Ardfin Golf Course
Isle of Jura, Scotland
United Kingdom

Tenth hole, 175 yards; The golfer faces one of the game’s most visually arresting shots. From a playability perspective, the hole is made by what the golfer doesn’t see: an area of short grass bigger than the green to the right. This means that a bogey is always achievable, which may seem like an odd statement but there is no such thing as a great hole where a bogey can’t be earned by someone who employs non-greedy tactics. Similar to sixteen at Cypress Point, when the golfer pulls off a shot that finds the green, the indelible moment moves to the front of the class in the golfer’s mind.

The heroic 10th plays from clifftop to clifftop across a pocket in the coastline.

The coastal erosion over the centuries has left behind canyons, whose 3-D qualities are other worldly.

Looking across the short grass and the bold green contours.

Eleventh hole, 390 yards; Though this hole transports the golfer to the shore, Ardfin is a clifftop top course rather than a links. Similar to Pebble Beach, its fairways attractively flow as opposed to being lumpy-bumpy like a links. Still, slight adjustments to one’s stance/set-up are required throughout the round. Take this fairway as a prime example. The tiger line is left toward the distant flag. From the left third of the fairway, the golfer is afforded a reasonably level stance to take on the forced carry approach. As the golfer steers his tee ball cautiously to the right, the likelihood of gaining a good stance is replaced by one whereby he will receive some sort of a slightly downhill stance. This becomes problematic and compounds the uncertainty of carrying the wetland. Visually stunning, the eleventh is another example of a hole that only reveals its secrets after multiple rounds.

One of the author’s handful of favorite spots in world golf: the 11th tee at Ardfin.

One benefit of leaving such rock formations behind as central hazards? They don’t need to be nursed after heavy rain like a bunker.

The postcard perfect approach to the 11th highlights an important fact: the only thing better than playing beside a large body of water is playing beside one that has land in the distance. The best way to appreciate what the mountains of Islay add to the playing ambience is to imagine the scene above without them.

Forty yards short and left of the 11th green is a rocky port that dates back to the Vikings. The entire area near it is protected and made building the green complex a challenge.

Twelfth hole, 205 yards; Aware of some long green to tee walks, Harrison opted to place the tee here a few paces off the eleventh green, rendering a nearly straight approach down the axis of the course’s longest green at 42 paces. The hole measured 185 yards but Harrison is quick to point out that Mrs. Coffey thought a tee out past the Boat House might provide a more exciting moment. And guess what? She was right. Apart from the heightened sense of drama that comes from hitting over the sound, another benefit of the back left tee is the stark change of direction. Starting at the seventh, play generally progresses in a north-westerly direction up the coast. The key word is ‘generally.’ Mercifully, this is not a linear coastline and as anyone knows who has played in wind, a mere ten degree change in direction makes a meaningful impact on club selection. As the golfer plays this eight hole stretch, the two one shotters offer abrupt shifts in direction. The approach to the ninth forms an eighty degree angle with the one shot tenth and the twelfth from this new back tee makes it akin to hitting inland, again a mighty shift in direction from the holes on either side of it. Other holes like the eleventh and fourteenth bend twenty degrees within their own playing corridors, which is again significant. Like the world’s great routings at Muirfield and Portmarnock, the golfer is kept on his toes regarding judgement of wind and club selection.

After fortifying the spirit at the Boat House, the golfer walks over to the far edge of the spit of land to face this shot over a nook in the sound.

The walk to the green is along a beach strewn with seaweed.

Thirteenth hole, 380 yards; An architect’s job is to incorporate a site’s natural features into the best possible golf. What happens when there is an abundance of features? Is there such a thing as too much chocolate?! Here, two streams forty yards apart come rushing off the hillside and into the sound. Harrison placed the green between them. Why not? The hole is short enough to accommodate a front and back hazard. Yet, this is Jura and greater allowance must to be made for the elements. Early play indicated that front and back hazards could crush the golfer on the (albeit rare) days when the hole plays against the wind. What is scary is that Coffey is having Harrison immediately remedy the situation. Similar to instituting the steps to increase/improve drainage in 2015/2016, Coffey’s relentless will to get things not just right but perfect means there is no telling what heights Ardfin will ultimately achieve in world golf. With the golf matching the scenery, it is a world beater.

Placing the tee 30 yards behind to the stone building was inspired. The Heritage-listed building is where the sheep were corralled before being loaded onto boats.

As seen from a dune above, the 13th fairway is attractively littered with random rock outcroppings that serve as central hazards.

Much more wide than it is deep, the green features bedeviling interior contours.

The view from behind is cautionary with water hazards both front and back that rob the hole of the required flexibility to play well in all winds. Action is being taken.

Fourteenth hole, 410 yards; The beauty of the last eight holes might be the biggest takeaway from a round here. For someone like the author who loves the Peter May Hebrides books, it seems like a dream come true. Yet, crucially, the golf keeps pace with the beauty. This tee is placed close to the shore guaranteeing that the shoreline’s crescent bend to the left is put to maximum strategic effect. The tiger may even hang his tee ball out over the water for most of the journey in hopes of finding the broad expanse of fairway that flairs left on the far side. Surprisingly small, less than 3,000 square feet, the green actually plays big as the high ground to the right kicks plenty of balls onto the putting surface. The green placement is as far left as was allowed and the subsequent green to tee walk is the better for that.

A good tee ball is a must at the 14th in order to carry …

… the wetland on one’s second.

Looking back down the shoreline to the Boat House and beyond, the golfer can’t help but reflect on the coastal run of holes he has just completed.

continued >>>