1891 was the year that golf began on Islay at The Machrie, on a famously quirky layout, designed by Willie Campbell and loved by many a links purist. However, nothing stands still in golf, and the bold decision to alter the venerable links is reaping rewards as the course is climbing up the UK top 100 ranking list.
Course architect David J Russell (RAW Design) managed to retain the charm and subtlety of the layout, whilst reducing the number of numerous blind shots, before turning to the tricky matter of bunkers. Revetted bunkers were desired but the excessive cost of importing custom grown turf for stacked sod walls onto the remote island was a major concern. The alternative idea to establish a revetting turf nursery was also costly and the time taken to establish an adequate root structure was another constraint. However, Course Manager Dean Muir found the solution. An expert in bunker revetting at Muirfield (his previous club) Dean had taken note of successful Ecobunker projects in Scotland, including the recently started Dumbarnie Links.
After a trial project in 2018, the decision was quickly taken to adopt the artificial edge bunker solution right across the entire golf course. In 2022 the planned 50 bunkers were complete, although following the positive feedback, extra bunkers are being planned. Dean commented that
‘Virtually nobody notices that the bunkers are artificial, and over the 20 year warranty period, the money saved will be massive, allowing us to allocate more resources to producing top quality surfaces to the greens, tees and fairways’.