Ardfin Golf Course
Isle of Jura, Scotland
United Kingdom

Fifth hole, 300 yards; The design challenge at Ardfin was not about making the golf exciting; that was a given in the right architect’s hands. The challenge was to make it fun for a range of talent. For instance, on the prior hole the golfer is confronted with a blind uphill carry off the tee and then a forced carry over a wetland for his second. Conscious of not overwhelming the golfer, Harrison cleared an immense, nearly five acre parcel of land and created a shared fairway for the fifth and sixth holes. This is Ardfin’s version of the Elysian Fields and it stretches almost 100 yards side to side. While most architects would have placed something in this expanse of green, Harrison, in a design master stroke, left well enough alone.

This stone wall extends the length of the 5th. The closer the golfer plays to it, the better.

The golfer will second guess himself for mindlessly accepting the architect’s invitation to drive left where he has to carry the hole’s sole man-made hazard. Balls played from the left section of the fairway carry the hazard only to gather in a depression in the green from where they are whisked away from left hole locations.

As seen from behind, the stone wall, center left depression, and left greenside bunker highlight how the best holes are often the simplest. This represents the most inland point for golf on the estate and this perspective looking down across all the tightly maintained turf is one of the author’s very favorite views on a course full of long views.

Sixth hole, 410 yards; A perfect golf hole that challenges the tiger while being playable for the other 98%. A newly constructed low lying stonewall intrudes into the fairway and forms a corner in the vicinity where tee balls land. Carry the far wall and life is grand as the golfer delights in a huge forward kick toward the green. Or just scoot past it and still enjoy an optimal angle into the green. For the rest, they have a 95 yard wide fairway (!) to which to hit. True, the more they veer left, the crummier the approach angle but short grass is your friend at Ardfin.

The spirit soars standing on the 6th tee.

The advantages of flirting with the stone wall are evident.

Ardfin’s intermediate size greens don’t tolerate sloppy tactics. With rough left and tight grass right, the 3,600 square foot knob green is one of the more vexing targets to hit.

As seen from behind, that little crease in the green catches an adequate approach and funnels it off the putting surface. Chipping and executing other fiddly little shots around the green determine one’s success as the golfer is unlikely to hit his usual amount of greens in regulation, given the wind and green sizes.

Seventh hole, 460 yards; The play is toward the elevated outside of the dogleg – or is it? Some players seek the high ground off the tee in order to see the rolling green below but others pursue the shorter route home that leaves a blind approach. It amounts to the author’s favorite hole on the front. Why? Because it begs for experimentation. Nothing would be more fun than taking a small bag of balls and standing in different parts of the fairway and trying to execute the right approach to the fallaway green. The dazzling views accentuate everything but the fact is that the golfer is in the midst of a run of holes where the actual shots he is asked to consider are immensely appealing in and of themselves.

The fairway bunkers on the outside of the dogleg are a good aiming point for those that …

… wish to see the green on their approach.

Conversely, those that hug the inside of the fairway must contend with the uncertainty that comes from hoisting a blind approach up and over this handsomely clad bank.

As seen from the right, the 7th green follows the natural grade of the land and slides downhill away from the golfer. This is one of five bunkerless greens on the course.

Eighth hole, 320 yards; The course that we play today was the fourteenth iteration of which Harrison devised. In order for this routing to become the one that Harrison ultimately submitted to Coffey for approval, two major obstacles needed to be resolved. This portion of the property had to to house a hole and the Home hole needed to not be too steep for good golf. Both required extensive land shaping and turned out better than Harrison could have possibly hoped.

This is one of the more nervy tee shots of the day, though it is helpful to know that additional fairway is found behind the hillside that was exposed during construction.

Harrison went from being concerned that a hole would work here to nominating this approach as his single favorite shot on the course.

The long narrow 2,800 square foot green only works at the end of a modest length hole; peril short and left would overwhelm too many players too often if it was found on a longer hole.

Ninth hole, 295 yards; Ardfin features 29 bunkers and it doesn’t need even one more. Why? As we see at three of the next four holes, various stones and boulders are found within the fairways to enliven the proceedings. Here, a linear array of archeologically protected stones were perfectly incorporated into the landing zone. Whether the golfer attempts to carry them is weather dependent. Numerous interesting playing angles and options exist on this sub-300 yard hole.

Similar to the 9th at Cypress Point, the golfer decides on the tee how best to attack an elongated green that is almost perpendicular to the fairway.

Staying short and right of the stones leaves this most appealing view down the length of the green. Certainly, the man who can flatten the trajectory of his pitch enjoys an advantage.

For the tiger that entertains aspirations of driving the green, this bunker 40 yards right of the green is his aiming bunker. Let’s face it though …

… the 3,466 square foot green isn’t a very big target. Given Ardfin’s limited rounds, Harrison took full advantage of the opportunity to throw several small greens into the mix of the sort that can’t be built at busy resorts.

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