Whisky and Water

Words by: Alex Ames
Photography by:Graeme McCubbin

It started with a map, it always does. It would take us to the hiding place of a would-be king, an island where the first whiskies were brewed and the sheep outnumber people. A place so unfussy that even Paul McCartney is known simply as “Paul”. Shiskine, Machrihanish, Dunaverty and The Machrie - the frontier courses of The Frontier Collection.

Episode 4: The Machrie

The fourth and final stop on our Scottish adventure was the most anticipated. After a week of charming bed and breakfasts and hidden gems it was time for a five star experience. One more ferry ride and one more stop, on the island of Islay.

One of golf's founding fathers, Willie Campbell, opened The Machrie in 1891. The design was popular with golfers of that era, but 17 blind shots and a day in the rough was too much for their modern counterparts. The course languished until European Tour veteran and PGA Cup Captain DJ Russel was hired to renovate and modernise in 2014. Four years later, The Machrie Golf Hotel opened a new golf course alongside 47 luxury rooms, suites and lodges to great fanfare. (BOOK HERE)

Set along seven miles of beachfront, over perfect linksland, The Machrie’s fun and playable 7,024 yard Championship course is rapidly climbing the world’s top 100 lists and gaining status as a bucket list destination. For those with partners that don’t understand #golfislife, the beaches, castles, ancient religious sites and stunning hikes on Islay are more than enough to keep them occupied. If you’re still struggling, pick from one of Islay's 9 world famous whisky distilleries to take the edge off.

The Machrie was the perfect stage for our climactic showdown. In an unconventional twist of golf’s format, everyone on the MANORS crew would tee off together, four amateurs vs two pros in a six-ball; the losers would be sentenced to a brisk Atlantic swim.

It wasn’t a contest. The pros, James and Josh, could hold one or two of us down, maybe even three, but there was the fourth amateur, waiting on the green to sucker punch them right in their sweet-swinging faces. Representing ugly swings everywhere, the amateurs crushed the pros 4 and 3. *Spits violently on the ground at Pros feet*

Drunk on victory (and whisky), the Ams offered product designers Jake Baker Cliff (HCP 29) and Nick Watts (HCP 28) each a handicap of 4 for a single 110 yard par three. The Ams vs The Super Ams to see who would join the pros (*Spits on ground*) in the water.

Pro James Wilson and Am Alex Ames stripping off for The Atlantic

15 minutes later, the Ams were sprinting alongside the Pros, headlong towards the Atlantic, as the Super Ams celebrated their bogey 4s. Hard to compete with a couple of net 0s.

A recovery run from Pro Josh Park

We travelled for five days over 4 ferry rides, two flights and hundreds of miles, to experience the stories, scenery, quirks, hospitality, glamour and personality of some of Scotland’s lesser known Western frontier golf courses. But in the end it was two 30 handicappers emerging triumphant on a practice par 3 that would stay with us forever.

If you watch the PGA tour, or you're fortunate enough to play your golf at a country club, it’s easy to forget this is just a game from bonnie Scotland. That for every tour player unboxing a new rocket launcher for their instagram, there’s a guy at a course like Shiskine or Dunaverty, walking a lonely sunset round with a pencil bag and a vintage set of blades.