of any game that makes you ashamed of your profanity. It is a game full of self abasement, with only a few moments of self-exaltation. And we Americans who are not celebrated for our modesty, may find such a game excellent training’.

I think that we all know what he means having experienced moments of self abasement over a bad shot.


I am an admirer of John Huggen, a golf reporter for ‘Scotland on Sunday’ - a sister paper to the illustrious Gazette, who last Sunday commented on a situation which I am very much in agreement with.

He reports upon work being done by D.J. Russell to improve the Machrie golf course on Islay which has stayed much the same since it was designed to meet the improvements to the game made by the Haskell ball replacing the feathery.

Donald Steel did try and change quite a few of the holes but I believe that the character of the course remained practically the same. I am no lover of Donald Steel’s approach to golf course design as he quite blankly told me one day that his sole interest in golf course design was to test only the top golf professionals and that is not my outlook on golf.

The difficulty in all golf architecture is the one concerning the distance a professional nowadays hits the ball (350-400 yards) which covers the distance of a good par 4 for an ordinary golfer.

Golf balls nowadays fly so much straighter allowing it to be hit very much harder without too much thought for accuracy. If you tried to hit one of the old style golf balls very hard there was no knowing where it could end up, much like kicking a plastic football hard. Therefore all players including professionals had to concentrate on the club hitting the ball square so as to achieve a relatively accurate shot to where you wanted the ball to go.

No easy task, but that is what made the game so captivating as it required a true artist to perform well, rather than just power play. Courses should be subtly designed to interest the amateur and professional alike as 700 yard holes are of no interest to the true exponents of the game.

Russell has completely rebuilt the 10th hole on Machrie, which was a very weak par 3. You now play from an elevated tee to a generous green some 145 yards away. This is a good hole for the amateur but requires a lot of thought from the professional who is more used to par 3s of some 200 yards plus. 145 yards makes it a thought provoking distance for the really big hitters but a real delight for the likes of you and me who can easily cover that distance. Ideas like that make for courses suitable for all and sundry and it is not always the case that the professional will score better than the eager amateur on such a hole.

At my level of golf I enjoy a course that is a fair challenge, but not impossible, for everyone to play, and not just a long slog from tee to green. I am sure the majority of you feel the same, so go out there and enjoy your golf and remember it is a game for all.